Dec 19, 2020

Boris Johnson COVID Press Conference Transcript December 19: Christmas Lockdown

Boris Johnson COVID Press Conference December 19
RevBlogTranscriptsBoris Johnson TranscriptsBoris Johnson COVID Press Conference Transcript December 19: Christmas Lockdown

Prime Minister Boris Johnson backtracked on relaxing Christmas rules on December 19, after scientists warn a new strain of COVID-19 spreads faster. “Tier 4” restrictions were announced in an emergency lockdown over Christmas holidays. Read the full transcript here.

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Boris Johnson: (01:50)
Good afternoon everybody, and thank you for joining the latest coronavirus press conference. Yesterday afternoon, I was briefed on the latest data that shows the virus spreading more rapidly in London, the Southeast and the East of England, than would be expected given the tough restrictions that are already in place. And I also received an explanation for why the virus is spreading more rapidly in these areas. It seems that the spread is now being driven by the new variant of the virus, which we spoke about earlier this week and learned about earlier this week.

Boris Johnson: (02:27)
Our Advisory Group on New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats, NERVTAG, has spent the last few days analyzing this new variant. There’s no evidence that it causes more severe illness or higher mortality, but it does appear to be passed on significantly more easily. NERVTAG’s early analysis suggests the new variant could increase the R by 0.4 or more. And although there’s considerable uncertainty, it may be up to 70% more transmissible than the original version of the disease. This is early data and it’s subject to review, but it’s the best that we have at the moment. And we have to act on information as we have it, because this is now spreading very fast.

Boris Johnson: (03:24)
The UK has by far the best genomic sequencing ability in the world, which means we’re better able to identify new strains like this than any other country. The chief medical officer last night submitted our findings so far to the World Health Organization and we’ll continue to be totally transparent with our global partners.

Boris Johnson: (03:45)
There’s still much that we don’t know. While we’re fairly certain the variant is transmitted more quickly, there’s no evidence to suggest it is more lethal or causes more severe illness. Equally, there’s no evidence to suggest the vaccine will be any less effective against the new variant. Our experts will continue their work to improve our understanding as fast as we can.

Boris Johnson: (04:12)
So we’re learning about it as we go, but we already know enough, more than enough to be sure that we must act now. So I met ministers on the COVID Operations Committee last night, and again, first thing this morning. Cabinet met at lunchtime to agree the following actions.

Boris Johnson: (04:34)
First, we will introduce new restrictions in the most effected areas, specifically those parts of London, the Southeast and the East of England, which are currently in tier three. These areas will enter a new tier four, which will be broadly equivalent to the national restrictions which were in place in England in November. That means residents in those areas must stay at home, apart from limited exemptions set out in law.

Boris Johnson: (05:04)
Non-essential retail, indoor gyms, and leisure facilities and personal care services must close. People must work from home if they can, but may travel to work if this is not possible, for example, in the construction and manufacturing sectors. People should not enter or leave tier four areas, and tier four residents must not stay overnight away from home. Individuals can only meet one person from another household in an outdoor public space.

Boris Johnson: (05:35)
Unlike the November national restrictions, communal worship can continue to take place in tier four areas. These measures will take effect from tomorrow morning. All tiers will continue to be regularly reviewed in line with the approach previously set out, with the next formal review taking place on the 30th of December.

Boris Johnson: (05:58)
Second, we’re issuing new advice on travel. Although the new variant is concentrated in tier four areas, it is nonetheless present at lower levels around the country. So we’re asking everyone in all tiers to stay local. People should carefully consider whether they need to travel abroad and they should follow the rules in their tier. Those in tier four areas will not be permitted to travel abroad, apart from limited exceptions such as for work purposes.

Boris Johnson: (06:32)
Third, we must, I’m afraid, look again at Christmas. And as prime minister, it’s my duty to take difficult decisions to do what is right to protect the people of this country. Given the early evidence we have on this new variant of the virus, the potential risk it poses, it is with a very heavy heart, I must tell you, we cannot continue with Christmas as planned. In England, those living in tier four areas should not mix with anyone outside their own household at Christmas, though support bubbles will remain in place for those of particular risk of loneliness or isolation.

