Nov 10, 2020
Boris Johnson COVID-19 Press Conference Transcript November 9
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson held a Downing Street press conference on November 9, where he talked about the news of the BioNTech & Pfizer vaccine announcement. Read the full transcript here.
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Boris Johnson: (00:00)
Actually to be joined this evening by Brigadier Joe Fossey and by Jonathan Van-Tam, the Deputy Chief Medical Officer. Across this country and around the world this evening, people are asking themselves the same question, about why we’ve got to, in our fight against COVID. And that is, does the progress towards a vaccine that’s been announced today, mean that we are the beginning of the end of our troubles? So let me set out our assessment. The Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine has been tested on over 40,000 volunteers and interim results suggest, it is proving 90% effective at protecting people against the virus.
Boris Johnson: (00:47)
But we haven’t yet seen the full safety data. And these findings also need to be peer reviewed. So we’ve cleared one significant huddle, but there are several more to go before we know the vaccine can be used. What I can say is that if, and when this vaccine is approved, we in this country will be ready to start using it. Earlier this year, the UK government ordered 40,000,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine, and offer about a third of the population, since you need two doses each. And that puts us towards the front of the international pack on a per capita basis.
Boris Johnson: (01:29)
And I should add that we’ve ordered over 300,000,000 doses from five other vaccine candidates as well. If the Pfizer vaccine passes all the rigorous safety checks and is proved to be effective, then we will begin a UK wide NHS led program of vaccine distribution. We will decide the order in which people are offered the vaccination taking account of recommendations from a group of scientific experts, The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunization. And they’re looking at a range of factors, including the different characteristics, of different types of vaccines to work out the most effective way to protect as many people as possible, and save as many lives as we can. We’ll be sending out more detail about that in due course.
Boris Johnson: (02:20)
But, and I’m going to say this. I must stress that these are very early days. We’ve talked for a long time, or I have, about the distant bugle of the scientific cavalry coming over the brow of the hill. I can tell you that tonight, that toot of the bugle is louder, but it’s still some way off. We absolutely cannot rely on this news as a solution. And the biggest mistake we could make now would be to slacken our resolve at a critical moment, because on Friday, Sage reported that the R is above one in England, that doesn’t take account of the current national restrictions.
Boris Johnson: (03:09)
Whereas, the death figures are rising, running at an average of 300 a day, sadly, double where they were 24 days ago. The number of COVID patients in hospital has risen to… from just over 10,000 two weeks ago, to nearly 13,000 on the 5th of November. And we’re heading towards the levels of the previous peak. Irrespective of whether there is a vaccine on the way or not, we must continue to do everything possible, right now to bring the R down.
Boris Johnson: (03:44)
And that’s why, we hope and believe that mass testing will help. And our first pilot began in Liverpool on Friday, in partnership with Liverpool City Council. We’ve tested thousands of people there, but there’s still a lot more to do. So please, if you are in Liverpool, get yourself along to a testing center. There are 19 at the moment, with more still to come, and the more people get tested, the better we can protect that great city, and drive the disease done in Liverpool. So do it for your friends, for your relatives, for your community.
Boris Johnson: (04:21)
And I want to thank the fantastic support of the army, of the people of Liverpool and Liverpool City Council. And we’re now going further by sending out hundreds of thousands of rapid lateral flow tests to local authorities, right across England, and also of course to the devolved administrations. We’re working with universities to establish, as soon as possible, similar mass testing capacity for students up and down the country. But while we’re making progress, this project is still in its infancy.
Boris Johnson: (04:58)
And neither mass testing nor progress on vaccines are… They’re both vital arrows in our epidemiological quiver, that both are part of the key parts of our fight against COVID. At the present time, they are no substitute for the national restrictions, the social distancing, hand hygiene and all the rest. So now it’s more important than ever to follow the rules. I know it’s been a tough first weekend of these autumn restrictions, and I’m especially grateful to the Royal British Legion and all those who worked so hard to ensure that no virus would stop us yesterday from honoring the memory of those who gave their lives for our freedom.
