Nov 27, 2020

Boris Johnson Downing Street COVID-19 Press Conference Transcript Nov. 26: COVID Tier System

Boris Johnson Coronavirus Update November 26
RevBlogTranscriptsPolitical TranscriptsBoris Johnson Downing Street COVID-19 Press Conference Transcript Nov. 26: COVID Tier System

Prime Minister Boris Johnson held a press conference on November 26, in which he talked about the new tougher tier system of COVID-19 restrictions. Read the full transcript here.

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Boris Johnson: (00:05)
Good afternoon, everybody. We now have reason to hope that by spring, community testing and vaccines will combine to end this era of restrictions. But to get that, we must first navigate a hard winter, when the burden on our NHS is heaviest and the cold weather favors the virus. The data already suggests that national measures in England have slowed, and in some places reversed the growth of new cases. And as more data comes in, we hope and expect to see those trends continue. Together, we have prevented our NHS from being overwhelmed, but those dangers have not gone away. If we ease off now, we risk losing control of this virus all over again, casting aside our hard won gains and forcing us back into a new year national lockdown, with all the damage that would meet.

Boris Johnson: (01:08)
The tough measures in our winter plan are the best way to avoid this outcome. All our friends around the world are grappling with the same question of how to keep people safe without retreating into a winter of hibernation. In Italy, there’s a nightly curfew. In Germany, hospitality will remain closed until the 20th of December, and in France, until the 20th of January. Across the whole of the UK, measures remain in place to control the virus. Under our winter plan, England will return to a tiered system of local restrictions. Our decisions on which area enters which tier is based on public health advice according to five indicators. Cases across all ages, especially the over 60s, the rate by which cases are rising or falling, the percentage of those tested in a local population who have COVID, and the pressure on the NHS. We’re publishing data packs, setting out the reasons behind the decisions in each area. To find out how this affects you, log on to gov.uk, where all the information is available.

Boris Johnson: (02:29)
I’m sorry to confirm that from Wednesday, most of England will be in the top two tiers with the toughest measures. And I know that this will bring a great deal of heartache and frustration, especially for our vital hospitality sector, our pubs, our restaurants, our hotels. In so many ways, the soul of our communities, and which continue to bear a disproportionate share of the burden. I really wish it were otherwise, but if we’re going to keep schools open, as we must, then our options in bearing down on the disease are necessarily limited. What we will do, is continue taking every possible step to protect jobs and livelihoods across the UK. These tougher tiers strike a balance. They’re sufficient to continue driving the virus downwards, but it’s important to recognize they’re less intrusive than the current national measures.

Boris Johnson: (03:33)
In all tiers, shops, gyms, the leisure sector, hairdressers, other forms of personal care, places of worship will reopen. You will no longer be instructed to stay at home, though you should continue to work from home if you can. The rule of six will once again apply in public outdoor spaces, and organize outdoor sport can begin again. But there’s no doubt that the restrictions in all tiers are tough. And I’m sorry about that. While the data is beginning to improve, the virus is still prevalent and the faster we drive it down, the faster we can lift restrictions. And that’s exactly what these new tiers are designed to achieve.

Boris Johnson: (04:24)
While the previous tiers slowed the spread of the virus, they were never quite enough to cut the reproduction rate of the disease, the R down below one and keep it there. So areas did not escape whatever level they were placed in. Our new approach is designed to reduce R below one, opening a path for areas to move down the scale as soon as the situation improves. And crucially, we now have the means to accelerate that moment of escape, with rapid community testing, allowing anyone carrying the disease, including those without symptoms, to isolate and thereby reducing the R. And the truth is that at least one in three people with COVID have no symptoms at all, and may be spreading it, spreading the disease without even knowing that they’ve got it. The only way to identify them and protect everyone, is through mass testing. And Liverpool shows what can be achieved. In Liverpool, in the space of two and a half weeks, over 240,000 tests have been conducted, and together with the effect of the national restrictions, this has helped to reduce the number of cases in Liverpool city region by more than two thirds.

Boris Johnson: (05:49)
So having previously been in tier three, Liverpool city region and Warrington will now be in tier two. This is a success story, which we want other parts of the country to replicate. So we’ll work with local government, with public health leaders and our fantastic armed forces, to offer community testing to tier three areas as quickly as possible, opening the way for them to follow Liverpool’s example.

