Jun 14, 2021
Boris Johnson Extends UK COVID-19 Lockdown to July 19 Briefing Transcript
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced that the COVID-19 lockdown will be extended to July 19 during a press briefing on June 14, 2021. Read the transcript of the briefing speech here.
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Boris Johnson: (00:00)
Thank you for joining us. When we set out on our roadmap to freedom a few months ago, we were determined to make progress that was cautious, but irreversible. And step-by-step thanks to the enormous efforts of the British people and the spectacular vaccine rollout, we now have one of the most open economies and societies in Europe. And as we’ve always known and as the February roadmap explicitly predicted, this opening up over the last three steps has inevitably been accompanied by more infection and more hospitalization.
Boris Johnson: (00:38)
Because we must be clear that we can’t simply eliminate COVID, we must learn to live with it. And with every day that goes by, we’re better protected by the vaccines and we’re better able to live with the disease. Vaccination greatly reduces transmission and two doses provide a very high degree of protection against serious illness and death. But there are still millions of younger adults who have not been vaccinated and sadly, a proportion of the elderly and vulnerable may still succumb even if they have had two jabs.
Boris Johnson: (01:20)
And that’s why we’re so concerned by the Delta variant that is now spreading faster than the third wave that was predicted in the February roadmap. We’re seeing cases growing by about 64% per week and in the worst affected areas, it’s doubling every week and the average number of people being admitted to hospital in England has increased by 50% week on week and by 61% in the Northwest, which may be the shape of things to come because we know the remorseless logic of exponential growth. And even if the link between infection and hospitalization has been weakened, it hasn’t been severed. And even if the link between hospitalization and death has also been weakened, I’m afraid numbers in intensive care, in ICU are also rising. And so we’ve obviously faced a very difficult choice. We can simply keep going with all of step four on June the 21st even though there is a real possibility that the virus will outrun the vaccines and that thousands more deaths would ensue that could otherwise have been avoided or else we can give the NHS a few more crucial weeks to get those remaining jabs into the arms of those who need them.
Boris Johnson: (02:52)
And since today, I cannot say that we have met all our four tests for proceeding with step four on June the 21st, I think it is sensible to wait just a little longer. By Monday, the 19th of July, we will aim to have double jabbed around two thirds of the adult population, including everyone over 50, all the vulnerable, all frontline health and care workers and everyone over 40 who received their first dose by mid May.
Boris Johnson: (03:27)
And to do this, we will now accelerate the second jabs for those over 40 just as we did for the vulnerable groups so they get the maximum protection as fast as possible. And we will bring forward our target to give every adult in this country a first dose by the 19th of July, that is including young people over the age of 18 with 23 and 24 year olds invited to book jabs from tomorrow so we reduce the risk of transmission among the groups that mix the most.
Boris Johnson: (04:04)
And to give the NHS that extra time, we will hold off step four openings until July the 29th, except for weddings that can still go ahead with more than 30 guests provided social distancing remains in place and the same will apply to weds. And we will continue to pilot events such as Euro 2020 and some theatrical performances. We will monitor the position every day and if after two weeks we have concluded that the risk has diminished, then we reserve the possibility of proceeding to step four and a full opening sooner.
Boris Johnson: (04:51)
As things stand and on the evidence that I can see right now, I’m confident that we will not need more than four weeks so we won’t need to go beyond July the 19th. It’s unmistakably clear the vaccines are working and the sheer scale of the vaccine rollout has made our position incomparably better than in previous waves. But now is the time to ease off the accelerator because by being cautious now, we have the chance in the next four weeks to save many thousands of lives by vaccinating millions more people.
Boris Johnson: (05:34)
And once the adults of this company have been overwhelmingly vaccinated, which is what we can achieve in a short space of time, we will be in a far stronger position to keep hospitalizations down, to live with this disease and to complete our cautious but irreversible roadmap to freedom. Thank you very much. I’m now going to hand over to Chris to do the slides.