Boris Johnson: (05:52)
But we must get through this to the 2nd of December, when these measures expire and we plan to move forward with a tiered approach. Remember the basics, then hands, face, space, and follow the rules. And that’s how together we can protect the NHS, save lives and get the virus back in its box. That is what we will do. Thank you. I’m now going to hand to Brigadier Fossey, who is going to talk about the unrivaled logistical expertise of the British army, that’s helping to deliver mass testing to Liverpool. Over to you Brigadier.
Brigadier Joe Fossey: (06:32)
Thank you, Prime Minister, and good evening. As the Prime Minister said, I am Brigadier Joe Fossey, and I’m coordinating the military support to mass testing in Liverpool. It is a privilege to be invited to help the great city of Liverpool, in it’s hour of need. We’re really pleased to be in the city, and relish the opportunity to bring our unique planning skills, ability to respond quickly, and logistics know how to increase the city’s own testing capacity. Over 2000 troops have answered the call to help Liverpool tackle COVID-19, by setting up a number of testing sites in the city. To date, we have established 19 sites and we are working hard with the authorities to deliver more each day.
Brigadier Joe Fossey: (07:20)
I should point out that we are working in support of Liverpool City Council, the NHS Clinical Commissioning Group, and the Department for Health and Social Care, to prove the concept of rapid testing. We are demonstrating partnership in action, and all together enhancing the city’s ability to break the chains of transmission, and helping to drive down the number of COVID cases. I want to take a moment to explain to viewers, what it is that the military is doing.
Brigadier Joe Fossey: (07:59)
This is the lateral flow test, and these are the tests that we are using in Liverpool. They are very simple to use. You will all know what a swab looks like. You will be in an enclosed booth. All COVID controls will be in place. You put the swab in your mouth, and then in your nose, and give it back to the soldier who will complete the test. The new piece of equipment is this two inch bit of plastic. It is this lateral flow device that produces such a speedy result. I have taken one this morning to make sure I was COVID free. The test returns results within the hour, without the need for it to be sent to a lab.
Brigadier Joe Fossey: (08:56)
You will receive a message by email or text with your result. These lateral flow tests offer the chance for more regular and rapid testing. Many of us have served on operations abroad. We know what makes an effective team. The Council, the NHS, the emergency services, And most importantly, the people of Liverpool, have worked together to make an outstanding coalition. It is a privilege to work alongside them. We’re extremely grateful for such a warm response, more so because so many soldiers come from the city region, and are excited to be giving something back to their communities.
Brigadier Joe Fossey: (09:38)
For example, Lance Corporal Lee Johnson, of The Rural Electrical and Mechanical Engineers, has been out helping his community in Anfield, where today we set up a testing center in the football stadium. Using his sign language skills, Trooper Jordan Turner of the King’s [inaudible 00:09:56], managed to translate to the testing process for a deaf member of the community. And Sapa David McKenzie, of the Royal Engineers, has gone from building hospitals for the United Nations in South Sudan, to delivering test sites to safeguard the residents of Liverpool. So our message to the people of Liverpool is clear.
Brigadier Joe Fossey: (10:21)
We are set up and ready for you to come and get tested. Please do not hesitate. Make the most of this opportunity. What we are trailing now is a possible route out of lockdown, and a way to get on with our lives. The armed forces have always answered the call in terms of crisis. COVID-19 poses many challenges and affects us all in many ways, but we in the military stand ready to serve our communities. Thank you.
Boris Johnson: (10:55)
Thank you very much Brigadier. I’m now going to go to Jonathan Van-Tam, just to say a little bit more about the vaccine from the… from a scientific and medical point of view.