Boris Johnson: (06:20)
Now, testing on this scale is untried, but in due course, if it works, where people test negative, it may also be possible for families and communities to be released from certain restrictions, even if their home area stays in tier three. The allocation of tiers will be reviewed every 14 days, starting on the 16th of December. So your tier is not your destiny. Every area has the means of escape. And I have no doubt that together, we can get through this winter, suppress the virus until vaccines come to our aid, and then we can reclaim our lives and all the things that we love. I’m now going to ask Patrick to go through some of the slides, and then we’ll go to Chris.

Patrick: (07:15)
Thank you very much Prime Minister. This is the first slide showing the estimated number of people testing positive in England over time. So this is from the office for national statistics survey, and it runs from August through to November. And what you can see is that the number of cases, and they’re shown in hundreds of thousands, started to increase in September, the end of August and September. And you’ll see a bigger increase as we went into October, a sharper rise in the number of cases. The first bar shows when the tiers were introduced. And as you can see, after the first set of tiers were introduced, initially the rate of increase of the number of cases continued, but then it started to come down a little bit. So the rate of increase came down. And the reason for this is that in tier one, we saw cases continue to increase, and tier one really didn’t have an effect to slow the rate of increase.

Patrick: (08:19)
Tier two started to hold the rate of increase. So we started to see that in some places you could hold it back, but it certainly wasn’t turning it down. And in tier three, and those were the areas with the most cases, the tier three restrictions really started to hold it back, and in some cases led to a decrease in the number of cases. So what you can see over that period that the tiers were in place, is that overall there was a clear slowing of the rate of increase, but it hadn’t turned the whole thing into going into a negative situation and shrinking.

Patrick: (08:53)
The second bar shows when the national restrictions were introduced on the 5th of November, and here you can see that as the national restrictions start to work, not only have we now got a flattening, the numbers aren’t going up, but they look as though they’re beginning to come down and we would expect that to continue. So the latest data suggest one in 85 people have the disease. It’s still a very high number of people that we’ve got. And that’s why we need not just to hold it flat, but to try and reduce it. But the overall effect of the national restrictions has been to stop this, and potentially now lead to a decrease. We would expect to continue to see that decrease over the next few weeks. On cases, it’s turned the corner by the look of the data we have now.

Patrick: (09:42)
Next slide, please. If we look at hospitalizations, and this graph shows the first peak back in March, the number of people in hospital, and you can see this is in thousands. So that was above 20,000 people in hospital at the peak there. And then you can see the second peak that we’re in now. And you can see that there’s about 15,000 or so people in hospital with COVID now. So there’s been an increase in the number of hospitalizations that have followed the increase in the number of infections. And again, the two bars show when the tiers were introduced on the 12th of October, and when the national restrictions came in on the 5th of November. And what you can see, after the national restrictions came in, that there’s a slowing of the rate of hospitalizations. And again, this looks as though this is now flattened off. Still at a high level. We need to see that start coming down, but you can see this is flattened. It’s no longer going up.

Patrick: (10:42)
Next slide please. And unfortunately, as we know, that sadly as we get infections and as we get hospitalizations, we will see some people dying from this disease. And again, this shows the first peak back in March, and then coming right down over the summer. And the increase again as we come into this second wave of the infection. And what you see again, is when the October tears were introduced, we still saw an increase in deaths. And after the national lockdown measures were introduced, that begins to slow a little bit, but I would expect to see that continue to carry on, unfortunately at a higher level for a while, because there’s a lag between infections, hospitalizations, and then unfortunately those people who succumb to this disease. So we would expect to see this start flattening off over the next few weeks. And then again, hopefully decreasing as the infections and hospitalizations come down.

Patrick: (11:42)
So the message is that the tiers worked in terms of slowing, but didn’t work in terms of flattening and reversing it. The national lockdown looks as though it’s flattened it and sending it downwards. And it’s important that we do bring it down, because numbers remain high. I’ll hand over to Chris.

Chris: (12:00)
Thank you. So Number 10 kindly produced an animation-

Chris: (12:03)
Thank you. Number 10 have kindly produced an animation which shows how over time, this has got further and further into the country and concentrated in particular areas. The darker the color, the more COVID there is. We’ll then pause right on the last moment. This is where we are at the moment. As you can see, things were beginning to lighten in some of the areas all around the country. But there remains some areas, quite a number of areas, with really very high rates indeed. Many of them coming down, not absolutely all of them. If we can go on to the next slide, the final slide, please.