Thank you prime minister. First slide please. So the slides are arranged around the four tests which minister set at the beginning of the roadmap. The first test is that the vaccine deployment program continues successfully. And I think everybody in the country knows that both first vaccinations and increasingly rapidly second vaccinations are progressing very effectively thanks to the work of the NHS volunteers and many others.
So this test has been met and we expect the rates to continue to be good as the prime minister has laid out. Next slide, please. The second test was that evidence shows the vaccines are sufficiently effective in reducing hospitalizations and deaths in those vaccinated. And we already have shown data that show that for previous variants this was true. We now have data and some more has been released by Public Health England today, which shows data around the new Delta variant.
Now, what has been talked about in the press, for people who’ve got symptomatic disease, or who could get symptomatic disease, one dose of the vaccine does provide some protection, but you do need two doses of the vaccine to provide a strong degree of protection. But once you have two doses, there is somewhere between a 76 and 84% reduction in symptomatic disease. Next slide, please. The news is even better for the protection that these vaccines provide for people against severe disease. And in terms of hospitalizations, the data so far, real life data from here in the UK show that there is a very good reduction in hospitalizations from the new Delta variant after both one and two doses of the vaccines.
So after one dose, between a 57 and 85% reduction, and after two doses, somewhere between 85 and 98% reduction in hospitalizations. So not complete protection, but very substantial protection after these. Again, it reinforces the absolute need to get the second dose of the vaccine. So in terms of is this dose this effective, the data there are very encouraging indeed. Next slide, please.
And if you see the effect of this on people being hospitalized, whereas in the previous waves we had here in the UK, the great majority of those hospitalized were older, over 65 citizens, although there were significant numbers of people under 65, I think sometimes not appreciated and that’s on the left, what we now have is that the majority of those going into hospital are now from younger groups under 65, partly because this is the group in which this is spreading, and it always starts off spreading in the youngest groups, but largely we think because the vaccines are providing a lot of protection now for older citizens.
But it is not complete. And as you can see, even in those over 65 in which double vaccination’s already in place, there are still some hospitalizations, but the ratios have completely reversed. Next slide, please. The third test is that infection rates do not risk a surge in hospitalizations which would put unsustainable pressure on the NHS. And the rates of hospitalizations at the moment are low in all parts of the country. But, and this is the important but on this test, what we are seeing is a rapid rise, particularly marked where it was first restarted in the Northwest of the country, but the rest of the country is following.
So there has been a 64% increase since last week in terms of the Northwest, and you can see that on the dark blue color here, and a 64% increase in England, and that rate will follow we think where the Northwest has led. Now, these numbers are still relatively small and if we’re doubling from 50 to a hundred, a hundred to 200, the numbers are still relatively modest compared to the capacity of the NHS, but several doubling times, relatively small number of doubling times and you start getting to really quite large numbers.
If you’re doubling up from a thousand to 2000 or 2000 to 4,000 over less than two weeks, clearly things can take off very rapidly. Next slide, please. And although the dark colors here on this map are where the rates of increase are greatest, but anywhere that is shaded in yellow or orange colors or dark brown, rates are increasing, where there in green rates are decreasing. And you can see in this map that the increase in the new variant is occurring across the whole…
In the new variant is occurring across the whole country. Next slide please. The key question is, what does this do to hospitalizations? And that as it’s been said repeatedly and rightly, the link between people getting an infection and being hospitalized has been substantially weakened a much smaller proportion of those infected are going into hospital, but it has not been completely stopped. And what you can see here is that in terms of hospitalizations, again, there has been a 61% increase in hospitalizations since last week in the northwest. And a 50% increase across the country as a whole, but we expect that will probably accelerate. So, the hospitalizations are following, but with a delay, the number of cases. So although we do not think an immediate overwhelming of NHS is likely if this continues on an exponential path and in particular, if that then accelerated further due to further loosenings, then we would run into trouble in a relatively small number of doubling times.