Jonathan Van Tam: (11:04)
Thank you, Prime Minister. Good evening. You will all have seen the news today, the announcement by Pfizer/BioNTech. And I have to say that this is really a very important scientific breakthrough, I’m certain of that. I want to, first of all, begin to thank people around the world, including here in the UK, who have been clinical trial’s volunteers. We would not be talking to you about the news today. If they weren’t volunteers who go into clinical trials, to help us find cures and vaccines against this awful disease. And thank you also to the hundreds of thousands of unsung scientists in the vaccine industry, who’ve around the clock and are still working around the clock, trying to find yet further vaccines for the world.
Jonathan Van Tam: (11:59)
This is truly appreciated. So today’s news is the first vaccine and the first step, and it is very exciting. But I want to explain to you a little bit more about what the next steps are, and why right now the messages stand fast, rather than get too overexcited about quite where we are. So we’ve seen today, the results that show the effectiveness of the first vaccine. We haven’t seen the detail of those, but we’ve seen the headline results. The next step is to see the safety data, and I imagine that that will come in the next few days.
Jonathan Van Tam: (12:44)
There have been 44,000 volunteers in the major trial being reported today. So 22,000 have had the vaccine. That’s a lot of safety data and we have to see that and understand it. Safety is every bit. In fact, I would say it’s more important than vaccine effectiveness. And the arbiters of safety and effectiveness in this country are our MHRA, our regulatory body. And they are truly world-class, and they are robustly independent. And so it’s for them in time to form their own judgements about this and future vaccines. They are the only people involved in that. Then if we can get to a point where vaccines are beginning to be authorized for use in the UK. The next question is, well, who are we going to give them to? And here again, an independent body, the JCVI, the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunization, will guide the government on the priorities.
Jonathan Van Tam: (13:52)
And, you will have seen on the JCVI website, that they have already identified a preliminary priority list. It is preliminary because until that committee can see the full characteristics of each vaccine, that list cannot be finalized. And it has to take into account when vaccines are likely to arrive and what kind of conditions they need for deployment, because they all have different storage and delivery requirements.
Jonathan Van Tam: (14:26)
So that is work for the future, but what is already very clear from the JCVI work to date is that by far and away, age is the biggest priority for patients who most need the vaccines and need to get those vaccines first, if they are safe and effective. And so you can expect that the theme of increasing age being the highest priority to be a theme that stays with us, as we go on this journey. I’m hopeful because of all that, but not yet certain that we could begin to see some vaccine by Christmas. What I want to do now is talk about the slightly broader context of all of this. So the current vaccine that’s being announced, its results were announced today, targets the S protein of the coronavirus. And, so far, all we knew was that vaccines could give us antibodies against the S protein.
Jonathan Van Tam: (15:32)
We did not know if vaccines would prevent disease. And so this is a huge milestone, but more importantly, it is good news for many of the vaccines to come, because almost all of the vaccines coming also target the S protein. So this is like getting to the end of a playoff final, it’s gone to penalties. The first player goes up scores the goal. You haven’t won the cup yet, but what it does is it tells you that the goalkeeper can be beaten. And that’s where we are today, that first sign. So what do we know about the vaccine? Well, we know this particular vaccine prevents disease. That’s clear from the effectiveness readout that we’ve had today. What we don’t know yet and where you have to be patient and stick with us is that we don’t know what this means yet for when we can get life back to normal, when we can start to lift some of the restrictions that we live under.
Jonathan Van Tam: (16:42)
Frankly, we’re in the middle of the second wave, and I don’t see the vaccine making any difference for the wave we are now in. I’m hopeful that it may prevent future waves, but this one we have to battle through to the end, without vaccine. We have to keep pressing hard for now. We’ve seen a swallow, but this is very much not the summer. Please don’t relax. Much depends on the extent to which you continue to follow the rules, not only through the current lockdown period, but afterwards, when we hope to return to a time of slightly lower restrictions. It would be a colossal mistake on the part of any one of us to relax at this point. But vaccine supplies, we hope will come subject, always subject, to authorization by the MHRA. And if they do, when they do, we might be able to look towards the end of spring for a much better horizon than we have in front of us, right now.