Chris: (12:50)
What you then have is a process of looking at all the data. And these are the things which the Prime Minister was talking about in his speech. Looking at the rates of people in all ages. Then we take a second look at the rates in people over 60, because those are the group who are most likely to translate into people who are going to hospital, into the NHS, and who die. We also have to look at the rate at which things are changing. So for example, in many areas of the North of England now, the rates are very high, but are beginning to fall or are falling consistently. But there are some areas for example, in parts of Kent where the rates are still going up. We look at the positivity rate, what proportion of people tested a positive, because that is important in case we’re not testing enough.

Chris: (13:45)
And then importantly, we also look at what the pressure is on the NHS in each of the different areas. So how much problems are there in the hospitals? What proportion of the beds are taken up? Are people having to cancel routine operations or even considering having to cancel more urgent care? These are the things that we’re taking into account technically and getting advice from local public health experts from around the country. And then that is what goes into making the decisions on the tiers which ministers make the final decisions on.

Chris: (14:20)
And just to reiterate the point that Patrick made at the beginning, tier one, which is very similar to the previous tier one, slowed things down but did not stop the rise anywhere. The reason why tier one at this time of year with the current measures we’ve currently got before we have any vaccines, is relatively limited. It is almost certainly anywhere that goes into tier one will rise. And the only places that are there are places with very low rates at the moment.

Chris: (14:51)
Tier two looks as if it is strong enough to hold the line. So stop things rising, but not reliably to pull things down. And tier three, we think based on previous experience, is strong enough to pull things down from a higher peak. The two situations in particular, the three situations we would use this is if there’s a lot of the virus around and it needs to come down, if the NHS locally is under a lot of pressure or if the rates are beginning to rise despite everything that’s there. These are the things that feed into the decisions that ministers finally take. Thank you very much.

Boris Johnson: (15:27)
Brilliant. Thank you very much, Patrick. Thank you, Chris. Let’s go to questions from the public. First of all, we go to Gethin from Warwick.

Gethin: (15:35)
Would the governments consider allowing schools to shift to remote forms of learning in the final week of this half-term to prevent staff and families of school age children from running that risk of a bubble closure which would consequently lead to those individuals needing to self-isolate over the Christmas period, and therefore not see their friends and family?

Boris Johnson: (16:00)
Well, Gethin, thanks very much. We want to keep pupils, young people, in school as much as we possibly can. Obviously, where it’s possible to learn remotely, that can be a good thing. And we’ve increased the supply of laptops, I think about 200,000 laptops that we’ve supplied to schools. But on the whole, we want to see pupils, kids, in school to get the benefit of learning. This is vital for social justice. We also want to see exams going ahead because it is also very, very important that young people should get the credentials and the qualifications they need. That’s why we’re taking these tough decisions.

Boris Johnson: (16:50)
Alas, it does mean bearing down on the virus across lots of other bits of society, but schools really are a priority. Anyone want to add on schools? Thank you very much, Gethin. Richard, from Lancaster. Richard from Lancaster asked, “Will the new vaccines work when the COVID virus mutates or will new vaccines need to be developed regularly akin to the flu vaccine?” I think that’s probably one for you, Patrick and Chris.

Chris: (17:21)
Yes. The vaccines are really showing very good efficacy, and it tells us that we are going to end up with lots of vaccine options I think across the world, which is incredibly important and a very exciting development. Viruses do mutate as they replicate. This virus doesn’t mutate as often as for example, flu virus does, but it does mutate. None of those mutations so far have done anything which changes the behavior of the virus in any significant way as far as we can tell. And none of the mutations that have occurred so far will be ones that you would expect to make the vaccine less effective. But it is possible that as the vaccines work and they put pressure on the virus, that the virus mutates and other forms arise which would require new vaccines in due course.

Chris: (18:12)
I don’t think it’s the case that the vaccines that we’ve got now will be the vaccines that we use forever. We may have to get new ones that adapt to the changing virus. But what’s very clear is that with these different technologies and the different approaches, it is possible to make vaccines. And after all, a new flu vaccine is made every year because of mutations, so it’s possible to make those changes. But at the moment, there’s nothing to suggest that there’s any mutation which would make the vaccines ineffective.

Chris Whitty: (18:41)
I have just one point to that, which is, one reason you may have to have multiple vaccinations is because of mutation as with flu. But another one is that there are many diseases where you have to top up the vaccine on a regular basis. There are some vaccines you can give once, probably for practical purposes for life. Things like MMR, you just take a course of MMR and that will protect most people for life. But there are some, many vaccines for example travelers take, you would have to take every two or three years, because immunity begins to wane and you need to top it up again. So there are two possible reasons we may have to have a situation where people are not vaccinated just on one course of vaccination, but we may have to repeat it subsequently.

