Jan 7, 2021
Boris Johnson COVID-19 Lockdown Press Conference Transcript January 7
Boris Johnson held a Downing Street press conference on January 7 to discuss the national lockdown and provide coronavirus updates. He also addressed the riots at the United States Capitol, calling President Trump’s actions “completely wrong.” Read the full transcript of the briefing here.
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Boris Johnson: (06:35)
Good afternoon. Today I’m joined by Sir Simon Stevens, Chief Executive of NHS England, and Brigadier Phil Prosser, who is Commander of Military Support to the Vaccine Delivery Program across our United Kingdom.
Boris Johnson: (06:48)
Because I know there’s now one question at the very top of your minds and that is how fast and how effectively we can get these millions of new vaccines into the arms of the most vulnerable and those who need them most. And you want to know that we in government, the NHS, the armed forces, local and regional government, government at every level are truly throwing everything at it, round the clock, if necessary. And I believe that with the country once again in lockdown and all the difficulties that means for you, for your family, for students, for education, for your businesses, and of course with the tragic number of deaths that we’re seeing and that we’ve seen today, you have a right to understand exactly how we’re cracking this problem and how the national vaccine effort is progressing.
Boris Johnson: (07:45)
And you rightly want to know how we’re going to reach the target that I set out earlier this week of offering a slot for vaccination by 15th of February for everyone in those key groups identified by the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation. That’s over 12 million people in England and 15 million in the UK, including elder care home residents and staff, everyone 70 or over, all frontline NHS and care staff, and all those who are clinically extremely vulnerable.
Boris Johnson: (08:24)
And just to remind you of the importance of these groups for fighting the disease. They account for 88% of all those who have sadly lost their lives. And so our tactics are first to use the immense natural capacity of the NHS. And by the end of the week, there’ll be over 1000 GP-led sites providing vaccines, 223 hospital sites, seven giant vaccination centers, and a first wave of 200 community pharmacies.
Boris Johnson: (08:59)
If all goes well, these together should have the capacity to deliver hundreds of thousands of vaccines per day by January the 15th. And it is our plan that everyone should have a vaccination available within a radius of 10 miles. And it follows from that that the limits will not be on our distributional power, but on the supply of vaccines. And I have no doubt that we have enough supply to vaccinate these four groups by the February the 15th deadline, and we also have the distributional network to do it, and to continue an expanding program down that priority list.
Boris Johnson: (09:44)
Yes, let’s be clear. This is a national challenge on a scale like nothing we’ve seen before and it will require an unprecedented national effort. And of course there will be difficulties. Appointments will be changed. But as Brigadier Prosser will shortly explain, the army is working hand-in-glove with the NHS and local councils to set up our vaccine network and using battle preparation techniques to help us keep up the pace.
Boris Johnson: (10:15)
We’ll publish our full vaccine deployment plan on Monday, along with daily updates on the progress we’re making. We’ve now vaccinated 1.26 million people in England, 113,000 in Scotland, 49,000 in Wales and 46,000 in Northern Ireland. So altogether nearly 1.5 million people across the UK have now received their first dose, and within two to three weeks, all of them will have a very considerable degree of immunity.
Boris Johnson: (10:48)
And it’s thanks to the arrival of the Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine, which can be stored at room temperature, that we can accelerate the pace of vaccination in care homes. We’re using that vaccine in care homes for the first time today. And by the end of the month, we hope to have offered every elderly care home resident a vaccine. Our new national booking service will also make it easier to book and access appointments, so I urge everyone to come forwards because it’s absolutely vital that we should have confidence in these vaccines.
Boris Johnson: (11:26)
I want to thank everyone involved in this extraordinary national effort. All the GPs, nurses, pharmacists, all the staff behind the scenes, our armed forces, local councils, our scientists who’ve not only developed the Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine, the first ever lifesaving treatment of COVID in the form of dexamethasone, but also, I’m pleased to tell you today, British scientific research has now contributed to the creation of more new lifesaving treatments that have just passed rigorous clinical trials, in particular tocilizumab. Sorry, I’ll say that again. Tocilizumab and sarilumab, they’ll shortly be on everybody’s lips, which have been found to reduce the risk of death for critically ill patients by almost a quarter. And they cut time spent in intensive care by as much as 10 days. And these life-saving drugs will be available through the NHS with immediate effect, potentially saving thousands of lives.
