Feb 3, 2021
Boris Johnson COVID-19 Press Conference Transcript February 3
Boris Johnson held a Downing Street press conference on February 3, 2021 to provide updates on COVID-19 and vaccine distribution. Read the full transcript of the briefing here.
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Prime Minister Johnson: (00:00)
Good afternoon, thanks for joining us. When captain, Sir Tom Moore decided to launch a national campaign in his own back garden, raising more money and achieving more in his 100th year than perhaps any centenarian in our history, he knew instinctively which organization he wanted to thank and support, it was and is, the NHS. And he was right, because there are many people and groups responsible for the UKs vaccination program. And we are thanks to our brilliant scientists, to Kate Bingham and the vaccine task force, which has procured over 400 million doses, seven different types of vaccine manufacturers and the delivery drivers, the pharmacists, the military medics, countless volunteers, but to get this lifesaving medicine into the arms of the nation at the kind of speed that we’re seeing, we’re relying on the doctors and the nurses and all the staff of our NHS.
Prime Minister Johnson: (01:48)
And it’s thanks to their effort, the most colossal in the history of our National Health Service that we have today, past the milestone of 10 million vaccinations in the United Kingdom, including almost 90% of those aged 75 and over in England and every eligible person in a care home. And with every job and every day, we have more evidence about the effectiveness of these vaccines. New research from Oxford University suggested the protection provided by the first dose of the Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine kicks in after three weeks and lasts right the way through to the booster at three months. And research also shows that the Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine seems likely to reduce transmission to others. And even if these vaccines cannot make us invulnerable and no vaccine has ever given 100% protection to everybody. The evidence increasingly shows that our vaccines achieved this crucial objective: to reduce death and serious illness from those major strains of COVID that have been subject to research. And in the days leading up to our review point in the week of the 15th of February, we will be accumulating even more data helped by NHS test and trace so that we can begin to chart a way ahead. Starting if the data allows, with the reopening of schools on March the eighth. And I’ll be setting out as much as we can about that roadmap forward on February the 22nd. And though today, there are some signs of hope. The numbers of COVID patients in hospital are beginning to fall for the first time, since the onset of this new wave.
Prime Minister Johnson: (03:40)
The level of infection is still alarmingly high. And I’m sorry to say that we’ve lost another 1,322 lives in the last 24 hours alone and our hearts again, go out to every family that grieves. And the wards of our NHS are under huge pressure, with more than 32,000 COVID patients still in hospital. And so tonight let’s clap together for Captain Tom at 6:00 PM and let’s clap for the spirit of optimism that he stood for, but let’s also clap for all those he campaigned for, our brilliant NHS staff and care workers, and let’s do everything we can to carry on supporting them. Because if we stay at home, protect our NHS and save lives, then in the words of Captain Tom, “Tomorrow will be a good day.” I’m now going to ask Chris to go through the slides.
Thanks Prime Minister. So the first slide shows the number of people coming forward and testing positive for COVID in the UK. And as you can see, the numbers are now going down steadily. And this is backed up by other studies, looking at this in a different way. So there’s now a continual steady decline, thanks to the work of everyone across the entire country in avoiding unnecessary contact and staying at home except where there are necessary things for them to do. Next slide, please.
As a result of that, the number of people in hospital with COVID has now gone down from its peak, quite noticeably, but as the Prime Minister said, there are still a very large number of people in hospital and more people than there were in the first peak in April last year. So this is still a very major problem, but it is one that is heading the right way. Next slide, please.
And it is good to see that as a result of that. And this is always a bit later, it lags in time, the number of deaths in people who have COVID is beginning to come down, but as the Prime Minister said, the numbers are still extremely high and they will stay high for quite some time. But coming down on that as you can see on this pathway. And the first effects we will see of vac vaccination are likely to be on these death numbers. Next slide, please.