Jonathan Van Tam: (17:59)
We will know more in time. Please stick with us for now. Thank you, Prime Minister.
Boris Johnson: (18:04)
Thank you very much, Jonathan. Let’s go to questions from the public, and the media, starting with Abbid from Glasgow.
How will university students get back home for Christmas safely, to their family, if permitted, and is it safe to do so? And how will they return safely back on campus in January?
Boris Johnson: (18:24)
Well, Abbid, thank you. I think I’ll answer that. Obviously I’m very grateful to university students for the way they’ve been able to get the the disease down in the… on the campuses where they’ve been recently. It’s been a fantastic effort by universities. Clearly, we don’t want young people going back and infecting elderly members of their family, over the Christmas period. So tomorrow or very shortly, Abbid, we will be issuing a guidance for what they should do. I know that terms will start to end from about the 30th of November onwards. And we’ll be sure to be giving guidance for exactly what university students should be doing, as they plan their return home, how to make sure that they… university students do as much as you can to protect your elderly relatives. I think you will dwell on that, Jonathan.
Jonathan Van Tam: (19:22)
Thank you, Prime Minister. No, I think I’d just say that, I know colleagues are working on a solution for how to get students home as safely as possible. It is a genuinely important question to ask, and I don’t think I should comment until the guidance is issued.
Boris Johnson: (19:40)
Okay. And that guidance will be coming up very soon. Thank you. Let’s go to Claire from Coventry, Claire- how are you going to address adequately the mental health crisis that has resulted from a year of COVID restrictions? And again, I’ll ask Jonathan to comment on the mental health crisis. There’s no doubt that the… this pandemic has had a big impact on people’s mental health. I was talking to representatives of the Samaritans, this morning in my own constituency in Oxbridge. And, it’s the loneliness, I think the sense of not being able to see other people that’s been caused by some of the lockdown measures, alas, all sorts of anxieties that people are prone to, and have been prone to.
Boris Johnson: (20:32)
What we’re doing Claire, is we’re investing massively in mental health, a 13 billion pound investment in supporting NHS, mental health, but also, supporting the mental health charities, that do such … have been doing such a great job throughout this crisis, but obviously the best thing we can do is bring the crisis to an end, as fast as we can, follow the guidance, get through the current period, on December the 2nd, and then allow things to get better as I’m sure they will, JVT.
Jonathan Van Tam: (21:11)
Thank you, Prime Minister. There is an enormous mental health burden, and even if not a formal mental health issue, a feel really rubbish about where we are now, feeling, that’s across the country because our lives have changed. We can’t do the things that we normally do as human beings. We can’t interact in the way that we want to. We don’t have the nice things like sport on a Saturday afternoon at a stadium and so forth. And it is really tough from that perspective. One of the things that we can do to try and make these restrictions as short as possible is to follow them to the letter. And that means everybody. If we do that, the likelihood of the restrictions working, driving the R below one and actually shrinking the size of the epidemic, for the first time in months is realistic. And that’s the most important thing I think, to get out of feeling the way we feel, and we do feel that way.
Boris Johnson: (22:23)
Thanks very much, Claire. Let’s go to Fergus Walsh, of the BBC.
Fergus Walsh.: (22:29)
Thank you very much, Prime Minister. Question for Jonathan Van-Tam, how many people in the UK will need to be immunized with an effective vaccine before life can start returning to normal, and to the Prime Minister, how potentially important are the vaccine results today?
Jonathan Van Tam: (22:54)
Yes. So thanks for the question, Fergus. The answer to your question is that it is kind of yes and no. In one sense, we don’t know, because the one thing we know about these vaccines at the moment, is that they will prevent illness due to SARS-CoV-2, due to the COVID-19 virus, as diagnosed by PCR. That’s all we know. We do not know yet if these vaccines will prevent asymptomatic infection. And therefore we do not know if these vaccines will prevent virus shedding, and therefore have an effect on community transmission. That is something it is not possible to know at this point in time. When we understand more about whether these vaccines simply modify disease or whether they also reduce transmission, then I think we can give you a more sensible estimate of that, but that’s the don’t know part of the question.