Boris Johnson: (12:32)
And finally again, I want to thank you, the British public, for coming forward to be vaccinated in the numbers that you have, still greater than all the countries of Europe put together. And yes, of course we are in a race against time, but I can assure you that we are doing everything we can to vaccinate as many people as possible across our whole United Kingdom. And in the meantime, please stay at home, protect the NHS, and save lives. And I’ll now handover-
Boris Johnson: (13:03)
… protect the NHS and save lives. And I’ll now hand over to Simon Stevens.
Simon Stevens: (13:06)
Thank you very much. And maybe I can start by thanking my colleagues across the health service who are at the moment confronting an incredibly serious situation. We’ve got 50% more coronavirus inpatients in our hospitals now than we had at the peak of the April 1st wave. And that is true in every region in the country now, more COVID inpatients than back in April. And that number is accelerating very, very rapidly. We’ve seen an increase of 10,000 hospitalized coronavirus patients just since Christmas day. That’s the equivalent of filling 20 acute hospitals with extra coronavirus patients. And of course, many of those will be patients who caught the infection between Christmas and new year, given the delay between catching infection and becoming seriously ill. And that that is of course all happening at what is traditionally the busiest time of year for hospitals and the wider NHS.
Simon Stevens: (14:10)
And so whereas in April for every one coronavirus inpatient, we were looking after two other hospitalized patients for other conditions, now for every one coronavirus inpatient, we’re looking after three other patients for other conditions. So the pressures are real and they are growing. And that is why as the prime minister says, I think the message from nurses, from paramedics, from intensive care staff, from GPs, from pharmacists, from everybody in the NHS is that it is vital that we do all take the steps necessary to control the growth of infection.
Simon Stevens: (14:48)
And so there’s nobody more motivated to deliver a vaccination program speedily than the staff of the health service because they are living day-by-day with the tragic consequences for patients and for families and for colleagues of not having coronavirus under control. And so the prime minister has set this very challenging but hugely important goal that we’re able to offer the COVID vaccine to everybody aged 70 and above as well as patients who are clinically extremely vulnerable, and the health and care staff who look after them, by the 15th of February. And as he says, if that offer is accepted and we very much hope that when people are invited to vaccination they will come forward to take up the offer, then that has the potential to prevent the majority of the deaths that we have seen, the vast majority of the deaths that we have seen looking back over the last year.
Simon Stevens: (15:46)
I think it’s fair to say that we have made a strong start on the coronavirus vaccination program in this country. As the prime minister says, four times more people vaccinated here than in Germany, 300 times more than in France. But there is no complacency because frankly we need a huge acceleration if we are over the next five weeks going to vaccinate more people than we typically vaccinate over five months during a winter flu program. We’ve got 39 days to do it. And so, the plan for the next 39 days has these three essential components. First of all, expanding the supply of vaccines that we can administer. Secondly, more places doing the jabbing, and thirdly, the NHS expanding the number of people and the partnerships who are helping us get the job done.
Simon Stevens: (16:40)
On vaccine supply, as you know, on the 8th of December we were able to provide the first COVID vaccination approved by an independent regulator here in this country to Margaret Keenan in Coventry. And during the course of January, we will have much more vaccine supply than we had in December. And during February, we will have more vaccine supply in addition to that. So assuming and providing that that vaccine supply continues to be available to us as it looks as if it will be, then we will certainly be able to offer all the vaccination slots that the prime minister has described.
Simon Stevens: (17:20)
So vaccine supply is coming online. The second part of it then of course is more places where the vaccine is administered. And we want to increase the number of people and places doing vaccination as supply increases day by day and week by week. And there are three ways in which people will be invited to come forward to get their vaccination. The first and the bulk of the vaccination will be through local GP practices and pharmacists together offering services to the local patients. And we’ve expanded the number of places from 116 across the country that were doing that in mid December to 739 of these local vaccination services today, growing to over a thousand by the end of next week.