The good news about vaccination is as the Prime Minister says, this is steadily increasing in all four nations of the United Kingdom, and particularly here in England. We have very clear data showing it going up it day on day, and the numbers are now very substantial. Next slide please.
So the final slide, and I want to take a little bit of time on this slide shows two things. It shows in the very dark blue bars in the center, the people who have sadly died from COVID. And in the wider bars, these are everybody who’s come into hospital. And this is from our hospital’s study done here in the NHS system. And what you can see with this is that if you look at the red line, the top red line, this is every age group from zero to four, right at the bottom to 90 and over including Colonel Sir Tom’s age at the top.
And if you look at the first red line, that is the group of people down to the age of 70, including people in care homes who are liable to go into hospital because they’re older, if they catch COVID. And although, the majority still will come out of hospital and survive, a significant number of those will die. And if you take it down to 70, if you imagine that the vaccine was completely effective, which as the Prime Minister says, you wouldn’t expect for any vaccine, but completely effective. That is 83% of all the people who’ve died of COVID in this wave are over that age group. So they’re over the age which we will get to when we’ve vaccinated everyone over 70. But if you look at the situation for people who’ve gone into hospital, only 54% of all the people who go into hospital are over that age.
So what this means is once you vaccinate it down to 70 and above, plus those who care for them, frontline NHS, and frontline care workers, we should significantly reduce the number of deaths, but we will reduce by a much smaller number, the number of people going into hospital, because a very large number of people go into hospital who will come out of hospital, they will recover, but they have to be in the NHS and have care, for example, oxygen and dexamethazone steroid drugs. So if we then vaccinate all the way down to what’s called the JCVI, the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunization first wave, this is down to people over 50, and those who have actually got pre-existing health conditions, you then get through virtually all the people who have a high chance of dying. So this is around 98% of those who die are in that group.
And importantly, around 80%, just over 80% of all of those who go into hospitals. So the first wave, which is the aim is to complete on the 15th of February, we would expect a situation where we can stop a very high proportion of the deaths, but rather smaller proportion of the pressure on the NHS. There’s very large number in the hospital. As you go onto the next wave, down to those other 50, we have further inroads in to reducing death and also significantly reduce the pressure on the NHS. The final point I’d like to make, and this is a cheery one, is actually looked down at the bottom of this, the number of children under the age of 18, who go into hospital is relatively speaking, very small compared to adults. Thank you very much.
Prime Minister Johnson: (10:05)
Thanks very much, Chris. Let’s go to the public first, Spencer and Hammersmith.
For those people who have received vaccines, are you keeping track of the number who subsequently test positive for COVID are being admitted to hospital and of those, how many are dying? In particular for those who have been vaccinated, but still catch COVID, are you able to tell from the data, whether the severity of illness is reduced? Thank you.
Prime Minister Johnson: (10:34)
Very important questions from Spencer, and really repeating the point that although there’s higher degree of ethicacy in the vaccines that we’re using, no vaccine is 100% effective for everybody, but Chris, probably one better for you.
Thank you, it was a really important question. And yes, what we are doing is linking up the data for those who have been vaccinated with hospital admissions data, emergency admissions data, and also mortality-
… hospital admissions data, emergency admissions data, and also mortality data, people who died, so that we can actually see whether there is an effect and how, more importantly, how big the effect is, because we’re sure there will be an effect, of vaccination on reducing the number of people who get severe disease and have to go to hospital and the impact on those who died. So we’re making a big effort to try and link those data together so that we can give clear answers to the question that’s implied in this, which is we can then say the vaccines have had this impact on mortality, on reducing deaths, and have had this impact on reducing the number of people who are getting severe disease and going into hospital.
Prime Minister Johnson: (11:40)
Thanks very much, Spencer. Paul in Eastbourne.