Boris Johnson: (19:28)
Thank you both very much, and thank you, Richard. Let’s go to Laura Kuenssberg of the BBC.

Laura Kuenssberg: (19:34)
Thank you, Prime Minister. Some people watching tonight might wonder what’s going on. You’ve said this week that people will be able to travel all over the country at Christmas, which of course will bring risks. But now you’re clamping down again. What was the point of the national lockdown in England over the last four weeks if more people are moving into tougher restrictions than before? If I could ask the medics, would it be preferable and safer in your view if more people were in tier three? And are you concerned about some doubts being raised about the Oxford vaccine?

Boris Johnson: (20:06)
Well Laura, it’s very, very important for everybody to understand that what’s happening next week from midnight on Tuesday, Wednesday, this is not continuing the lockdown. On the contrary. Across all tiers, shops will be open, hairdressers. Personal services will be open. Gyms will be functioning. Places of worship will be open for communal worship as well. This is a very different thing. But what we’ve got to do is keep our eye on the prize and remember that in just a few months, we will have a vaccine. I’m absolutely convinced of it now. And I’m convinced that, Chris has finally talked me into it, that by April things genuinely will be much, much better. But what we want to avoid is relaxing now too much, taking our foot off the throat of the beast now when we’ve got it pretty much in a much, much better place than it was before the autumn measures came in.

Boris Johnson: (21:13)
There is a substantial relaxation across all tiers, but we’re not abandoning the fight yet, of course not. Because we still, as I say, have long months ahead. I think the strategy is balanced and it is right. The key thing is that for those communities that are in tier three and who feel that they’ve endured so much for so long, and who see weeks and months ahead of further hardship, I’m thinking particularly of the hospitality sector… we now have this option, Laura, of mass testing.

Boris Johnson: (21:54)
I’ve been going on about this for weeks and weeks, but it is there. We saw in Liverpool how it definitely helped. Listen to what Joe Anderson is saying today. It definitely… I thank the people in Liverpool for what they have done. It helped to bring the R down, to bring the rate of infection down. That is something that I think people can take great heart and confidence from, and that’s something that we will make available throughout the worst affected areas for communities to take up. Again, like the vaccine, that’s something that’s very different from the world that we were in just a few weeks ago.

Chris Whitty: (22:35)
In terms of the tiering, I think something we’ve all said repeatedly is there are damaging things that happen every way we go. If we do too much, then we end up damaging socially, economically, and in a variety of different ways which are really obvious to people. And if we do too little, then the virus gets out of control, R goes above one, and it starts to increase again. What we’re trying to do the whole time is do the least damaging thing we can possibly do. And therefore, the way we’ve done this on this occasion and there will have to be some adjustment, we hope downwards primarily, but there will have to be over time, is to try and only put places into tier three where the rates are either high or rising.

Chris Whitty: (23:19)
If they are broadly stable or falling from a relatively low base but we think they would rise again, they go into tier two. We are keen to avoid doing anything we do not have to do, but at the same time to do enough to ensure that we keep R below one. And that’s the reason why things are in the tiers they are at the moment. Because safety is not just about COVID. Safety is about the whole package of everything that is to do about health and wider society.

Chris Whitty: (23:46)
And a brief comment on the Oxford vaccine. I think Patrick will want to comment more. I think my simple answer to this is, there’s always scientific debate about virtually everything. The key thing from our point of view is to leave this in the hands of the regulator, the excellent NHR-

Chris Whitty: (24:03)
Leave this in the hands of the regulator, the excellent MHRA regulator. They will make an assessment, with lots of data that is not currently in public domain, on efficacy and on safety. And we will see the papers published in peer reviewed journals, which will allow us to make a wider decision about what needs to happen. And we need to allow that process to go forward. I think it’s always a mistake to make too many judgments early before we have the full information, and in particular, before the independent regulator has had their chance to look at the data and make an assessment.

Patrick Vallance: (24:33)
I agree. I mean, we’ve seen the headline results of 70% efficacy of the vaccine. The regulator’s got to look at the whole thing. They’ll see the total results set, efficacy, safety, the lot. And we’ve got a great regulator in the UK, and they’ll look at it and they’ll make their decisions around it. So I think headline results, this vaccine works and that’s very exciting, and it’s going to be put forward for approval. The regulators will need to look at it and decide, and that will be true for all of the vaccines.