Next slide please. So the final test, and really this has been led up to by the things that have happened previously, is has our assessment of the risks been fundamentally changed by new variants of concern? And what this slide shows is in the orange is the numbers of cases of the B.1.1.7 alpha variant that had been the one that dominated in the UK until very recently. And that has continued on a downward path. And although it’s probably stabilized a bit in the last couple of weeks, nevertheless, if this was the variant we were primarily dealing with, I think it is very likely that ministers would want to continue on the current path. The problem we have is in the dark blue, what you can see is the Delta variant, the new variant, and that is whilst the B.1.1.7 alpha is going down. The Delta variant is going up and currently going up exponentially. And just to make a point, the area in the gray shaded areas, the data are not complete. Those will carry on going up as data come in over the next weeks.
So this is the reason why the assessment of risk has fundamentally shifted. At the end of the period that the prime minister was talking about. We will have a situation where a much higher proportion of the people have been double vaccinated or vaccinated with coming up the school holidays. We all want to stress that at that stage rates will be higher than they are at the moment, but the next four weeks will reduce significantly the risk of a very high peak, which could cause significant problems in terms of pressure on the NHS and all the knock on effects of that and direct deaths from COVID. Thank you very much.
Boris Johnson: (14:00)
Thanks very much, Chris. Patrick, anything to add to that at this stage? Okay, fine. Thank you. Let’s go to members of the public for their questions, Andrew in Worthing.
Hello. Well, it was recently reported that over 25s can now get the first dose of a vaccine, which means that 12 weeks from now, plus two weeks for the vaccine to kick in. That’ll take them to early September when they’re fully vaccinated. So my question is, do you have any plans to prioritize university students so that they too are fully vaccinated by the time they go off to uni?
Boris Johnson: (14:39)
Thanks very much, Andrew. Well, actually what we’re seeing today is I think the 23 and 24 year olds will be able to come forward and get their vaccine doses as of today, tomorrow. So where we’re going as fast as we can. And by July the 19th, two thirds of adults, all adults in the country would have had two doses by the end of, by July the 19th, we will have all adults, everybody over 18 would have had a first dose. You’re perfectly right, Andrew, that there will still be some time to run before university students who get vaccinated in July, will get their second dose, but we will certainly look at what we can do to accelerate second doses, as we’re doing know for people across the country. And if there are outbreaks in particular places, as we’ve done surge vaccination and surge testing, we may do that in those places as it may be necessary. But I wonder whether Patrick or Chris, you want to add anything to do that?
Well, one thing I would add, PM is just to remind people that the system in the UK has prioritized in strict order. Those who are at highest risk all the way down the ratings and for the great majority people of university age, other than those of preexisting health conditions. Fortunately, there are much lower risk than older ages. So we’ve gone down in age ranges and that’s the reason for the ordering. But as the prime minister says, we would expect that everybody of university age would have had at least one dose of vaccination by the start of next term.
Boris Johnson: (16:38)
Thanks Andrew. Tessa and Bedfordshire.
Why can’t testing and vaccination status be used to open up weddings in the same way as it’s being used to open up football matches? As a twice postponed bride to be, it feels like weddings are bottom of the priority list, despite being significant life events, without which some people cannot progress with their lives.
Boris Johnson: (16:58)
We’ll Tessa, I’m very, very sorry to hear about your wedding plans being postponed twice. Indeed, I’m obviously, I’m sorry for all the disappointment that’s going to be caused by going a bit slower as we are today. What we are saying, Tessa, I don’t know if this is of any practical consolation to you and I really hope it is, but we’re saying that weddings can go ahead with more than 30 people. We’ll we’re lifting that restriction on 30 people from June the 21st providing social distancing is observed.
Boris Johnson: (17:34)
I hope that works for you, Tessa. And obviously I think everybody would want to wish you a possible, good fortune with your wedding. But all I can say is, I’m sorry for the disappointment that this will certainly bring to weddings, to many, many businesses, but it’s a few weeks that I think is worth it to get those jabs in. Laura Kuenssberg of the BBC.