First of all, congratulations to everyone that’s been involved in the vaccination program. I think it’s something we can all be proud of. My question is related to the second dose. And it’s really that if I’d had my second dose and I’m socializing exclusively with other people that have had their second dose, can we ditch social distancing guidelines and intermix normally, bearing in mind that if we weren’t mixing exclusively with people that have their second dose, ie. first doses and people that have not had a vaccine at all, but we would, of course, still maintain all the social distancing measures in place? if I can’t socialize exclusively when I’m exclusively with people that have had their second dose, what’s the rationale? Thanks.
Prime Minister Johnson: (12:24)
Paul, another very, very good question. A lot of people are starting to ask this question. I think that we really need to see more data particularly about transmission from the team of people who’ve already had the vaccine and others before we think about relaxing social distancing and guidelines for everybody. I think that really this is something that we will start to think a bit further down the line about what potential is opened up by, by these vaccinations. But I think what everybody wants to see is a world in which we can relax the guidelines and the non-pharmaceutical interventions for everybody, so relax all the restrictions for everybody and do that by vaccinating, as Chris was explaining, with the chart of the most vulnerable groups, vaccinating as many of the most vulnerable as we can as fast as possible, and then taking a view about the interaction between that and the prevalence of the disease. At the moment, as we’ve discussed several times, the level of infection is still forbiddingly high for us to imagine the relaxation of the current guidelines. But we’re obviously going to be reviewing that in the days ahead. Chris, anything you want to say more about this idea that people increasingly talk of vaccine passports, as it were?
So thank you, PM. And thank you for the question, because I’d really like to make two points really clearly at the beginning and then expand on them a bit. The first is if you’ve just been vaccinated, there is a period of time after that when you do not have any protection. So it’s very important that in that stage, you realize that it takes two or three weeks, in older people probably slightly longer, to achieve any kind of protection. Second thing is our really clear advice at the moment is please stick to the social distancing, irrespective of whether you’ve had vaccination. Of course, because we are delaying the second dose, the great majority of people are actually vaccinated with one dose, but not with two at this stage, but that will change over time as we start to render the second vaccination.
But then I think the thing to understand with these, and this is an answer to the question “What’s the rationale?” Vaccines are going to protect in three different ways. The first of which is they will protect you, the person who’s being vaccinated, and they will protect to a very good degree based on the data we have so far. Of course, we need to get more data in real life. That’s what the last question was about, but we’re confident it’ll protect you as an individual.
Secondly, as you say, it’ll mean that people will be able to know that many of the people you interact with have also been vaccinated and that will also reduce the risk. Although we don’t yet know with confidence quite how much these vaccines reduce the risk of transmission. So they do reduce the risk of severe disease, of symptomatic disease and of dying. They probably reduce the risk of transmission and data came out today to support that, but we’re not absolutely confident about exactly how much.
And then the third way they reduce the risk is to reduce the amount of the virus that is circulating in the whole population. And that we are nowhere near being close to. I think if you think of those numbers right at the beginning and think back to the last published ONS data that implied somewhere like one in 55 people currently have the virus, the rate of virus in the community is incredibly high. So that third thing we also need to do, which is use the vaccine plus the social distancing that everyone is doing to pull the rates of the virus right down. And then if you got [inaudible 00:16:07] the community, you’re vaccinated and your friends and colleagues are vaccinated, that will substantially reduce the risk for everybody.
Prime Minister Johnson: (16:15)
Thanks very much, Paul. Laura Kuenssberg, BBC.
Laura Kuenssberg: (16:18)
Thank you, Prime Minister. The vaccine program is a huge source of pride to so many people, but can you give a firm date for when hotel quarantine will start, and will you offer more help for people who just can’t afford to isolate, as you well know not everybody is entitled to the 500 pound payment that is available in some circumstances? And if not, aren’t you leaving two big holes in our defenses, as one of your own MPs said, “The heating’s on, but the window is wide open”? And Professor Whitty, with some of the measures improving, in your view, might there be a case for opening schools in England to all pupils again before the eighth of March, which is what Wales and Scotland look to be set to be doing?