Boris Johnson: (25:03)
Thank you so much. Let’s go to Robert Peston, ITV.

Robert Peston: (25:09)
Prime Minister, at one of these press conferences a few months ago, you said there would be no return to austerity, but because of COVID, we’re borrowing at a completely unsustainable rate, amounts we haven’t seen since the Second World War. You are going to have to cut spending and raise taxes, aren’t you? And on the local, the new regional restrictions, only the Isles of Scilly and Wight and Cornwall are in the lowest areas of restriction. Everywhere else is broadly subject to semi-lockdown. You wanted to whack-a-mole. Why didn’t it work? And if Patrick Vallance and Chris Whitty have views on why whack-a-mole didn’t work, that would be helpful.

Boris Johnson: (25:57)
Yeah. Well, first of all, on your point about the UK economy and tax and spending and so forth, you’ll have heard from the chancellor. Yesterday, I think he set out not just a package to help this country bounce back from COVID and to help us through COVID, but it gives us the building blocks for long-term growth in the economy, in productivity, taking some of the really difficult decisions to build long-term prosperity for the UK. And I’m very, very confident about the path that we’re on, but it will need fiscal prudence, and that, of course, you will get from this government. On your question about the whole local versus national lockdown strategy, actually, I think if you listen to what Patrick said earlier on, the tiered approach was delivering, it was slowing the virus down, and that’s why a tiered regional approach is the right way to go now.

Boris Johnson: (27:05)
I think if you look at the disparity in incidents in some places, between some parts of the UK and others, you want to go for a tiered approach. And again, I repeat the message I’ve given. Those parts of the country that unquestionably will feel that they’ve unfairly been put in a high tier, there is hope, there is this option that Liverpool has taken up, of mass community testing, everybody working together to kick COVID out. Work together to kick COVID out, get a test in your local community, and drive the R down, drive the incidents down. For me, that’s a real change in the way we’ve been able to deal with the disease that we’ve achieved just in the last few weeks or so.

Chris Whitty: (27:55)
I think one important thing I’d just add to the what the Prime Minister said is I think you’ve got to remember the seasonality of this. There was a period over the summer where not just the UK but across Europe, rates were very low, after a huge effort by all of society to bring them down. And there was a period where it was actually possible to hold things at quite a low level, but then across Europe, across the whole continent really, you’re now seeing the rates going up as we come into the autumn and winter period. And this is very similar to many other respiratory viruses. We’re about to hit the flu season, we haven’t yet quite done so, and we hope that that won’t be even worse than where we are at the moment.

Chris Whitty: (28:32)
So there’s a bunch of things you have to do in this season, which are greater than you’d have to do to achieve exactly the same effect earlier on in the year. And of course, that will reverse once we come into the spring season, the other side. So I think it is important to understand that there is a seasonal element. The second, and that also applies to the pressures on the NHS, our headroom in the NHS just naturally goes down as we go into the winter months, so we have less room for maneuver on that side of the equation. It’s not the only consideration, but it’s one of them.

Chris Whitty: (29:03)
In terms of the tiering, again, there are tiers that would work in the spring, summer, very early autumn months, which I would not expect to work at this stage. And as vaccines get rolled out, assuming they get approved by the regulator, I really want to put that caveat in as a very, very important one, we would expect there to be a situation where little by little, bits of the country can start to sort of walk out of this down the tiers as we head towards a period where we hope that the restrictions will be very substantially less than they are obviously at the moment.

Chris Whitty: (29:38)
And so the tiers will have a very useful activity, and what I would hope is that in some months to come, possibly even some weeks to come, we’d be in a situation where more places could go into tier one, but we should not do that until we’re confident, because the experience with tier one previously was, and it isn’t really changed, if you’re in tier one, the rates start to go up. So you do not want to do that in winter, just before Christmas, going into the worst time of the NHS, unless you’re very confident indeed. So that’s the reason that this particular approach has been taken.

Patrick Vallance: (30:10)
And I think making sure that the tier is strong enough to keep it under control in winter, and it’s strong enough for what the local situation is to handle it, because going too low and watching cases rise just means everybody ends up getting more and you end up having to do much more drastic measures. You’ve got to go in hard enough for the current situation in order to get things down with an R below one. And that’s more difficult, as Chris says, in the winter than it is in the summer.

Chris Whitty: (30:37)
Yeah, madness is doing the same thing twice and expecting different results.