Laura Kuenssberg: (18:04)
Thank you very much, Prime Minister. After this four week delay, do you expect life to return to something that looks like normal? So people returning to the office, taking off face masks and ending the one meter rule? And can you relate extending this delay any further? And could I ask Professor Whitty or Sir Patrick, when do you expect all adults to have had both jabs? And after that, would you start vaccinating children? I know there’s been a study into whether or not that’s a good idea.
Boris Johnson: (18:35)
Yeah. Thanks very much, Laura. I think that is the crucial question. What is the world going to look like on July the 19th? And I think I’ve given this answer that at a certain stage, we’re going to have to learn to live with the virus and to manage it as best we can. And what we’re trying to do now by this delay is to reduce the current surge. And we think we can do that. And we think that a two week delay would make a substantial difference in the four week delay. We think we’d make even more of a difference in reducing the overall number of deaths. And that’s why we’re doing it. And at the end of that period by July the 19th, we do think that we will have built up a very considerable wall of immunity around the whole of the population.
Boris Johnson: (19:29)
And at that stage, Laura, on the basis of the evidence that I can see now, I’m confident that we will be able to go forward with the full step four the full opening. That of course doesn’t exclude the possibility, I’m afraid and we got to be honest about this, the possibility that there is some new variant that is far more dangerous, that kills people in the way that we currently, I cannot foresee or understand. That’s obviously the case, but looking at the data now, looking at the effectiveness of the vaccines against all variants, I think that we will be able to deliver a step four on July the 19th. Now at that stage, people may want to keep maintaining social distancing. They may want to keep being sensible, but as far as I can see, we will be in a much better position as a country to go forward with the full opening ups that we envision, but Chris and Patrick.
Sir Patrick: (20:40)
On the vaccines, if you take the week of the 19th of July, all over 18s will be vaccinated or been offered the vaccine, then eight to 12 weeks later, then everybody should have been vaccinated in that age group, double vaccinated. So that’s the sort of timescale and it’s worth really reiterating that these vaccines are really highly effective against the Delta variants. So one of the concerns we might’ve had at the beginning was they weren’t going to work as well. Well, first, dose not quite so much, but two dose is very effective. And by getting to both more people over the age of 40 double vaccinated, which protects those most likely to end up in hospital gets seriously ill.
Sir Patrick: (21:24)
And giving all over 18s one dose that will reduce spread, because the single dose will put up another barrier to spread amongst the age group, most likely to spread because they have more social contact. So I think that’s a sort of double protection that should be in place over the next few weeks.
And then on the question specifically on children, I think it’s been said several times before, the key thing with children is safety. We know that the risks in terms of physical disease to children, other than some children with significant preexisting problems, of physical health are-
… existing problems of physical health are much, much lower than for adults. So you wouldn’t want to vaccinate. The vaccine is very safe and vaccines are now being licensed in some countries, and we’re accruing safety data on the safety of these vaccines in children.
There are two possible reasons you would want to vaccinate children potentially, but with caution, and this is the point I’m trying to stress. The first would be for those groups who actually are at high risk of COVID. And I think JCVI will be bringing forward advice on this, about which other groups they think are particularly high risk of COVID, and those children specifically should be vaccinated to reduce the risk of them having severe disease and in very, very small number of cases, but it does happen, mortality.
But the wider question is around also the effect on children’s particularly education and is the multiple disruptions that might happen are going to have a very negative impact on their life chances, including the effect it will have on long-term risk of physical and mental ill-health? And this is going to be a decision that will have to be based on the data we have available, but at the moment, the big priority as the prime minister said, is getting through all the adults down to 18, making sure they’re vaccinated and then double vaccinated.
Boris Johnson: (23:23)
Thanks very much, Laura. Carl at ITV News.
Thank you, Prime Minister. Some of the support that you currently have in place for businesses starts to reduce during this four-week delay. Why aren’t you keeping support and protections in place at the level that they’re at now? And if I could, for Professor Witty, if we don’t have this delay in the easing of restrictions, what does your modeling tell you could happen to hospitalizations? What’s the worst that could happen to the NHS?