Jonathan Van Tam: (24:01)
The very certain part of the question is that we know that, the vast majority of the burden of hospitalization and death, is being driven by the elderly and the hospitalization rates rise very dramatically after the age of 50. And, knowing that gives us hope that if we can deploy, in due course when authorized, a safe and effective vaccine in the elderly populations, we should… I am hopeful, it will… The proof will be in the pudding, but I’m hopeful that we will actually see a very dramatic decline in the burden in hospitals, but that can’t happen all at once. We don’t have the vaccine supply yet.
Jonathan Van Tam: (25:00)
They are not authorized yet. They will not all come in one go. And when they do, even with enormous planning from the NHS, it is going to take time to roll that kind of program out. But it does explain why the published JCVI advice, begins with the top priority group, older adults, resident in care homes and care home workers. Next, all those aged, 80 years of over and health and social care workers. Next, all those 75 years, and over following on 70, 65, it’s on the JCVI website. I won’t take up time. I’m sure you’ve seen it anyway, but that explains why we are planning when we have authorized vaccines to start in this way, if we possibly can. Thank you Borris.
Boris Johnson: (25:55)
Thanks Jonathan. Fergus, when I’ve talked about the three scientific tools that I think are going to be most useful in defeating this virus, the weapons that we have at our disposal. I’ve talked to a lot in the last few weeks about better therapies, better medicine, dexamethazone, other treatments that are reducing the mortality rates in hospital. We’ve got the Brigadier here to talk about the mass testing that we’re rolling out, which I think is full of potential for our ability to defeat the virus.
Boris Johnson: (26:32)
But when it’s come to the vaccine, the third part of the third pillar of the tripod as it were, I’ve always been quite cautious, because it’s a long time since SARS broke out and we still don’t have an effective vaccine against SARS. I’ve been very hesitant to get people’s hopes up, Fergus unnecessarily. So I’m listening very carefully to what Jonathan and others are saying about the potential of this news. It’s obviously potentially very good news, but there is still a lot of hurdles that need to be overcome, before we can be certain about the efficacy of this vaccine, exactly how it is going to… What I can tell you obviously is that we’ve secured a large proportion of the supply, that Pfizer will be making.
Boris Johnson: (27:28)
In addition to the 300,000,000 other doses of other types vaccine that we’ve also secured, if they come good. And I think one of the interesting things that… The most fascinating thing that Jonathan said to my mind this evening, is that this vaccine offers a ray of hope for all those other vaccines, if it really works, because it targets the S protein of Coronavirus.
Boris Johnson: (27:59)
It doesn’t just create antibodies. And that seems to me to be very interesting. But it is crucial that we do not overdo it. We cannot let our enthusiasm tonight run away with us folks. I’m very sorry to say this. It’s more vital than ever now that we follow the basics, that we wait and see whether this vaccine lives up to its promise. We continue with the measures we have in place until December the 2nd, when they will expire. And we continue with the basic guidances, as Jonathan says. Let’s go to Tom Clark of ITV.
Tom Clark: (28:40)
Thank you, Prime Minister. Going back to the vaccine again, one of the hurdles of course, is ensuring we get the supply that you already mentioned, we’ve ordered I think, 40,000,000 doses of this Pfizer vaccine for the UK. How confident are you given the global excitement about this vaccine announcement today, that you can fulfill those contracts, that they’ll actually be delivered upon? And, a second to one of the government’s leading advisors on the spines of COVID today saying very enthusiastic things could return to normal as early as next spring, you don’t seem to share that enthusiasm. Have you been burned perhaps by your experience working with scientists in the area of testing, for example?