Boris Johnson: (30:40)
Correct. Let’s go to Beth Rigby of Sky News. Thanks, Robert.

Beth Rigby: (30:45)
Thank you, Prime Minister. Liverpool is one of the success stories today, but it did take mass testing and 2,000 troops helping out. So how are you going to deliver mass testing to 40% of the population? Are you going to have to deploy the entire British Army? And to the scientists, Professor Whitty and Sir Patrick, Professor Whitty, you said earlier this week that loosening at Christmas comes with a risk. 43% of the population were in tier one before the lockdown. Now just 1% of the population in tier one. Are you trying to anticipate in the decisions you’ve taken the inevitable rise in cases over that five-day Christmas period by being tougher with people before and probably after too?

Boris Johnson: (31:39)
Yeah, Beth. Really good question about mass testing and how it works. I don’t want to oversell how easy it is to do this. It depends on strong local leadership of the kind we’ve seen in Liverpool and real spirit in the community who want to do it. And it’s also got to be stressed that it’s only part of the panoply of interventions that you need to defeat the disease. You’ve also got to make sure that you’re following the guidance and doing all the right things, as the people of Liverpool were, and indeed people are doing across the country. So it can definitely help.

Boris Johnson: (32:17)
And to get to your point about how can we do this in the 40% of the country that’s, alas, currently in tier three, how can we help them into lower tiers? Well, yes, we’ll give the help and support of the armed services, the army where necessary, but it will take also local leadership and local communities coming together to get those lateral flow tests out. And we’re working, as you can imagine, right now with parts of the country already. Various towns already are coming forward saying they want to do what Liverpool has already done. But it depends very much on communities coming together locally to say they want to do it, because it’s not something that we want to be imposing. You can’t just compel people to take a test. People need to understand that this is the way forward, both for themselves and for their communities, and everybody needs really to feel that and do it together, as they did in Liverpool.

Boris Johnson: (33:18)
But where there is local will, as there is in Doncaster and Barnsley and places like that, there we’re certainly working hard to get it done. And you’re right about the 2,000 troops, but we will make sure that we have adequate numbers of personnel to get it done. The key thing will be making sure over the months to come that we have enough lateral flow tests, and I can tell you that at the moment, we’ve got huge, huge stocks of them right now that we’ve bought in. And we hope eventually to make them in this country ourselves.

Chris Whitty: (33:56)
In terms of Christmas, I mean, Christmas will increase the risk. Everyone knows that. That’s not a secret at all. But that is not the only risk over this next period at all. We’re going into the beginning of the flu season very shortly, potentially. We’ve got the most difficult period for the NHS is always January and February, and March isn’t particularly easy usually, for a whole bunch of reasons that everybody again knows, ranging from more pneumonias through to more slips and falls. This is a net time of extreme pressure, so it certainly is not a time of the year, leaving aside Christmas, where you’d want to be taking reckless decisions, because things are going to be fairly difficult, as we’ve all made clear and the Prime Minister has previously made clear for several months now.

Chris Whitty: (34:42)
And therefore we got to do on that basis. So certainly we are anticipating Christmas is an element of that, but it is only an element. And I think something which really we must emphasize is the way to make sure that Christmas can both be enjoyed but does not lead to a very large kick up in the virus is to make sure people are very serious going into it, follow the guidance. Buy into it, take it really seriously during Christmas. Don’t do stupid things, don’t do unnecessary things just because the rules say you can. Think sensibly, and coming out of it, also be sensible. And people have been incredibly sensible, incredibly self-disciplined all the way through this. And all we’d really want to say is, please continue that over this period. That doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy yourself, it just means you’ve got to take these sensible precautions that I think most people really do understand.

Boris Johnson: (35:31)
Thank you very much. Dominic Yeatman, Metro.

Dominic Yeatman: (35:37)
Hi. Prime Minister, is it fair that areas in tier three hit by pub and restaurant closures will get support for those businesses, but none for the companies that depend on them? And one for the scientists, if I may. We’ve been told we have huge, huge stocks of mass testing machines, and we’ve been promised a vaccine rollout within days of these tiers coming into force. Will people stick-

Dominic: (36:03)
These tiers coming into force. Will people stick to these rules do you expect, when the prime minister tells us we have our foot on the throat of the beast, and the cavalry is now in sight?