Boris Johnson: (23:56)
Thanks very much, Carl. Well, look, the crucial thing about what we’re agreeing to do today is to keep going with the openings that we’ve got in place. So we’re not going backwards. I don’t think any of the scientists have actually called for a reversal and that’s very important. It means that the businesses that are currently open and trading can continue to do that. We’re giving, as you know, all the support measures that have been put in place were intended to last through to September. In terms of business rates, local authorities do have an extra billion pounds to cover those who needed.
Boris Johnson: (24:39)
But I think the most important thing I can say to those businesses who are being asked to wait another four weeks, or maybe as little as two weeks, but let’s be realistic, probably more likely four weeks, I am confident that we’ll get there. And there’s a difference between the June, the 21st date and the July, the 19th date, at least in this sense. The June, the 21st date was always a not before date. In other words, we weren’t going to make you take that step before June the 21st. But looking at the data that I can see now, looking at the scale of the vaccine rollout, I’m pretty confident that July the 19th will be as it were a terminus date, and that we’ll be able to take things forward from that. Sorry. Chris.
You addressed it to me, the question really on the module will be to Patrick, but I will just do a preamble on that to make two points. One of which is that whatever rate of increase we’re seeing now and would see over the next few weeks, would be significantly increased if we took the next step, because it means a lot of mixing of households that are unrelated, indoors. That fundamentally is what the next step is about. So whatever rate it is, will go faster if, and potentially quite significantly faster, were the next step taken over this period.
And the second thing is to reiterate, just to make sure everyone is aware that we all agree on this and not just on this panel, but across the whole people who looked at this, is no one thinks at the end of the four-week delay, the risk is gone. They will still be substantial numbers in hospitals, and sadly, there will be some people who will go on to die of this.
The question is a matter of balance. What are the things which is a sense, reasonable to do to eliminate avoidable mortality and overwhelming hospitals over the short term, where if people died, it’s not just a death delayed, it’s actually a death completely averted? And what are the things where actually at a certain point, you’d say probably we’ve done most of the things that we reasonably can, given that we will have to live with this virus, which will continue to cause severe infections and kill people for the rest of our lives? Where does the balance lie? Yes, Patrick.
Sir Patrick: (26:59)
Well, so as Chris said, this is a virus that’s going to be with us forever. If you look back and look at the increases we’re seeing now in hospitalizations, in people on ventilators, if we didn’t have the vaccination we’ve got, we would be looking at a question of is more lockdown needed? That’s not where we are. We’re at a position now where we’re in a race against the virus and the vaccines need to get ahead of it. And if you’re in a race with somebody, you don’t suddenly assist them in putting the afterburners on so they can out pace you.
Sir Patrick: (27:36)
So that’s really what we need to do, is to make sure we get the vaccines in. And as Chris said, the four-week delay should reduce the peak, whatever it would be by something between 30 and 50%. So that’s the sort of gain you get from the four weeks and actually, it’s not very obvious that you get much more gain from going on longer than that at the moment. So it looks like quite a good length of time. You get the three advantages; over 18 single dose, many more people double dosed, and close to the school holidays with the effect that that has to also take the pressure off. And that should between them, significantly reduced the peak, but there will be an increase in numbers and there will be an increase in hospitalizations because that’s what happens when there’s more mixing.
Boris Johnson: (28:23)
Thanks very much. Tom Harwood, GB News.
Tom Harwood: (28:30)
Thank you, Prime Minister. We’ve heard a lot about how we want this roadmap to be completely irreversible and that after four weeks, hopefully all those restrictions are gone and don’t come back. But we also know that in the winter, in the late autumn, these diseases can spring up again pretty naturally, they can get pretty nasty. The health secretary has previously spoken about a plan for booster jabs in the autumn. I was wondering, when are we going to get to see that plan? When can the media and the scientific community helpfully scrutinize and help out with that plan? And when will those jabs be going into people’s arms in the autumn to avoid these restrictions ever coming back again?
Tom Harwood: (29:13)
Then just one extra question to the scientists, given that we know that this sort of nasty variant is spreading much more pervasively among young people, are we considering at all opening up again that excellent Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine to the under forties?