Boris Johnson: (29:24)
Well, Tom, I think, going on your first point about the security of the supply, I’m very hopeful that we’ll get to… As I say the ones that we’ve ordered, that’s what we’ve done. And I think the vaccine task force for their initiative, when they’ve been out securing supplies for the UK, for a long time now. And it’s right, that they’d been doing that, just on a speculative basis. And, look, yes, of course I remain buoyantly optimistic about the prospects of this country next year. I just don’t want to let people run away with the idea that this development today, is necessarily a home run, a slam dunk, a shot to the back of the net yet. I think that’s how I feel about it. I think we’ve got a way to go, Tom. Is it good news? Of course, it’s good news, but there’s a long way, I’m afraid before we’ve got this thing beat.
Jonathan Van Tam: (30:31)
Thanks, Tom. Making vaccines is really difficult and, many things can go wrong during manufacture. And indeed each batch has to be quality assured before it can be released. It’s not a case of you get the authorization from the regulator and then Hey-ho, you can just start making it. No. Every single batch has to be quality assured and released and things can, and do, and have always gone wrong in, that quality assurance process for perfectly good reasons. And for that reason, I think we have to be optimistic, but we have to wait and see how vaccine manufacture goes. Not only for this company, but for many others.
Jonathan Van Tam: (31:20)
This to me is like a train journey, where you’re standing on the station, it’s wet, it’s windy, it’s horrible. And, two miles down the tracks, two lights appear, and it’s the train. And it’s a long way off. We’re at that point at the moment. That’s the efficacy results. Then we hope the train slows down safely to get into the station. That’s the safety data, and then the train stops. And at that point, the doors don’t open. The guard has to make sure it’s safe to open the doors. That’s the MHRA, that’s the regulator. And when the doors open, I hope there’s not an unholy scramble for the seats. The JCVI has very clearly said, which people are going to need the seats most, and they are the ones who should get on the train first. That’s how we have to frame this. And right now it’s a couple of miles down the tracks, and we’ve just seen the lights come around the bend.
Boris Johnson: (32:22)
Thanks very much, Tom. Let’s go to Victoria McDonald’s Channel Four.
Victoria McDonald’s: (32:29)
Thank you, Prime Minister. You read out the list, Professor Van-Tam, on the priorities. You said they were preliminary, but given the Prime Minister’s determination to keep schools and universities open, is it not a glaring, missing from that list? Should there be teachers on that list? And also, can you tell me, Prime Minister, would the cabinet get a priority for being vaccinated? And can I also ask, given that you started, Prime Minister, talking about the death figures and the R number, where on a scale of one to 10, are you in your confidence that you will be able to lift the England’s lockdown on December the 2nd?
Boris Johnson: (33:16)
Well, brilliant. Thanks very much, Victoria. On your first question about, who gets it, which categories of people, we will be guided very much by the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunization. I think you’ve got to look at where the doses can be most appropriately distributed to protect, to save life, and to drive down the R, and everything flows from that. And, that’s why I thought that what Jonathan had to say was absolutely right. And on December the 2nd, and why we’re going with, “Don’t forget,” this package expires on December the 2nd.
Boris Johnson: (34:09)
At the moment, if you ask me for my estimate of how we’re doing as a country, well, I think that actually people are really pulling together, and the R is above one, and although the, I’m afraid infection rates are increasing, prevalence is rising certainly across the entire country, and hospitalizations are continuing to increase. I do believe that this package of measures, in combination with the previous efforts, we’ll get the R below one.
Boris Johnson: (34:43)
I’ve got a lot of confidence, but it depends on all of us doing it together and observing it, and not being mentally sidetracked by a sudden surge of optimism about a vaccine. Yes, it’s good news, but let’s focus on what we’re doing until December the 2nd. Thank you very much. Let’s go to Jason Groves of the Daily Mail, Jason.
Jason Groves: (35:09)
Thanks, Prime Minister. Surveys suggest something like a quarter of people wouldn’t take a vaccine if they’re offered one. How concerned are you about misinformation by the Anti-vax lobby? You mentioned Liverpool. Is the testing there… the takeout as high as you would like? And can I ask you quickly on the US election? I don’t know whether you’ve heard from Joe Biden yet, but obviously you were on phone with President Trump, would you now advise him to throw in the towel, and will you miss him when he’s gone from the international stage?