Boris Johnson: (36:13)
Well, Dominic, thank you. On your question about businesses associated, I think you mean in the supply chains of the hospitality industry. You’re quite right to draw attention to them, and they deserve protection as well. That’s why we’ve instituted all the measures we have in terms of the grants. The 3000 pound grants for businesses that have forced to close as a result of what is happening, the Furlough scheme, which goes right the way through to March, the cuts in VAT, and then in business rates, and another 1.1 billion pounds for councils to support businesses in their areas, that are in trouble. The best thing for all these companies, I don’t… The best thing for everybody is for us to be able to get them on their feet again, get them virtually supplying the hospitality trade again, all the things that they depend on, and that depends on us being able to get the virus down in the way that I have described, and that we hope can happen.

Boris Johnson: (37:19)
The vaccine as Chris and Patrick have said, offers a real, real hope, and then there is this prospect now of community testing as well, combined with really tough adherence to the measures we’re announcing today. Don’t forget, as I said at the beginning to Laura, whatever people say about these measures, they are very different from the current lockdown. There are many more things that people… Many more ways in which economic activity can, and will continue.

Sir Patrick Vallance: (37:51)
Can I say a word about the cavalry? The vaccines are looking really good from what we’ve seen, but they have yet to go through a regulatory process. They’re yet to get through to a stage where we’ve got doses of them to administer. It’s not going to be an overnight thing to get that implemented. They’re going to take a month, or so between doses. You’ve got to have two doses of most of these in order to then get the immunity, so then we’re not talking about suddenly getting this switched off anytime soon. This is going to take months into Spring before we start to get significant degrees of vaccination to create protection. On the mass testing side, testing is important, but of course it only matters if people isolate as well. It’s about taking infected, and infectious people out of circulation.

Sir Patrick Vallance: (38:45)
That isn’t easy. It’s really important, and there’s examples in Liverpool where this has been done. It’s something that is going to be part of what happens, but it’s not going to solve the problem on its own. In answer to your question, I think if any of us think that a result of those two things we can relax now, that would be the wrong thing to do, and you’ve seen the graphs.

Sir Patrick Vallance: (39:05)
This was rising very steeply in October, it got curtailed by the tiers, particularly tier three, and it’s been curtailed further by national lockdown. If you take the brakes off now, this will get up and run away, and we’ll be back in a situation of growth, so it’s very important that we don’t think that this is something that we can now relax about. We will be able to, when vaccination comes in, and eventually gets a hold, and gets the immunity in place, but that isn’t now.

Chris Whitty: (39:35)
The only thing I’d add to that is just directly… In addition to that on your question… One of the really heartening things about this whole dreadful period of COVID is the extraordinary altruism of the British public who have been incredibly good at being self-disciplined, and sticking to rules. Unseen, not forced. Just sticking to them, keeping to common sense, and they’ve done so incredibly patiently over a long period of time.

Chris Whitty: (40:01)
We do not see any evidence that is not still true. Of course you can always find… If you go far enough, you’ll be able to take some photographs of some people who don’t, but this is… Actually, it’s a very small minority. Most people are very, very good at this, and they’re doing it to protect other people. Other people are going into the NHS, other people their neighbors, and they’ve done it all the way through, and I see no evidence they’re going to change that, but you do need to understand the points that Patrick’s making. Well, the prime minister has not been saying this is just solved. He’s been saying, wait. This is something which has got time. We can see an end to it, but the end is not now, and we’ve really got to keep that discipline, and that sense of altruism through to the point when we’re actually… When we’re better protected by medical science.

Sir Patrick Vallance: (40:41)
Which has been remarkable, and continues to be.

Boris Johnson: (40:45)
That is completely right. Well, thank you very much. Can we go to Ben Glaze with the mirror, please?

Ben Glaze: (40:50)
Thank you Prime minister. Same questions for all three of you, please. Do you really think it’s a good idea that over Christmas, we can travel hundreds of miles across the country, potentially from a tier three area, to a tier one area, and hug and kiss elderly relatives who we haven’t seen for nine months in many cases? Which one of you will specifically be doing that? Then other the question specifically to Professor Witty. In answering an earlier question, you said, “In relation to Christmas, don’t do unnecessary things just because you can.” What sort of things did you have in mind?