Boris Johnson: (29:33)
Well, that’s an excellent question. I’ll leave Chris and Patrick to deal with. But on the irreversibility of the road map and you’re quite right, Tom, of course, I mean, we’re seeing a surge now. As I said earlier on, we’re seeing more hospitalizations, we’re seeing continued deaths, although the numbers are very, very greatly reduced. And we must be realistic as we said at the beginning of the roadmap and throughout, that people very sadly will continue to lose their lives to this disease. So we will have a booster program for vaccines. And we’ll be sending that out very soon and you can expect the health secretary send out how and when we’ll be doing that, and which groups will be coming forward first. Obviously, the JCVI will be studying that and producing a timetable.
Boris Johnson: (30:33)
But the objective is, as I’ve said, to be reversible, to avoid more lockdowns of the kind that we’ve seen. And as things stand, I can’t see a reason to do that, though there will, as everybody has said, be further surges of the disease.
Boris Johnson: (30:56)
Do you want to go on Astra for under forties?
Sir Patrick: (31:01)
Yeah. I’ll make a note and then Chris will want to build on it. I mean, the balance is always the risk-benefit in any drug or vaccine. And obviously, the benefit is greater in this particular case, the higher the level of virus. So the risk-benefit changes all the time, depending on where you are. And these are decisions that are rightly ones for JCVI to look at where the risk-benefit falls at any point in the pandemic. And I think at the moment, the plan is to get all of the eighteens and over vaccinated, single dose with other vaccines, Pfizer and Moderna, and that’s the target for the week of July the 19th. Chris, do you want to add to that?
No. And they only point to make, which is the obvious one is the risk-benefit of the vaccines as currently laid out is very strongly in favor of vaccination, and we really would encourage everybody to get their first jab and get their second. In terms of exactly which vaccines, as with exactly which drugs for other bits of medicine, that may slightly change at the margins. And JCVI will continue to look at it. But at this point, we’re very clear that this is a sensible approach, which actually maximizes the risk benefit so that people who get vaccinated can be confident that they are increasing their chances of a very healthy and good outcome over the next period.
Sir Patrick: (32:17)
I mean, it’s worth saying that the vaccines we’ve got are spectacularly more effective than we ever dared hope. I mean, they really are very good.
Boris Johnson: (32:25)
That is true. Thank you very much, Tom. Jason, Daily Mail.
Thank you. Professor Whitty, can I pick you up on your earlier answer? Are you as confident as the Prime Minister that July the 19th will be the end of this matter, we will be able to lift restrictions then? And Prime Minister, we’ve had an awful lot of false storms over the last 18 months. I hear what you say about a possible nasty new variant. Barring the emergence of one of those though, are you able to give us a sort of cast iron guarantee that this will be the last delay, provided nothing else…
… this will be the last delay providing nothing else turns up. And finally, what would you say to Andrew Lloyd Webber who says that you’re bankrupting a sort of critical and irreplaceable industry? There’s plenty of other people in his position too. Do they factor at all in your calculations when making decisions like this?
Boris Johnson: (33:21)
Thanks, Jason. Look, of course they do, and I’ve got to colossal admiration for Andrew Lloyd Webber. The entire theater sector is one of the great glories of this country, and it’s broken everybody’s heart to see what we’ve had to go through. And I bitterly regret the fact that we must be cautious again now, and actually on Cinderella and Lloyd Webber’s latest production, I think we’re in talks with him to try to make it work, and we’ll do whatever we can to be helpful. As I said earlier on, there are some pilot events that we hope will be able to go ahead, even in the next four weeks.
Boris Johnson: (34:06)
And as for your question about, can I give a cast iron guarantee that there won’t be further delay on the basis of what we can currently see, well, all I can say is, on the basis of what we can currently see, I am confident that, as I said, July 19th will be a terminal date, not a not-before date, but that is on the basis of the evidence currently before us. We have reasons to be confident, looking at the scale of the vaccine rollout, as Patrick was saying, looking at the levels of protection they give.