Prime Minister Johnson: (17:01)
Laura, a couple of points. We have among the toughest border regimes now anywhere in the world, and so we’re restricting as much as we can any risk of importing new infection into this country without totally secluding the UK economy, which relies… 75% of its medicines come from Europe, 45% of our food comes from overseas, 250,000 businesses rely on import. We can’t cut ourselves off completely. But what we can do is say it’s illegal to go on holiday, which it is. It’s illegal to go on holiday. It’s illegal to come to this country from a great list of countries around the world. And if you do come here from one of those countries, then you will be, as we’ve said, taken and put in special accommodation. The health secretary will be making a further announcement about that tomorrow, Laura.
Prime Minister Johnson: (18:06)
But even if you’re not coming from there and you’re coming into this country, even if you’re a UK national returning to this country, just think what you’ve got to do. You’ve got to take a test 72 hours before flying, you’ve got to do a passenger locator form, you can be kicked off of a flight if that doesn’t happen, and so on. And then you’ve got to quarantine and you’ll have the Isolation Assurance Service on your case for 10 days. So we are operating a very tough regime already within the limits of what is possible, given that we’re an economy that depends on trade and access to the world.
Prime Minister Johnson: (18:47)
And your second point was about test and trace and isolate. And again, yes, we do want to see more people isolating and doing the right thing, but overwhelmingly, people are and have been. Don’t forget that in addition to the 500 pounds, there’s a 10,000 pound fine if you don’t, in addition to all the other support that we’ve offered throughout the pandemic to help people throughout the pandemic. And NHS Test and Trace is now reaching, I think has a capacity of 800,000 a day. It’s absolutely colossal. If you listen to some of the points that Chris and I were making earlier on about what we’ve discovered about the effectiveness of the vaccines, the transmissibility of the virus with the vaccines, that is because of NHS Test and Trace and the vast capacity this country now has for genomic sequencing. So the short answer is, yes, I do think people should self isolate, but NHS Test and Trace is reaching 90% of contacts and the vast majority of them are doing the right thing.
In answer to the question you asked me, the narrow question about date is always going to be a matter for ministers. But let me be a bit more helpful in that. There are very clearly two sides to this argument, and both of them are true. There’s an incredibly strong set of evidence, which I don’t think anyone disputes, that being in school is good for children. It’s good for their mental health. It’s good for their longterm health. It obviously helps their parents as well. That’s not the primary thing, but it’s also a very important part of it. So there are really clear medical and educational and societal reasons why being in schools is absolutely the right place to be. And we are confident, and this actually goes back to the fan chart I showed, that the risk to children relative to adults is incredibly low. So we consider school is a safe place for children to be, as well as the right place for children to be. None of that is disputed by anybody.
On the other side, and this is also not disputed actually, is that we were managing to hold the line with schools open before we got the new variant in England, the B117 one. With this new variant, which is more transmissible and I think the evidence for that is really clear now, we have to unfortunately do some additional things which included the closure of schools to pull down incredibly high rates of increase we had up to this very high rate we’ve now currently got at the moment. Now the rates are now coming down, but they’re still incredibly high. If we were to start to take off again from the very high level as we are at the moment, the NHS would get back into trouble extraordinarily fast. So it’s essential that people carry on social distance as they are, but some of these additional measures, like schools, are also very important. Now the point where, in a sense, those two balance, where we think we’ll feel confident enough that the line can be held with the schools open, to make sure that those first set of things-
The school is open, to make sure that those first set of things, that the benefits to children are there, is a difficult judgment, and that’s one which fundamentally is one for ministers. But those two sets of arguments, I don’t think are disputed by anybody, and it’s really just a matter of when is exactly the right moment to balance them.
Prime Minister Johnson: (22:17)
Thanks very much, Laura. Carl Din, ITV.