Simon Stevens: (18:11)
In addition to that, secondly, we’ve got hospital hubs that will be vaccinating social care and care home and NHS staff. And their numbers have expanded from 50 to 206, and that will be 223, essentially the bulk of the hospital sites across the NHS providing that service from the end of next week. And then thirdly, in addition, we are establishing these larger vaccination centers that will work seven days a week, extended hours in sport stadia and other public venues where people will also be invited if that is more convenient for them. And what we’re trying to do with these three routes is get the balance right between the scale efficiencies that you get from some of these larger centers combined with the local convenience of the options through your local GPs and over time from pharmacists as well.
Simon Stevens: (19:07)
There’s been quite a lot of discussion in the press about the interesting successes that the Israelis have been having. They have chosen to do most of their vaccination through these larger bespoke vaccination sites rather than through their local pharmacists and the local GPs. We think, given the geography of this country, actually having a mixture of those different routes will be the right answer. And we will steadily expand those number of ways in which you can get vaccinated as supply continues to increase.
Simon Stevens: (19:40)
So firstly expanded supply, secondly, an increase in the number of places that are providing vaccination, and then thirdly, of course, matched by an increase in the number of people who are doing the vaccinating, many of whom will come from our partners not just the NHS. And so we’ve now got over 80,000 people who are trained on these particular types of vaccinations able to administer them, of whom 18,000 have already begun work in different contexts. The St John’s Ambulance are working with us. They’ve identified over 20,000 volunteers who want to come and help together with the Royal Voluntary Service and others.
Simon Stevens: (20:23)
And in addition to that, we are unashamedly tapping into the logistics brilliance of the armed forces to ensure that the supply chain and the distribution works well alongside the usual channels the hospitals and GPs and pharmacists provide. And it’s that combination then of those three parts to the plan that are what are we think going to give us the opportunity to make that offer to millions of people over the next five weeks. But at that point let me, prime minister, handover to a Brigadier Prosser who I think will describe the role that the army are playing in supporting us in the NHS.
Boris Johnson: (20:58)
Brigadier Phil Prosser: (20:59)
Thank you prime minister. So I am Brigadier Phil Prosser and I am coordinating the military support to the government’s vaccination program. I think it’s important to note that all aspects of our work have been in support of the NHS. My team are embedded with them and in the past eight weeks we’ve been working with some of the most professional, dedicated and amazing people that I have had the honor to serve alongside. We are one team. The main assistance we have provided is planning support, drawing on our extensive operational and logistic experience. We are adding to what is already an extremely high performance team in NHS England headquarters.
Brigadier Phil Prosser: (21:45)
In my day job, I’m commander 101 Logistic Brigade and it is my role to deliver combat supplies to UK forces in time of war. My team are used to complexity and building supply chains at speed in the most arduous and challenging conditions. The military uses three steps to plan and deliver complex operations. First, we analyze the situation and the mission. We then identify choices to select the best plan. And then we execute that plan at pace. In this case, the mission is to support the NHS in delivering the maximum amount of vaccine to minimize the number of infections and deaths as quickly and as safely as possible. We’ve worked shoulder to shoulder with the exceptional NHS team sharing clinical and logistical analysis. The plan has many challenges, which are difficult to balance. We need to make sure that every one of you has equal access to the vaccine no matter where you are in England. We need to be mobile enough to access those clinically vulnerable in care homes. The plan is reliant on Pfizer storage down to -75 degrees, and it must be flexible enough to allow us to adapt to changes as the situation evolves.
Brigadier Phil Prosser: (23:08)
So the plan needs to be agile. We aim to deliver vaccine as soon after it is supplied as possible, not leaving vast quantities in the warehouse. It needs to be in arms not on shelves. An added complexity is that this all takes place against the backdrop of a global pandemic and the logistical and workforce challenges this brings. The final phase is to execute the plan. Our aim is to deliver operational excellence. Working with the NHS, we use techniques tried and tested on previous operations in the UK and abroad to deliver command and control to the activity on the ground, ensuring performance targets are met and resources are allocated to where they are needed most. A vaccination program of this scale has not been done before, and we are learning as we go. In the event it is required, we also have 21 vaccination quick reaction force teams made up of six military health care experts able to deploy anywhere in England at short notice. I found this logistic operation to be unparalleled in its scale and complexity. And I say this having served in operations around the world. To give you some impression of the work that has been done, in the 30 days this program has been in operation we have delivered 1.26 million doses of vaccine, hundreds of millions of consumable items, and established 769 sites. That’s the equivalent to setting up a major supermarket chain in less than a month, and next week we’ll further increase our footprint by another 20%.