Boris Johnson: (07:14)
Across the rest of the country, the Christmas rules allowing up to three households to meet, will now be limited to Christmas day only, rather than the five days as previously set out. As before, there will be no relaxation on the 31st of January, so people must not break the rules at New Year. They must not break the rules at New Year. It’s very, very important to emphasize that.

Boris Johnson: (07:42)
I know how much emotion people invest in this time of year, and how important it is, for instance, for grandparents to see the grandchildren, for families to be together. So I know how disappointing this will be. But we have said throughout this pandemic that we must and we will be guided by the science. When the science changes, we must change our response. And when the virus changes its method of attack, we must change our method of defense. And as your prime minister, I sincerely believe there is no alternative open to me. Without action, the evidence suggested infections would soar, hospitals would become overwhelmed, and many thousands more would lose their lives.

Boris Johnson: (08:40)
And I want to stress that we are not alone in this fight or in taking these types of decisions. Many of our European friends and neighbors are being forced to take similar action.

Boris Johnson: (08:53)
We’re working closely with the devolved administrations to protect people in every part of the UK. And of course there is now real, real hope that we will soon be rid of this virus. And that prospect is growing with every day that passes and every vaccine dose that is administered. As you know, the UK was the first country in the western world to start using a clinically approved vaccine. And so please, if the NHS contacts you, then get your vaccine and join the 350,000 people across the UK who have already had their first dose.

Boris Johnson: (09:35)
Yes, Christmas this year will be different, very different, but we must be realistic. We’re sacrificing the chance to see our loved ones this Christmas, so we have a better chance of protecting their lives so that we can see them at future Christmases. And sure as night follows day, we’ll beat back this virus, we’ll defeat it and reclaim our lives. But I’m going to hand over now to Patrick, who is going to go through some of the slides explaining this decision.

Patrick: (10:11)
Thank you very much, Prime Minister. May I have the first slide, please? This slide is the Office for National Statistics slide showing infections have risen again in recent weeks. So it shows the percentage of positive tests against time. And you can see from July to September, it was fairly flat. An increase occurred during September up to a peak, after which the lockdown led to a decrease in the numbers during November. And it is now on the increase again. So the lockdown brought the numbers down and now we’re seeing them rising again. Next slide, please.

Patrick: (10:54)
This shows the levels on the 29th of November up to the 13th of December. So on the left hand side-

Patrick: (11:02)
Up to the 13th of December. So, On the left-hand side is the average cases in the last two weeks in November the 29th. And on the right-hand side is in mid-December. The darker the color, the higher the number of cases. And what you can see is, first of all, that there are some areas that have got very dark and here at South Wales and in the South East of England, and that the overall cases have increased by more than 50%. So, a substantial increase in numbers over the period of December. If I just concentrate now on the South East Eastern and London, we’ll see a picture which I think begins to link into the new virus variant. Next slide, please. So, this is hospital admissions per day in London, East of England, and the Southeast from NHS data from September through to now. You can see a gradual increase in the number of hospital admissions per day, and you can see a very sharp increase during December. This virus has taken off, it’s moving fast, and it’s leading inevitably to a sharp increase in hospital admissions. Next slide, please.

Patrick: (12:22)
If we now look just at the areas that are moving into tier four as the Prime Minister has just said, which is areas in London, the Southeast and the East, and look at the number of cases, the case rate against time, what you can see is that the number of cases increased or the case rate increases dramatically. If you look at the dotted line, that’s for England as a whole, you can see case rate increasing to November, decreasing during lockdown, and increasing again. But if you look at the solid blue line, which is London, and the Southeast, and the East in tier four, you can see a rapid increase, a very sharp increase in rates over the period of December. So, we have a particularly fast moving problem with increased numbers in the area going to tier four, but a generalized increase across the country.