Carl Din: (22:21)
Thank you, Prime Minister. Given what we’ve just heard, I think I ought to ask you the school’s question then. The vaccination program is going so well. We’ve had so much good news today. Are you absolutely committed to not reopen schools in England before the 8th of March? Or do you think you could pull that forward if things are really going well? And if, for example, you manage to vaccinate those first four groups more quickly than originally expected?
Carl Din: (22:48)
And if I could also ask Chris Witty one on the death rates. I think you said that we will first see the effects of the vaccination program in the death rates. Those are already coming down. Is it possible that we are already seeing the effects of the vaccination program in that death rate?
Prime Minister Johnson: (23:08)
Carl, let me give you the logic of the March, the eighth date for the earliest which we think it’s sensible to open schools. Obviously, I’m very hopeful that we will be able to do that. But let me say why we think that’s the prudent date to set. We’ve got to make a judgment about the effectiveness of the vaccines and bringing down the death rate and bringing down serious illness. Chris will say a bit more about that at the moment, but that judgment, we’re going to make in the week of the 15th. We’re going to look at all the data. You’ll see some promising stuff from Israel, but at the moment, to the best of my knowledge, we’re not yet seeing the kind of conclusive data that we need on that key point.
Prime Minister Johnson: (23:52)
Then we want to be waiting to ensure that after February the 15th, we leave three weeks for all the JCVI cohorts, one to four, all those most vulnerable groups that you saw on Chris’ chart have allowed their vaccination immunity to be acquired. As you know, it takes about three weeks for it properly to set it. So that speaks to a date of about March the eighth. Then of course you need to give the schools two weeks notice to open.
Prime Minister Johnson: (24:30)
And so for all those reasons, we think that’s the sensible date. I just would say to people who understandably want to go faster, I share that, that anxiety and that urgency because as Chris has just said, we fought for so hard and for so long to try to keep our schools open. I think that was a reasonable thing to do. But what we don’t want to do now, Carl, now that we’re making progress with the vaccine rollout, and we’ve got a timetable for the way ahead, we don’t want to be forced into reverse. So we think this is the prudent and cautious approach. And I think it’s much better to stick to that.
In terms of the other question you asked me, although you can, if you really do multiple analyses, convince yourself there’s a bit of a change, the very earliest sides of the change. In reality, what we want to see is a significant reduction in death rate, you can actually see which actually matters to people, significant numbers coming down. And if you look at the age ranges of people who are dying at the moment, there’s no strong evidence yet and nor, to be clear, would we expect it yet, for reasons I’ll come on to. That actually, for example, people in their 80s are suddenly reducing in terms of mortality, but people who are younger ages, who are vaccinated later are not. Things are coming down, but in proportions that you would expect.
Now, we expect, we anticipate that will change. The reason there’s a delay, you just think this through and this is just building on the point in the prime minister made, is between the time someone is vaccinated and the time you would expect to have first effects, in older people it might be, for the sake of argument, three weeks, it takes a further week for them maybe to get infected after that time, first infected. And obviously that risk continues from then on for a long period of time and then to get more civilial and then in some cases, although there are a minority of cases do die. That’s quite a long delay.
Although we’ve got, due to the remarkable efforts of all the people the prime minister’s talking about, particularly the NHS, in rolling out this vaccine, to very high numbers now, it is relatively recent. The death rates we’re seeing at the moment are people who would have been, in terms of the vaccine, you wouldn’t have expected to see any effect until going back about five weeks. The rates of vaccination were much lower at that stage. But we do hope that and anticipate that, it’s not just hope, it’s an expectation that as we go through time, in the next two or three weeks, we will start to see reductions in mortality in the people who’ve been vaccinated compared to those who have not.
I think the good news is the reductions in mortality in absolutely everybody and those are happening because of everybody staying at home and avoiding unnecessary social contact and all the things that we know we should do, the hands, face, space actions.
Prime Minister Johnson: (27:20)
Absolutely. Thank you. Sam Coates of Sky.