Brigadier Phil Prosser: (24:58)
I’ve been immensely proud to see how everyone in this program has stepped up to deliver professional excellence when the country has needed it most. At every level, the NHS and my team have faced numerous challenges within our heroic will to succeed. It is truly a one team approach. I’m a proud member of the armed forces, an organization drawn from all communities across the UK and the Commonwealth. My team and I are honored to be able to serve those communities and to protect our nation at home. I feel immensely proud of our collective national effort in supporting the NHS, and I truly believe we will defeat this pandemic together. Thank you.
Boris Johnson: (25:43)
Thank you very much Brigadier and thank you very much, Simon. Let’s go to Judith from Leeds.
How can early years provision be safe if primary schools are deemed to be a vector for the spread of the virus? Is this not defeating the purpose of this lockdown?
Boris Johnson: (26:01)
Oh, thanks very much Judith.
Because of this lockdown.
Boris Johnson: (26:03)
Well, thanks very much, Judith. I might, I’ll have Simon comment on this as well, but the whole point is, of course, that we believe that schools are safe and indeed all places of education are safe Judith, including earlier provision. It’s just that we have to look at the overall budget of risk. The overall spread that schools can be involved in, but there are other very, very important reasons for wanting to keep early years provision going, to help key workers to cope, vital services continue during the pandemic. I hope you appreciate the distinction. Simon, anything you want to add to that?
Simon Stevens: (26:48)
Well, no, obviously, we defer to the advice of the Chief Medical Officer and [inaudible 00:26:53] on these points. But as you say, Prime Minister, a lot of the staff of the health service do rely on having available childcare. And so doing everything we can to keep schools and early years education safe, nevertheless, enable people to continue to come to work as a critical care nurse or as a junior doctor, that is hugely important to the NHS’ effort as well.
Boris Johnson: (27:18)
Thanks a lot. Let’s go to Steven from Sheffield.
University students are being encouraged to not return to rented [inaudible 00:27:25] addresses, but have not received anyway near the same quality of service that they would have received if it were not for the pandemic. Can the government outline then, the ways that it intends to support university students over the coming weeks?
Boris Johnson: (27:36)
Thanks very much, Steven. And this was a question that I’ve been asked repeatedly in the course of the last few days. And I think that we need to look very hard at the deal that students are getting, Steven, and we need to see what more we can do, frankly, to support students and to help them in what has been a very, very difficult time. And of course at the moment, they’re not able to go back to their universities except for very, very few key practical courses. And I know how frustrating that is. And I know the financial frustrations that that entails. And I can tell you Steven, that we’re looking at that now, and you’ll be hearing more about that from the Education Secretary. Let’s go to Alex Forsyth of the BBC.
Alex Forsyth: (28:27)
Many thanks. Before coming on to COVID, I’d just like to ask about the events in the US. Prime Minister, was Donald Trump responsible for inciting the crowds that stormed the Capitol? And on COVID, you’ve set some pretty ambitious targets for your vaccination program. How confident are you that this time you can deliver on your promises? And how close now is the race between the vaccine and the virus?
Boris Johnson: (28:49)
Well, thanks very much Alex. Look, on the United States, I just want to… And the election, I want to say that all my life, America has stood for some very important things, an idea of freedom and an idea of democracy. And as you say, as you suggest insofar as he encouraged people to storm the Capitol and insofar as the President consistently has cast doubt on the outcome of a free and fair election, I believe that that was completely wrong. I think what President Trump has been saying about that has being completely wrong and I unreservedly condemn encouraging people to behave in the disgraceful way that they did in the Capitol. And all I can say is I’m very pleased that the President Elect has now been properly, duly confirmed in office and that democracy has prevailed.
Boris Johnson: (29:52)
And on your second question, Alex, about where we are. We’re going to go at it flat out, as I have said, we will do everything we possibly can to achieve this. And the purpose of this press conference today is just to give you a chance and to give the public a chance to see a little bit more of the working, a little bit more of the detail, but that’s just the beginning. You’ll be hearing more on Monday from Matt Hancock about the exact plan and how we are going to get to that target by the 15th of February, those first four groups of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunization. And I think it was very important to stress what Simon said, that you can make a huge difference if you reach all those groups. But we do depend on people coming forward. And I really do urge people, when you get a notification, when you get a message from the NHS, from your doctor, saying that you’re eligible for a vaccine, please take it. Can we go to Emily Morgan of ITV?