Patrick: (13:19)
Next slide, please. I’d like to just spend a moment talking about the new variant. So, the new variant, and viruses mutate all the time, but the new variant contains 23 different changes. Many of them associated with changes in the protein that the virus makes. This is an unusually large number of variants. It’s also got variants in areas of the virus that are known to be associated with how the virus binds to cells and enters cells. So, there are some changes, which cause concern in terms of how the virus looks. But on top of that, there are three questions that need to be asked. Does the new variant transmit more readily? Does it make an increased chance of spread and growth? The second is, does it alter the course of the disease? Does it make people sicker? And the third is, does it alter the way that the immune system, the way the body responds to it, if it’s been previously infected or following the vaccine? I want to deal with the first question.

Patrick: (14:28)
There are three different sources of evidence from genetic studies to frequency studies, to laboratory studies, all of which come together to suggest this virus has a significant substantial increase in transmissibility. And this is also highlighted in this graph, which shows the proportion of all the cases that were due to the new variant. So, the new variant was first thought to have occurred sometime in mid-September in London or Kent. And by the middle of November, about 28% or so of the cases in London and the Southeast and slightly lower in the East of England were due to the new variant. So, it had grown rapidly. By the week commencing the 9th of December, these figures were much higher. So, in London, over 60% of all the cases were the new variant. So, what this tells us is that this new variant not only moves fast, it is increased in terms of its ability to transmit, but it is becoming the dominant variant.

Patrick: (15:36)
It is beating all the others in terms of transmission. So, this virus transmits and spreads fast. Does it alter the disease progress disease course? The answer seems to be no, as far as we can tell at the moment. There’s no evidence it causes a more severe disease, causes more hospitalization, causes more trouble than the other virus. So, it basically looks similar. Does it alter the immune response or is the immune response less able to recognize it? There are theoretical reasons to suspect that some of the changes might alter some of the immune responses, but there’s nothing that’s been seen to suggest that’s the case. And our working assumption at the moment from all of the scientists is that the vaccine response should be adequate for this virus.

Patrick: (16:23)
Obviously it needs to be looked at going forward and we need to keep vigilant about this, but the big change, therefore is not the disease progress, not the immunity, but transmission. This virus spreads more easily and therefore more measures are needed to keep it under control. We absolutely need to stick to the basics of making sure that we reduce our contacts, reduce the ability for this virus to spread. And that’s the reason that tougher measures are required to keep this variant under control. Thank you very much.

Boris Johnson: (16:55)
Thanks very, very much, Patrick. Chris, is there anything you want to add to any of that? Well thank you very much then. Let’s go to questions from the public and then the media. First, Laura from Worthing.

Laura: (17:07)
Why are shielders still expected to work until three. As somebody who’s already lost two loved ones to COVID, this terrifies me. Thank you.

Boris Johnson: (17:19)
Well, Laura, your question why are shielders are still expected to work in tier three, those who are shielding those who are vulnerable, should of course take every step to protect themselves. And Laura, I hope very much that you will not be asked to work if you’re shielding. Chris, anything you want to add to that?

Chris Whitty: (17:43)
Well, I mean, I think first thing to say, as I’m really sorry to hear about your two relatives who died from this virus. I mean, it is a very dangerous virus for many people. The shielding patterns are actually being re-looked at, but the view about shielding is that in the first wave, shielding did many things that were useful, but also did many things that were actually actively harmful. And we have therefore changed the model of shielding since the first wave. And that includes people being able to get out more in many situations and also areas around work. But this is something which people are keeping on looking at to try and get the optimal balance between isolating people too much and isolating them enough from the virus.

Boris Johnson: (18:31)
Thanks very much. Let’s go to Mike from Cheshire. Mike from Cheshire asks, “In the daily update figures, people testing positive, number of tests, deaths, and so forth, could you also provide the number of people who’ve had the vaccine?” Well, Mike, thanks for that. And yes, as you’ve heard from me just now that the figure is that I’ve been given today is 350,000 have so far had their first dose. And we’ll make sure that we keep people regularly updated on the rollout of the vaccine. Let’s go to Laura Kuenssberg at the BBC.