Sam Coates: (27:23)
Prime Minister, with 10 million people vaccinated, is it morally right that it continues to be illegal for the over 70s, 80s, and 90s not to see relatives who have also been vaccinated and waited their three weeks? You’re saying that there’s not enough data. Don’t you have to balance this with the fact that, for some of these people, time might be short and you’ve had pretty strong evidence already. Can’t we apply some common sense to people like that in particular, rather than criminalizing them?
Sam Coates: (27:51)
And to Chris Witty, there are some people in government who say that every adult might have had, or at least been offered a first dose by May and the second dose by the end of August, what do you think of that? And in that case, what’s the rationale for social distancing measures in the winter, life not back to normal, which some of your colleagues have suggested might be the case.
Prime Minister Johnson: (28:12)
Well, Sam, I totally understand people’s feelings of frustration and how strongly people want to be able to see their elderly relatives. I would just give a very simple answer. Obviously, those steps have been taken with the homes to make them as COVID secure as possible to allow people to be visited under very controlled circumstances. But you’ve seen the numbers in care homes lately, although they’re not as bad as they were perhaps and there’s a proportion of the deaths because they were in the first peak, they remain very, very sad. And we’ve all seen far too many deaths of elderly people and so, we’ve just got to remain very cautious for the time being.
Prime Minister Johnson: (28:48)
But as you can see, we are making huge progress through those groups and we’ll go on in the weeks ahead. The time to get everybody done, as you know, can be now measured in weeks and months. We will get it done as fast as we can see that we can.
As to the question you asked me, optimism is a great thing, but logistics aren’t about optimism. They’re simply about what numbers you can get through in the right kind of order. And I think the number… May and August strike me is at the very optimistic end. I think, if you talk to people who are doing this extraordinarily fast rollout, and if you look at this globally, this is an extraordinarily fast rollout, they would say they will go absolutely hell for leather as people are, doing an incredible job, but trying to hit those dates, that is probably beyond what is possible given the constraints of supply and all the other things that we have to deal with.
Remember also, it’s very important, we got to re-vaccinate all the people in the first tiers as they go through. So at a certain point, and that point, we had this process of delaying the second dose, largely to increase the number of people we could get through very quickly to begin with, to provide that initial predominant protection at the beginning. But we do have to vaccinate all of them within 12 weeks. And that means that from March, we’ll be starting to re-vaccinate as well as the first vaccines and that will inevitably slow things down.
And on winter, the reason my colleagues have implied that a highly contagious respiratory virus, which is not going to be eradicated from the global, indeed eliminate from the UK, may surge in winter is because that’s what highly contagious respiratory viruses always do. I think everybody knows that. So it is no surprise to anybody, I think. It should not be. That even if we have a highly successful vaccine rollout, which we clearly are having, and the vaccines work very well, which we very much hope we’ll have the solid data on very soon, there will still be residual risk.
If you think of flu, which actually is probably less contagious, that’s why we managed to get rid of flu completely this year but with the NPI measures, then COVID, you still have flu surges despite lots of people were vaccinated and many people are having had it previously. So you’ve just got to expect that in the winter, there will be surges of respiratory virus. And I think to expect that somehow magically, this will not apply to COVID seems surprising. And I don’t think that will come as any surprise to anyone in the general public.
Prime Minister Johnson: (31:21)
Thanks very much. Jason Grows, Daily Mail.
Jason Grows: (31:26)
Thanks Prime Minister. We’ve heard a lot about the impact on mental health in those reports that you’re looking at, maybe easing the rules around outdoor exercise. Can you tell us anything about that? And also the Mail is campaigning for a statue for Captain Tom, is that something you could back?
Jason Grows: (31:43)
And to Professor Witty, are we passed the peak now? It looks like we are from that graph and lots of people will have seen the video of you being harangued in the street the other day. How did you feel about that? Do you feel in danger?