Emily Morgan: (31:07)
Thank you Prime Minister. I wonder if you can tell us in the clearest possible terms, why it is that GPs aren’t getting regular supplies of the vaccine and why they don’t know when their next delivery is going to be?
Boris Johnson: (31:21)
Well, I will hand over to Simon to go into what the GPs may or may not be getting today. But to the best of my knowledge, we are rolling out supplies of both vaccines to GP surgeries. And as I said earlier just now, by the end of next week there’ll be roughly a thousand GP, primary care network, vaccine distribution services, more than 200 hospitals will be distributing the vaccine, seven huge vaccination centers, big vaccination centers, and first wave of 200 community pharmacies. So there’s a big, big network. The supply is being rolled out.
Boris Johnson: (32:12)
But I think what I won’t hide from you Emily is that, of course, in the early phases, there’s going to be lumpiness and bumpiness in the distribution. And today it may be that some GPs aren’t getting the consignments that they expected. I know that other GPs, I certainly know from firsthand experience, other GPs are doing an incredible job of getting those jabs into people’s arms. But Simon, is there anything you want to say, more detailed about what GPs can expect.
Simon Stevens: (32:42)
I think that’s right. I mean, look today is the first day in which, it was last night that approval was given to start using the AstraZeneca vaccine, the Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine in GP local vaccination services. And so that vaccine is being distributed today, tomorrow, the weekend to practices to get going. Look, there will be bumps along the road. This is a program that each day we’ll be delivering to more than a thousand different locations with hundreds of thousands of people getting jabs by the time we’ve got that expanded supply available each day. So there will be, and you will hear in the media from those people where an issue has arisen, perfectly fair enough. What you won’t hear from, of course, are the other 98% of practices or locations where it’s all working smoothly. So I think we just got to have a sort of a sense of gathering round to get this thing done as a big team effort, rather than a sort of poking and prodding. And that’s the spirit I know that the whole of the NHS is mobilizing around.
Boris Johnson: (33:53)
Thanks very much Simon. Thanks Emily. Victoria Macdonald, channel four.
Victoria Macdonald: (33:57)
Thank you Prime minister. Many of the patients in hospital right now with COVID will have been infected before Christmas. Do you now regret not locking down earlier? And can I also ask, there is a lot of concern amongst NHS staff about the people out there who do not believe this is happening, that this is all fake news and that hospitals are empty. What message do you have for them?
Boris Johnson: (34:24)
Well, Victoria, on the speed of the government’s reaction, don’t forget that I think we were told about the new variant and the way it was taking off on the 18th. And we went into the tier four measures across a vast bulk of the country, pretty much within the next 24 hours. And on the kind of people who stand outside hospitals and say, COVID is a hoax and this kind of stuff, really, I do think they need to grow up. I think you heard eloquently now from the head of NHS England, the pressure of the NHS is under and we’ve all got to do our bit responsibly to protect it. And for a lot of us that means making sure, the vast majority of the country that means making sure we stay at home and protect the NHS for people who are getting invited to get a vaccine, go and get the jab.
Simon Stevens: (35:22)
Let me just add to that, I mean, let’s just be completely straightforward about it, when people say that, it is a lie. If you sneak into a hospital and an empty corridor at 9:00 at night and film that particular corridor, and then stick it up on social media and say, this proves the hospitals are empty, the whole thing is a hoax. You are not only responsible for potentially changing behavior that will kill people, but it is an insult to the nurse coming home from 12 hours in critical care, having worked her guts out under the most demanding and trying of circumstances, there is nothing more demoralizing than having that kind of nonsense spouted when it is most obviously untrue. And so actually looking at some of the reports that channel four and dare I say it, BBC, Fergus Walsh had a brilliant report last night from university college hospitals. The same has been true for ITV, Sky. I mean, you are reporting what is actually going on. That is what people need to concentrate on.
Boris Johnson: (36:18)
Thanks very much. Chris Smith of The Times.