Laura Kuenssberg: (19:10)
Thank you very much, Prime Minister. There were calls for you to drop the plans for Christmas last week just a few days ago, but on Wednesday you told me and our viewers, it would be inhuman to change the plans. And now that’s exactly what you’ve done. Aren’t the millions of people whose plans have just been torn up entitled to feel that you just left this too late and you’ve caused them more personal disruption and upset by doing so? And can I ask the medics, you’ve shared some of the analysis of this new variant, but you mentioned that Porton Down have been looking at this in the earlier press conference this week. Can you say if Porton Down have completed their assessments of it? And Professor Whitty, if someone is packing a bag right now, listening to or watching this, trying to leave the Southeast by midnight tonight, what should they do?

Boris Johnson: (19:57)
Well, Laura, let me, first of all, just say to everybody who’s made plans for Christmas, as I said earlier on everybody, who’s thought about it, all the care and love that’s gone into plans for Christmas. We, of course, bitterly regret the changes that are necessary, but alas, when the facts change, you have to change your approach. And the briefing that I had yesterday about this mutation of the virus, particularly about the speed of transmission was not possible to ignore. And as I say, when the virus changes its method of attack, we as a country have to change our method of defense. And that’s what we’re doing.

Chris Whitty: (20:41)
Shall I take the one that was addressed directly to me? And then Patrick may want to talk about Porton Down. I want to put some numbers out there, because I think that helps to explain why I’m going to give the answer that I’m going to give. But my short answer would be: please unpack it at this stage. And the reason for that is if you look at the Southeast, if you look at the East of England and look at London, there’s been a really dramatic increase in the proportion of the cases that we see that are… When we do on the screening tests, which are not absolutely exact, but pretty accurate, would imply that in the Southeast, 43% of the virus is now this new variant. In East of England, it’s 59%. And in London, 62%. The numbers may vary slightly, but those numbers are broadly right.

Chris Whitty: (21:28)
And those have gone up very, very fast over the last few weeks. So, this has really gone incredibly quickly. They are much lower in other areas of the country. And then when you look at the rates of increase in hospitalizations, there have been the numbers of people in hospital across the country. What you see is in the areas where this is very, very common, you’re seeing rates of increase of maybe 36% in East of England, 34% in London, and 28% in the Southeast. These are the areas which actually have a significant numbers of this new variant.

Chris Whitty: (22:03)
Significant numbers of this new variant. But if you go to, let’s say, the Northwest and the Northeast in Yorkshire, in these areas there has been no increase in hospitalizations. They’re managing to keep things down with tier three. And if you look at the rates of this new variant in those areas, you see they’re much lower. So for example, in Yorkshire and the Humber, around 5%. Now, again, exact numbers don’t matter. The point is that if you have a low amount of this variant, the rate of increase is held by the tiers. If you have a very high rate of this variant, then it is not held sufficiently by the tiers and it is going up rapidly.

Chris Whitty: (22:38)
And our big worry is essentially this is growing in two directions. It’s growing up in terms of the percentage where it is. So it’s getting a higher and higher proportion of the cases. And as Patrick said, the chance of someone gets infected of them having to go to hospital or dying at the end of it seem to be roughly the same as far as we can see so far as the previous variant. And if they were to go with this new variant unwittingly to an area that has a low prevalence and start this being seeded even more outside the high prevalence areas, that would be a significant risk to the area they went to.

Chris Whitty: (23:16)
So that is the reason we are really keen that people do not go from these areas, because otherwise we’ll not oly see it going up in the areas it’s already a problem, we’ll see it going out to other areas of the country, where it currently is not a problem. And because we understood this information in the backend of this week that we advised you really do have to act at this stage. Because otherwise, every area of the country will get this very quickly, and then none of them will be able to hold things with tier three and tier two elsewhere.

Boris Johnson: (23:47)
Thanks very much, Laura. Robert Patterson, ITV. Oh, sorry.

Patrick: (23:51)
Should I just answer the [inaudible 00:23:51] question.

Boris Johnson: (23:51)
Oh, sorry. Forgive me.

Patrick: (23:51)
Sorry. Just to answer the [inaudible 00:23:53] question, [inaudible 00:23:55] are looking at this all the time. When data become available, we’ll make sure we get it out as soon as we can. But we don’t have any more information than we’ve shared today.

Boris Johnson: (24:04)
Thanks very much, Laura. Let’s now go to Robert Patterson, ITV.