Prime Minister Johnson: (31:57)
Well, Jason, on the issue of a statue for Captain Tom or a public memorial of some kind for Captain Tom, I’m absolutely of course open to that. I know that everybody, that’s the kind of thing that people would want to support and we’ll be working with his family to see what they feel is most appropriate and be taking that forward. So I think your campaign is an excellent one.
Yes. I think that most of my colleagues think we are past the peak. Now, that doesn’t mean you can never have another peak, but at this point in time, provided people continue to follow the guidelines, we’re on the downward slope of cases, of hospitalizations and of deaths, in all four of the nations of the United Kingdom. So I think we do think at this point, this peak at least, we are past.
In terms of being harangued, the odd yell at, showing off occasionally, happens. I didn’t think anything of it, frankly. I was very surprised it was picked up by the media at all as anything of any importance. I’m sure he’ll become a model citizen in due course and hopefully-
Importance. I’m sure he’ll become a model citizen in due course. And hopefully more like Captain Tom, who was the kind of person who I think much more exemplifies the spirit of the UK. I mean, he was himself clearly, absolutely remarkable, but what he was also doing was showing how it is that everybody has responded to this. And this has been a nationwide, everybody responding. So it wasn’t for that, we would not see those numbers coming down. And that peak you’ve just talked about would not have occurred. That is because everybody has worked together.
Prime Minister Johnson: (33:29)
Forgive me, Jason. I think you asked me something else, but remind me what it was.
Well, actually quickly, there’s been reports of a concern about [crosstalk 00:33:36].
Prime Minister Johnson: (33:36)
Outdoor exercise. Yes.
Yeah, outdoor exercise, yeah.
Prime Minister Johnson: (33:39)
Yes. Priorities is schools, Jason, but obviously we keep everything under review. The most important thing is to continue to make progress as we are in driving the infection rate down, and that’s what we’re doing. Let’s go to Francis Elliott of the Times. Francis, you need to unmute.
Francis Elliott: (34:07)
Prime Minister, when might we expect a date for the second wave of vaccinations? At the moment, we only get told spring. Obviously February 15th, [inaudible 00:34:17] to energize the whole process. And you seem to have changed your approach, the exiting of the lockdown, previously it was open where we can, now it’s stay closed until we can all open. Is that fair? And why have you changed your approach? Is it because you’re worried about mixed messaging from the previous regional [inaudible 00:34:36]? And Professor Whitty, if I could ask you, [inaudible 00:34:37] Harding said today that 20,000 people are not complying with the instruction to isolate. What do you think should be done to improve that compliance rate?
Prime Minister Johnson: (34:50)
Francis, we’re going to continue to keep an open mind about the regional or the national approach, but at the moment, quite frankly, when you look at the graphs, it’s pretty uniform across and there are some variations and some things going in slightly different directions in some parts of the country, but it’s pretty uniform at the moment. And therefore it feels to us, at the moment, as though we’ll be going down in tiers nationally. And I think that obviously could change. You’ll be hearing more on February the 15th or in the week of February 15th and on. As I said on February the 22nd, we will be setting out in as much detail as we can about where we see the dates, what the timetable could be, the earliest dates by which we want to do what.
Prime Minister Johnson: (35:46)
You remember what we did last year, setting out a route map. We’ll do that again. Though this time, the Terminus will be clearly that we’ll have got everybody vaccinated I hope. And we’ll be in a very different situation from that which we were all in last summer when we got the disease down, which was a fantastic effort, to a much, much lower level, but we always knew, we always knew that it had the capacity to surge back in the autumn and over the winter months as indeed, it has. This time as we go into the second half of the year, and we’re going to have the confidence of knowing that a huge proportion of the British public, particularly the most vulnerable, will have been vaccinated and probably received a very high degree of immunity. So that will very much change our approach to the autumn and the winter. Though, as Chris says, highly infectious respiratory diseases don’t go away altogether and not easily.