Chris Smith: (36:21)
Thank you. So Simon, firstly, just to pick up on those rather sobering numbers you presented earlier on, and also on [inaudible 00:36:27] hospitals in London and in the Midlands elsewhere are on course to exceed general and critical care capacity in the next couple of weeks. Are you confident that patients for COVID and for other conditions are going to be able to receive the normal standard of care over the next month? And on vaccination, I want to pick up on the distinction being drawn on the government’s vaccination pledge. Are you offering vaccination to the four priority groups and actually vaccinating them? So Simon, do you have any estimates of uptake so far? And Prime Minister, can you make the additional commitment not just to offer the vaccine, but even if it means moving on to younger age group, to have actually vaccinated more than 30 million people by February the 15th?
Simon Stevens: (37:08)
Okay. Well, shall I start Prime Minister?
Boris Johnson: (37:09)
Go on, yes.
Simon Stevens: (37:10)
I’ll take those in reverse then Chris. So on the first point, obviously vaccination is voluntary, so we can’t require, and it wouldn’t be right to require that all of those eligible in this first phase take up the offer. But I think the evidence from this year’s flu vaccination program is that uptake is likely to be high, over 80% of people aged 65 and over have taken up the flu jab this year. That’s up by 25 percentage points on last year. And as I think I’ve previously discussed, having flu and COVID at the same time, significantly increases your risk of death. So I think people have heard that message and are, we’re finding a very good response when people are invited to come forward, that they will do so.
Simon Stevens: (37:53)
We’re not just going to let that sort of find its own level. We’re also going to make sure that we are paying particular attention over the next four or five weeks to those groups who we definitely want to see come forward, where there’s been some targeted misinformation, including some of the minority ethnic communities across the country who have been really disgracefully targeted with nonsense about vaccination. And then if vaccine supply is such that after everybody who’s come forward and wants to come forward has done so, we’ve still got vaccine available, then obviously we will be coming back to government and asking government and the chief medical officers for their permission to use that in other ways. We want to make sure that the vaccine supply we’ve got gets into people’s arms.
Simon Stevens: (38:43)
On your first point. Look, I mean the situation in London, as well as across parts of the Southeast and increasingly the rest of the country, given this new variant, is very serious. I mean, we are seeing over 800 patients a day admitted to London hospitals with coronavirus. I mean, that is the equivalent of a-
Simon Stevens: (39:03)
… and hospitals with coronavirus. That is the equivalent of a new St. Thomas’s Hospital full of COVID patients fully staffed every day, or a new University College Hospital full of coronavirus patients every day. So it is absolutely vital that the measures that are now in force do begin to have an impact on slowing the, and cutting the infections across London, and the rest of the country. In the meantime, what hospitals are doing, as you probably know Chris, is they are expanding their critical care into other parts of the hospital, so-called surge capacity. So we’ve got over 1,300 of these surge critical care beds open across the country, that is putting obviously great pressure on the staff. That’s what we will continue to do, but it is vital that the infection rate now comes under control.
Boris Johnson: (39:51)
And Chris, you asking whether we can do more than 15 million, whether we can exceed the target, I think is what you said. And I want to stress, this is a very challenging stretching target as I think that Simon said right at the beginning, but I think it’s vital for us in government to set ourselves the most difficult possible targets that we think we could conceivably achieve, because I know that’s what you and the public will want us to be doing right now.
Boris Johnson: (40:21)
Everybody’s in lockdown. As everybody can see, the NHS is under extreme pressure already. We have to get this done as fast and as efficiently as possible. And I do believe that it is attainable. I do believe that those numbers are doable, but clearly it will be a big stretch. It will be a huge national effort. And to be frank, we want our working and our efforts to be scrutinized, and to be visible in order to give the maximum possible confidence. And that’s the purpose of what I’m saying today, and what we’ll be saying on Monday and the coming days.
Boris Johnson: (41:05)
Let’s go to Will James of Reuters.
Will James: (41:09)
Thank you. A question for assess Sir Simon first. People who had their first shot of the Pfizer vaccine, they’re getting worried, because they had their appointments canceled, that they’re not going to get their second shot. Can you guarantee that they will get that vaccine in their arm in time, the second dose?
Will James: (41:26)
And to the Prime Minister, you sit at the top of a pyramid of experts, scientists, analysts, advisers; you see all the information, and all the forecasts, and you make your policy decisions based on that. The people don’t see that information, but they want to be able to judge how bad things are going to get, and they want to be able to judge your performance, your government’s performance, against that target. So based on the decisions that you’ve made, what is your expectation of the overall toll of this virus come the spring?