Robert Patterson: (24:09)
Your colleague on stage, John Edmunds, has just sent me a statement saying that as far as he’s concerned, this is the worst moment of the epidemic because of the extraordinary infectivity of this new strain. Do you agree with Professor Edmunds? We saw the virus rising in Kent during the lockdown and during tier three. Why didn’t you take evasive action then to close down Kent, even before you knew that there was a new strain? And what confidence do you have that the new tier four measures will suppress the virus, given that the lockdown did not suppress it in Kent?

Boris Johnson: (24:50)
Well, if I could just give a layman’s answer, Robert, because I think the whole point is that we were very puzzled during the November the fifth to December the third, or to measures by why the tier three system wasn’t delivering the results in Kent and a couple of other places, that it was delivering, for instance, in the Northwest. And clearly there was something going on. And it’s not really think, it’d be fair to say, until yesterday, as we’ve seen this data on transmissibility that we’ve already got the answer that explains it. And today’s action is a response to that change in the signs. That’s my layman’s answer.

Chris Whitty: (25:42)
Yeah. I mean, is it the worst moment? Well, I’m afraid there’ve been so many terrible moments in this epidemic. This is another one. But I have to say that in my own view, this is not the worst moment in the epidemic. And the reason for that is although this virus is more transmissible and we must do everything we can, which is what the prime minister has announced to keep it as constrained as possible, keep it down as much as possible so it does not spread, we do have medical countermeasures. We have a vaccine already being rolled out, as the prime minister said, and therefore there is a prospect relatively in the sort of medium term future where things could be quite a lot better.

Chris Whitty: (26:19)
And if you think back to the dark days at the end of March and April, not only were the numbers going up incredibly fast, the mortality was actually higher than now because medical treatment has got better, but we had no vaccines on the horizon. They were in the far horizon. So I think this is a situation which is going to make things a lot worse. There are some really optimistic things if you look. Once you get the vaccine out, assuming that the vaccine works against this, which I think at the moment, it’s our working assumption, and that is … we really must hold the line.

Chris Whitty: (26:49)
And my view, and Patrick would want to add to this, is what we must absolutely do is slow this down absolutely as much as possible. And if we can take it down from a doubling time of every seven days, which it is in many areas, which is really fast, if you think about that compounding up, and put it right out … even if we don’t manage to put it all the way down, and we hope we will, at least then we’re not going to have this skyrocketing number. We’re not going to have the numbers spreading out across the country. And that will give us a chance to get the vaccine out and protect the most vulnerable people so that if it does then escape, what we have is the barrier of the vaccine to help protect them. But so I think this is a bad moment. That’s the reason that decisions have been taken by the prime minister and ministers, but there is at least this prospect in the future.

Patrick: (27:39)
I agree with that. I mean, this is a horrible moment for sure. I think we should though thank that we’ve got the Genetic Sequencing Consortium. That’s actually got onto this very fast and found an explanation of what was going on. I think that’s really important that we got that and we’ll continue to utilize that resource in the UK. And we know what needs to happen to try and slow this down. It’s the basic things. I mean, although this is complicated in many ways, in other ways, it’s really simple. Reduce contacts, do the basics, face, hands, space, make sure that that is what we do to try and resist the ability of the virus to spread from one person to another.

Patrick: (28:19)
And it will slow it down. And that’s what we need to make sure we get on top of. As Chris said, I think this will slow it down, and we need to make sure we keep a lid on this. It’s not a good moment for sure, but it’s one that’s controllable. And as Chris said, there is an important light at the end of the tunnel with vaccination having started.

Boris Johnson: (28:37)
Thanks very much both. And thanks, Robert. Let’s go to Sam Coates of Sky News.

Sam Coates: (28:42)
Prime Minister, this decision will be upsetting for millions of people. So could you just speak directly to everyone suddenly now spending Christmas day alone? What hope can you give them? And similarly, what’s your message to people considering gambling and breaking the rules? And finally, how long realistically do you think everyone will have to stay in tier four? Is there any chance it’s in place until enough people have had a vaccine? And to the two scientists, is the new strain impervious to social distancing measures? Might the two meter rule and existing face coverings no longer be enough to protect people? Would you travel in a train carriage through Kent tonight?