Boris Johnson: (35:46)
Well, Jason. First of all, I think the anti-vax argument holds no water. I think people need to remember that in having a vaccination, you’re not just protecting yourself, you’re protecting anybody who could get infected by you or your family, as a vector of the disease. So I hope very much that people won’t be listening to those types of arguments. On the US elections. Well, I just want to repeat what I’ve said before, that I really congratulate President-elect Biden and Kamala Harris, who’s I think going to be the first, I know, is going to be the first ever female Vice President of the United States. And yes, this country has had a good relationship with the White House over the last few years. Britain has had a good relationship with the White House for many years, and I’ve no doubt that we will continue to have a very strong, a very close relationship with our American friends.
Boris Johnson: (36:50)
And one thing that is very exciting that you’re already seeing from the incoming administration is their willingness to join the UK in the campaign to tackle climate change. And as you know, we’re chairing the COP… We’re hosting, I should say, the COP26 Summit in Glasgow next year. And the UK has been leading in calling… The first major economy to call for countries to get to net zero carbon emissions by 2050. And suddenly with the advent of President elect Biden, we’re seeing the US really willing to take a lead on climate change, which I think is, is great news, to say nothing of NATO and all sorts of things.
Boris Johnson: (37:44)
I think you had… There was another question buried in that Jason, which I’ve neglected. Have I answered all your questions?
Jason Groves: (37:51)
Well, not quite. Just on President Trump. You’ve said you’ve congratulated his success. Is it time for him to throw in the towel?
Boris Johnson: (37:57)
Jason Groves: (37:57)
If I could just ask quickly about Liverpool as well?
Boris Johnson: (38:01)
Oh yes, sorry. You did, that’s right.
Jason Groves: (38:02)
Is the take out there as high as it needs to be?
Boris Johnson: (38:05)
Sorry. Thank you. Look, on… I doubt we should offer any other commentary on the US election. Our friends in America have their press. It’s not for me to offer commentary on it. Clearly, I want to congratulate President elect Biden. What I would say about Liverpool is that, yes, it’s absolutely true that we want to see more, but don’t forget that we’re massively increasing the number of testing centers over the course of the next few days. I think I’ll hand over to the Brigadier on this, and we’re hopeful that more people will take it up. Perhaps I could go to Jonathan first, and then to the Brigadier.
Jonathan Van Tam: (38:55)
Yes. I just wanted to come back in Jason, on your point about vaccine misinformation. Vaccine misinformation has been out there ever since the first vaccines were made, and it is exactly that misinformation. And I don’t propose, we give it any further airtime. But your statistic actually tells me that 75% of people are keen to get a COVID-19 vaccine. And if you look at the staggering likelihood of hospitalization or death, with increasing age and in the elderly, I predict very strongly that there will be a very significant demand in the elderly, in particular for this vaccine and ones that follow thanks.
Boris Johnson: (39:41)
Thanks, Jonathan. Anything to say about Liverpool, Brigadier?
Brigadier Joe Fossey: (39:45)
Jason, I think it’s important to recognize that this is the fourth day of a pilot program of a mass testing approach, that may be the first in the Western hemisphere. We’ve already had a number of thousands of residents of Liverpool City respond to the call, and we anticipate that growing significantly as the message begins to radiate. So I think we will start to see much more uptake from a community that is driving forward as an incredibly cohesive team, with very strong community responses. So that take up, that footfall, we anticipate to rise very quickly this week.
Boris Johnson: (40:27)
Thanks very much. Let’s go to Kate Ferguson, of the Sun.
Kate Ferguson: (40:30)
Thank you, Prime Minister. A question for Professor John Van-Tam first, you said you hope Britain could be heading back to normality by next spring. What does normal mean? So will Brits be able to bend their face masks, have their grannies, kiss their dates again? And for the PM, I know you’re working on a plan to rescue Christmas with the devolved assemblies. How confident are you that Brits will be able to travel around the UK for their Christmas dinners this year, and will Brits be able to hug their grannies on Christmas day?