Simon Stevens: (41:59)
Okay, well on the first question Will, the answer is a very straightforward one, which is yes, people will get their second jabs, whether that’s Pfizer or AstraZeneca. As you know, the health service has been asked, following the medical advice from the independent regulator, the joint committee on vaccinations and immunizations, and the chief medical officers, to put the optimal gap between having your first dose and your second dose.
Simon Stevens: (42:25)
So within 12 weeks, because the data from the Pfizer jab shows that after 12 days you’ve got perhaps 90%-plus of the benefit anyway. And as a result, it means that we’re able to offer vaccination to many more people, twice as many people, with that Pfizer dosing over the next several weeks. And so just to make it personal, and I haven’t actually asked my mum whether she advised me saying this, but my parents are both in their eighties, neither of whom have yet been offered the jab. As a consequence of doing this, both my mum and my dad will be able to get a first dose. Whereas had we not done this, it would just been one or the other.
Boris Johnson: (43:06)
And on your question about the overall toll, well I can’t give you that number. What I can say is it will be tragically far too high though. Every death is a tragedy. We we mourn every person we lose in this pandemic. But the number will depend, of course, on how successful we are in rolling out the vaccine program. Clearly that will be one important thing, because of the arguments you’ve heard this afternoon.
Boris Johnson: (43:42)
But also, perhaps even more importantly, it will depend on our continued ability to work together to stop transmission. And that is why we’re having to do the measures that we are at the moment. So in a sense, it depends on all of us following the guidance protecting the NHS. That is the crucial thing. Now let’s go to Sophia Sleigh of the Evening Standard.
Sophia Sleigh: (44:05)
Thank you Prime Minister, I’d like to pick up on some of Sir Simon’s comments about London hospitals, which are pretty much staring into the abyss right now, that are described as being less than two weeks from being overwhelmed, even under the best case scenario. Why wasn’t more done to stop us ending up here? And what are you doing right now to help protect this hospital? And my second question is for all of you really, when the vaccine was announced last year, many people expect that they would seem to be able to hug their elderly relatives again, and that care homes would be able to open their doors within weeks. Can you really spell out for us what the reality of position is now? How long before grandma can be hugged? How long before care homes can let residents have a day out with their families?
Simon Stevens: (44:54)
On your first point, Sophia, the four chief medical officers for England and Wales and Scotland and Northern Ireland, they said on Monday that given the rising infections, particularly this new variant, “Without further action, there is a material risk of the NHS in several areas being overwhelmed in the next 21 days.” That’s why the risk level was raised, if you like.
Simon Stevens: (45:22)
And we clearly are seeing that in London, which is why the London hospitals are expanding the number of beds they’ve got available. They’re making use of the independent sector. The London NHS intends to open the London Nightingale next week, which also by the way, will be being used as one of our large vaccination centers so that Londoners have the option of being vaccinated there.
Simon Stevens: (45:44)
So I think there’s no doubt that hospitals, and indeed GPs, the London Ambulance Service, the entirety of the health service in London, is mobilizing to do everything it possibly can, but the infections, the rate of growth in admissions, that is what collectively the country has got to get under control.
Boris Johnson: (46:02)
And Sophia, just on the way I had, I really want to repeat what I’ve been saying over the last couple of days, because there are lots of conditionals for the February 15th deadline. If the vaccine program goes ahead at the speed that we’ve all been talking about this afternoon, if there are no new variants that we uncover that mean we have to change our plans again, if the vaccine remains efficacious, and we’ve got no reasons to think that the vaccines are not efficacious at the moment, then I really do think that by February the 15th there will be the chance, I hope very much there will be the chance to look at some relaxations of restrictions.
Boris Johnson: (46:45)
And as I’ve said, schools will certainly be the priority that we want to address. And to repeat, I do think that things will be, as Chris Whitty and others have said, I do think things will be much better by the spring. By April, things will be very different. But all that depends on the rollout of the vaccine program, which we’ve discussed. And you’ll be hearing a lot more about, but above all, on our continued willingness to come together, protect the NHS, stay at home, and save lives. Thank you all very much.