Boris Johnson: (29:21)
Well, thanks very much, Sam. Obviously, these measures, as I say, will be reviewed like all the others every two weeks. And there’ll be a chance for parliament to consider them, obviously, along with all the other tiering questions at the end of the end of January. Obviously, people should not break the rules. Obviously, people should follow the guidance. I hope very much that elderly or lonely people who are able to form bubbles, who have household bubbles, will have that constellation. That’s clear from what we’ve said today.

Boris Johnson: (29:58)
But I suppose what I would say to everybody who’s now thinking of having a much reduced Christmas, of course, we basically regret that this is necessary this year. I know how much love and care and thought goes into preparations for Christmas. I suppose the message is that this is the year to lift a glass to those who aren’t there in the knowledge that it’s precisely because they aren’t there to celebrate Christmas with you this year that we will have a better chance that they’ll be there next year to celebrate Christmas with you. I suppose that would be my message, Sam, to the country.

Chris Whitty: (30:38)
In terms of the social distancing, yes, social distancing does work. It doesn’t work as a yes, no. The more things you do, the more determinedly you do them, the more people will do some of the basics for themselves, all the things Patrick talked about, the hands, face, space things, but break unnecessary household links, the more this and every other respiratory virus goes down. And just to give some other examples, for example, flu rates are down. Adenovirus rates are down because they also have exactly the same effect on other respiratory viruses.

Chris Whitty: (31:11)
We do not think that the current measures will not work against this, but we’re going to have to do a lot more in a sense that it’s like you were cycling up a steep hill and now you’ve got the wind against you as well. You just have to do that much more to actually keep going. And that’s really what we’re going to have to do. But the actual tools themselves unfortunately remain the same tools. And would I go through Kent? Not unless it was absolutely necessary, not because I don’t love Kent. Kent is fantastic, but because this is not the moment, with this virus circulating, to have unnecessary travel. So only if there was a very good reason.

Boris Johnson: (31:47)
Thanks very much, Sam. We’ll go to Chris Hope for the Daily Telegraph. Chris, you need to unmute, I think. We can see you.

Chris: (32:05)
Can you hear me, Prime Minister? Can you hear me?

Boris Johnson: (32:07)
Yes. Got you.

Chris: (32:08)
[crosstalk 00:32:08] that. How is the police, prime minister? Do you think police should be stopping people who are traveling outside of the tier four, and do you advise police knock on the door of households that break these rules on Christmas day? In all these admissions that the tiers have failed, are we back to essentially lockdown until March? And just for the scientists and medics, I wonder why Britain has got this one so bad, this variance so bad. Which of the countries have it and how did the new variant get here, please?

Boris Johnson: (32:36)
Well Chris, first of all, I think the police have done an amazing job of enforcement, light touch enforcement. They’ve handed out lots of FPNs, fifth penalty notices, for breaches of the rules, but they’ve also helped to keep people overwhelmingly in line with what they need to do. And that’s … I really think that the police men and women up and down the country for what they’re doing. I’m sure they’ll continue to do it in the same way throughout this period. But I’m sure above all …

Boris Johnson: (33:03)
… to do it in the same way throughout this period. But I’m sure above all, I think people will naturally want to do it themselves as they’ve done throughout this crisis. The bulk of the population take this incredibly seriously get it right and they’ll continue to do so.

Patrick: (33:19)
In terms of the question about why here and where else is it? Viruses mutate all the time, so lots and lots of mutations of the virus around the world. This one is a particular constellation of changes, which we think is important. I think they’ll arise for every time a virus replicates it can make a mistake, and so some of these things just arise by chance. The question is, what advantage it gives the virus? And this one seems to have given advantage of transmissibility. We think it may be in other countries as well. We think it probably is based mainly, we think there’s a large outbreak in the UK. It may have started here, we don’t know for sure. There will be other types of mutations around the world. It’s very important that this sequencing effort to try and find out what the sequence is doing, how much has changed, is looked at at the global level and we start to get a handle on where these changes are occurring in the virus across the world. It’s going to be an important part of surveillance going forward.