Boris Johnson: (41:25)
Well, Ben, if I can just answer the general question first. Look, I think it’s an incredibly difficult decision. You’ve got to strike a balance between people’s strong desire to celebrate a family holiday. Perhaps one of the most important family holidays, or the most important family holiday of the year. Which they’re frankly going to do anyway, and the need to keep the virus under control. What we’re trying to set out with the Christmas measures that we’ve agreed across the whole of the UK, because we want everybody across the UK to be able to travel to see relatives, is I think a sensible balance, but it depends, I think as Chris and Patrick have really tried to stress in this session, on all of us being commonsensical, and doing the right thing. In the end, as both Chris and Patrick have just said, until the vaccine comes on stream we are not out of the woods yet, and we have to be very, very vigilant. Everybody’s individual behavior at Christmas will matter a great deal.

Chris Whitty: (42:37)
In terms of my… What I was saying about Christmas, I think you gave a good example actually. Would I want someone to see their family? Of course. That’s what Christmas is about. Whether people celebrate Christmas as a festival for themselves, or from any other belief system, it’s an opportunity for families, but would I encourage someone to hug and kiss their elderly relatives? No, I would not. It’s not against the law, and that’s the whole point. You can do it within the rules that are there, but it does not make sense because you could be carrying the virus, and if you’ve got an elderly relative, that would not be the thing you’d want to do in the period where we’re running up to a point where actually we might be able to protect older people, so I think people just have to have sense, and I think this is… But this is very much what I think people will do. The fact that you can do something… This is true across so many other areas of life, doesn’t mean you should. In answer to your direct question about what I’ll be doing, actually I’ll be on the woods.

Sir Patrick Vallance: (43:33)
I think keep numbers down, don’t do things that are unnecessary as Chris said, try to make sure that you avoid behaviors that would spread the disease, make sure that if you’re in a house with other households, that you’ve got it well ventilated, and you take the precautions, keep distance where you can. It’s the same basic rules that we need to apply. I think it’s difficult, but it’s not going to be a normal Christmas. If you want to make those connections with family, it has to be done in a way where you try and make sure that you don’t increase the risk, and as Chris said, I think hugging elderly relatives is not something to go out and do. This… It will increase the spread to a vulnerable population.

Chris Whitty: (44:13)
Yeah. You want to survive to be hugged again.

Sir Patrick Vallance: (44:16)
Yeah.

Boris Johnson: (44:17)
Thanks very much Ben. Let’s go to Liam Thorp with the Liverpool echo.

Liam Thorp: (44:24)
Good evening. Prime minister, it’s two questions that we felt really. You’ve spoken a lot today about the success story that is Liverpool, and the mass testing pilot, but there has been some concerns raised in some parts of the city. We’ve seen… In the poorest parts of Liverpool, there’s actually been quite a low take-up of the mass testing. Part of this is because 80% of people in some of these areas haven’t been able to qualify for the emergency cash that they need to be able to choose between putting food on the table for their kids, and doing the right thing and self isolating.

Liam Thorp: (44:52)
Will you learn from that? Will you increase the funding available for people when they do self isolate? Because this doesn’t work if people aren’t able to isolate. Secondly, again, you’ve spoken about the spirit of the people of Liverpool, the passion of the people of Liverpool, and that’s really what’s made this a success. Liverpool doesn’t necessarily have the best relationship with The Conservative Party, and few areas have been hit hard about the austerity of the past 10 years. Will you remember the effort put in by the people of Liverpool… By Scousers, when it comes to the difficult decisions on funding… On local councils, and government in the future?

Boris Johnson: (45:24)
Yeah. Well, definitely Liam, I think that what’s happened in Liverpool has been fantastic, and I thank the people are Liverpool, and your point about needing to reach everybody in the community is absolutely right. We’re studying the way the Liverpool experiment went, and looking at what we can do to try to make sure we reach all groups with these community testing efforts, but I think it’d be probably fair to say that it wasn’t just the testing that was a success in Liverpool. It was the way everybody seemed to pull together to do the right thing, and to get the virus down.

Boris Johnson: (46:03)
That’s our clear impression, and I think that’s fantastic, and yes, of course, we’ll be making sure that we continue to support Liverpool and cities throughout the UK, and to level up across the whole of the country, and that’s why we’ll… We’ve… We’re not just putting a 4.6 billion into supporting local government across the UK, but yesterday the chancellor, and I set other 4 billion pound leveling up funds. Liverpool, everywhere else that’s had a tough time, we’re going to keep supporting you throughout the COVID and beyond. I don’t think you had a question for Chris or Patrick. Okay, everybody. Thank you all very much. Thank you. See you next time.

Speaker 1: (46:45)
Prime minister freshly out of self isolation of course, bringing to an end that latest down-

Speaker 2: (47:00)
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