And on the question you asked, I mean, the big risks to the public is the total number of people. And the absolute number will reduce, the biggest thing we can do is actually reduce the total number of people who’ve got COVID now, because that, or a decent number of contacts. So actually getting the rates down is the single most important thing we can do, but of those who are phoned up, because they’re a contact, first thing is we should be very grateful to the people who first actually notified because that’s a huge public service to everyone else.
And then in terms of their contacts, actually very high proportions of people do self isolate, but the reason people don’t, there are broadly two. There’s not realizing how important it is, so they need the positive incentive to do it. And that’s very important for people to realize by doing this, you are making sure you’re not a bit of a chain that leads to a vulnerable person at the end. So it’s a way of protecting vulnerable people, is by self isolating. People understanding that is absolutely critical to this. And then of course, it’s about trying to reduce disincentives and those have been debated at some length, but those are the two things which basically mean whether someone is or is not going to self isolate.
Francis Elliott: (37:57)
Just on the question on the timetable for the second wave-
Francis Elliott: (38:01)
When can we expect a bit of clarity around, beyond spring, which is a bit vague?
Prime Minister Johnson: (38:06)
On the second wave of vaccinations. I think what you can expect is that on the 15th, we’ll say a bit more or about where we’ve got to. And obviously we’re hopeful that we’ll have done JCVI one to four. And in that week, I expect we’ll be saying a bit more about the timetable for doing JCVI one to nine, and the priorities thereafter. So that’ll be, in terms of the timetable for where the vaccinations are going, that’s what you should, more or less expect. But on the 22nd, I hope to be setting out in some more detail some dates and some possibilities for the whole of the year ahead. Okay. Thanks a lot. Let’s go to David Hughes of PA.
David Hughes: (38:56)
Prime Minister, it’s obviously good news that 10 million people have received their first jabs. Do you have any information yet on how many people are refusing to take the vaccine? And if so, what impact is that going to have on your time table for easing the lockdown? Professor Whitty, returning to the footings that Jason raised with you, how alarming is it that this deep into the pandemic, there are still people who don’t seem to understand the gravity of the situation and how frustrating is that for you and your fellow medical professionals?
Prime Minister Johnson: (39:25)
David, I’ve been amazed and so encouraged by the way communities are coming together to get the vaccine, to take it. People are taking it up across the whole of the country. I was, yes, we have been worried about vaccine hesitancy in some parts of the country. And in some communities that’s unquestionably an issue and we’re doing everything we can to encourage people to come forward, to give them all the confidence they need. And they must have confidence, they should have confidence. It’s a great thing to get a vaccine. But I was, I think on Monday, I was up at the Al Hikmah Centre in Batley talking to community leaders who’ve done an amazing job and got, I think the vaccination rate for the over 80s in that part of, in Yorkshire is 97%, including all community sites. So it’s a real achievement. And I would urge everybody to follow the example of Yorkshire if you’re not already there.
I mean, the data and this links both to what the Prime Minister’s just said and the question you asked me, the data is that vaccine acceptance understanding by the general population of the importance of vaccine is incredibly high in the UK compared to almost any other comparative country. And I think people do understand the importance. They understand how to balance the huge benefits against any things they’re concerned about. Am I alarmed [inaudible 00:40:48] going to be a noisy group of people who’ll disagree with virtually anything, but actually there is no clear evidence there’s a large background swell of opinion.
The great majority of people fully understand the issues, they’ve stuck extraordinarily well over an incredibly long period of time to the very difficult lockdown and other measures. And they’ve done that because they understand that this is the way they protect the vulnerable in society. And that is the overwhelming majority of the population. I think it’s very easy to lose that sense of perspective. It is the overwhelming majority of people who have done so, understand it. And if you don’t think that this is a big issue, go and talk to a doctor or a nurse who works in a hospital and they’ll put you right very fast.
Prime Minister Johnson: (41:28)
Thanks, David. Thanks very much, everybody. See you next time.