Boris Johnson: (34:23)
Bro, thank you. Nigel Nelson, Sunday Mirror.

Nigel Nelson: (34:26)
One for the Prime Minister. Given you were at least aware that there was a new variant of the virus out there as far back as November, do you now feel it was reckless to promise five days of Christmas against scientific advice? And if I may ask Chris Whitty a question? Earlier in the week you were talking about keeping meetings at Christmas time short without specifying what short was. Can you say now for tiers one, two and three, whether that should be seeing granny for a cup of tea for an hour, a two hour Christmas lunch or four hours going to sleep over the [inaudible 00:35:07]?

Boris Johnson: (35:08)
Well no, Nigel. First of all, thank you very much. But we’ve always taken account of scientific advice, always tried to follow it. And that is what we’re doing today because the science is clearly changing and has changed in the sense that our understanding of this new virus, its transmissibility has been radically shifted just in the last 24 hours, and certainly the understanding of the people before you here this afternoon. And we simply can’t ignore that, and that’s why we’re taking these extra steps today to protect the country.

Chris Whitty: (35:47)
And answer the question you put to me. I mean, what I said, and I’m very happy to repeat it, is to the extent that you possibly can keep it small, keep it short, keep it local, and remember the vulnerable are vulnerable. And that is still absolutely the message. So if you go out to your grandmother, you really want to minimize the amount of contact. You want to keep it at a distance. You do want to have the shortest period you can. Because what you really want is to get to the point when your grandmother has been vaccinated, ideally when you and when people around you been vaccinated, taking the risk right down. At that point we’re in a different place. But at this point in time, at this really, really critical and dangerous time, pre vaccine, but high transmission, I would repeat it, keep it small, keep it short, keep it local, and remember the vulnerable. And short should mean as short as you can manage with a reasonable social interaction.

Patrick: (36:48)
And I think one way to think about it is assume you could be infectious. I mean, it’s not somebody else’s issue, it’s your own issue. You might be infectious, and that’s the way that we have to behave at this moment. Assume you might be infectious.

Boris Johnson: (37:02)
Yes, it can’t be stressed too often that a lot of the transmission of the infection is by people who don’t have symptoms at the time. And I don’t think people who still now fully get that in the way that perhaps they need to. It’s absolutely vital, I think. I think one in three is infections transmitted asymptomatically still, and people really need to realize that. Can we go to Anna Mikhailova of the Mail on Sunday?

Anna Mikhailova: (37:34)
Prime Minister, you said earlier that when the facts change, you have to change your approach. But the facts three days ago where you knew about the new strain and you knew that infections were rising, and still you said it was too late to cancel Christmas. How do you expect people to follow the rules when they keep changing? And secondly, another question for you, Prime Minister, are you going to put any additional support in place for businesses and shops that have to close now?

Boris Johnson: (37:59)
Thanks, Anna [inaudible 00:05:00]. Just on the facts of the science, I think we’ve tried to spell out this afternoon what has changed, and what has changed is the velocity of transmission, our understanding of how fast this diseases is transmitted and the susceptibility of people to getting it. As I say, NERVTAG thinks it’s up to 70% more transmissible now than the old variant. We simply can’t ignore that. That’s data that’s been in our possession now for a day or so. We have to act to protect the public. And obviously, Anna, we will do everything that we can as usual to look after business, to look after jobs and livelihoods throughout the pandemic. And we’ll continue to do that with the loan scheme, with following which the chancellor has not extended right the way through to the end of April. We’ll continue to look after people businesses that are forced to close as a result of what’s alas is happening.

Boris Johnson: (39:07)
They will receive the protections that we have put in place, the loans, the grants that we’ve put in place, and we will continue with all that. But I want to stress that this is a race, and we still doing our absolute level best to protect the public whilst we know that the vaccine is arriving. And I’m very, very confident, more confident than ever that we’ll get that vaccine into a significant proportion of the population by the spring and that things will be radically different for our country by Easter. I’m absolutely convinced of that. And although this is unquestionably a difficult moment in the campaign against this virus and the struggle against this virus, those fundamental facts, that fundamental reason for optimism about the progress that we have made, that remains unchanged. Thank you all very much. Thank you.