Jonathan Van Tam: (41:06)
Thanks, Kate. Look, I’d love to give you a really simple answer to this and say, “Oh yes, all the things you asked for in what I suppose, as an early Christmas list from you, you were able to do by Easter.” I can’t give you that assurance at the moment. What I can tell you is that with time and subject to authorization by the regulator, once these vaccines begin to be deployed, then over a period of time, they will make a significant difference to the kind of disease levels we see in the UK at the moment.
Jonathan Van Tam: (41:47)
Whether they will reduce transmission, as I said earlier in the briefing, is something we do not know yet. And that is a crucial factor that we’ll understand how far vaccines takes us towards the kind of future that you aspire to, as I aspire to. We’d love it, wouldn’t we? But right now the key message is we’re working on that, we’re very aware of what is needed, but your job whilst we do that work is to hold this R below zero… below one for as long as you can. And, to follow the measures so that we can get into that space in the first instance.
Boris Johnson: (42:39)
Oh, and Kate. The simplest thing I can do is just repeat what I’ve said, before. The more we comply, the more scrupulously we follow the guidance and the rules right now, the better all of our chances of having a Christmas that’s as close to normal as possible. That’s the objective that we’re working for. Let’s go lastly to Joe Murphy of Evening Standard, Joe.
Joe Murphy: (43:09)
Thank you, Prime Minister. Professor Van-Tam, can I ask you to share a bit more of what you know about the likely time it would take from a first injection of this vaccine to actually being immunized? For example, if people were at that first administration on December the 1st, is it likely or unlikely that they might be able to hug people on Christmas day? Prime Minister, if we… Just looking at your old stomping ground of London, business leaders are saying the backseat, the… Sorry, the COVID rate is going down in London, and it’s much low already than other major cities. They’re asking you, would you consider if it’s safe, and if the numbers keep falling, whether you’d let London out of lockdown before December the 2nd. And if not, could you at least say that you’re willing to put London into tier one again, so that more things and businesses can stay open?
Jonathan Van Tam: (44:12)
Yeah. Thank you. So, it’s a very good question, Joe, and I’m really glad that you reminded me of it, to be truthful. All, but one of the vaccines that are the likely big name contenders over the next 12 months or so, have a vaccine that requires two doses to give protection.
Jonathan Van Tam: (44:37)
And the interval between the two doses varies between 21 and 28 days apart. Now on basic immunological principles, we would expect the response to a vaccine to be maximum of no more than before the 14… until that 14 days has elapsed after the dose. So, yes, there’ll be some partial protection after a first dose, one would think, but the safe space is have two doses, wait at least 14 days, and at that point you can be assured that to the extent that your body is going to work with the vaccine to produce antibodies to protect you, that is when you’re going to get into the period when you are protected. So I’m afraid, I’m saying to be sure, 14 days after the 2nd dose.
Boris Johnson: (45:44)
And Joe, on London and other areas where we’re seeing the gradient being held down or the disease not rising as fast as it has been, this is no accident. This is because of the heroic collective efforts and sacrifice the people of London, elsewhere, the Northeast it’s flattening. That is because people are following the guidance, making a huge effort to distance themselves, and all the other things that we know. And yet it is still true that overall, the virus is still doubling in this country. And I saw the data this morning. Alas it’s doubling in some places faster than elsewhere. About one in 90 people now have the virus. One in 90, that’s a lot of people, alas.
Boris Johnson: (46:41)
And we’re going to see those cases sadly feeding through into our hospitals, as they are now. But, the point that you make, does show that human agency, collective action, all of us pulling together really can work. And what we’ve got to do now in the run-up to Christmas, run up to December the 2nd, is to make sure that we do follow this guidance so that, as I say, we can all have as normal a Christmas as possible. Thank you all very much. Thank you.