And in terms of your question to me, actually, I completely agree with the prime minister’s answer and I’m sure Sir Patrick would as well.
Thank you. Thanks very, very much. Jim Pickard, Financial Times.
Jim Pickard: (35:00)
Prime Minister, one area of major public confusion at the moment is what to do about summer holidays and whether to take them abroad. Grant Shapps, the transport secretary, has said people don’t have long to wait for their summer breaks abroad. Other ministers, such as George Eustice, the environment secretary, have encouraged people to stay at home. Which of these contradictory pieces of advice would you recommend?
Jim Pickard: (35:20)
And on a sort of related question, it is increasingly clear that many industries will still be struggling by the end of the summer, such as aviation and hospitality. Is there any situation in which you can see the furlough scheme and other major business support schemes continuing beyond their current end date, the cliff edge, at the end of September?
Boris Johnson: (35:39)
Jim, thank you very much. Well, it follows from what we’ve all been saying about July the 19th, that things could still change very much, and I think probably will change very much for the better in this country, in the sense that I think we will see a substantial opening up, even more open, than we currently are for a lot of the summer.
Boris Johnson: (36:04)
On travel abroad, I think that the most important thing is just to follow the red, amber, green guidance that we’re giving. That’s continually reviewed, and that’s the important thing. I wouldn’t want to give any more guidance than that at this stage, Jim. And sorry, I can’t remember. What’s your last question? What was your second question?
Jim Pickard: (36:25)
So struggling industries-
Boris Johnson: (36:28)
sorry. Forgive me. Absolutely. On furlough, we always made sure that the furlough scheme would continue until September to take account of the whole spread of the roadmap. Chancellor has always been very, very clear about that. We don’t think that there will be, on the basis of what we can see now, Jim, in in the data, on the basis of the vaccine effectiveness that we can see now, we don’t think that we’ll need to change that.
Thanks very much. Joe Murphy of the Evening Standard.
Joe Murphy: (37:12)
Thank you very much, Prime minister, and thanks, gentlemen, for answering our questions again. So Patrick, you said the vaccines are spectacularly good, and a lot of people argue that all we need to do now is to let infections rise and that’ll be okay if hospitalization deaths don’t increase. Based on what you know so far, would you be relaxed if infections went back to January levels? How high would they have to go before you called the Prime Minister and said, “Look, maybe it is time to slow things down again”?
Joe Murphy: (37:46)
Professor Whitty, London’s vaccination rates are a long way below all the other regions and nations. Only 36% have had the second doses, according to the dashboard. How worried are you about this? And what will you do to improve the situation, especially, will you agree to maybe speed up the type of vaccines for London that young people can have?
Joe Murphy: (38:11)
And Prime Minister, July the 19th is going to be held us a new freedom day. Do you see it as the date when everything will be eased, including those tough nuts, like nightclubs being allowed to reopen, and we can all dispense with masks and social distancing for good?
Boris Johnson: (38:28)
Right. Well, we were given questions in order, so I think it was Patrick first.
Sir Patrick: (38:33)
Well, I think the vaccines are very, very effective, but of course, if you have a massive wave of infection, the vaccines aren’t 100% effective, and you will see people in hospital and a large proportion of those will be double vaccinated, and some of those, unfortunately, will die. So they were not 100% protective, and therefore avoiding a very, very large peak is important. That’s why the second part of the vaccination, which is stopping or reducing the chance of spreading, is an important part of this.
Sir Patrick: (39:08)
And that’s why getting the younger people vaccinated becomes important, because you stop the size of the increase in any peak, and hopefully manage that down to a level where the number of infections is reduced, and of course the proportion of people who then get severely ill, hospitalized, from that is reduced even further by the vaccinations. So that has to be the aim. And realistically, if we ever got a very, very large wave, there would be a very large number of people in hospital, but the plan and the vaccination program is designed precisely to stop that from occurring.
On London, I mean, I think let’s start off with the glass half full. Londoners, as in the rest of the U.K., have shown great enthusiasm for vaccination. Overall, the rates are higher than many countries would really dream of having at this point in time. But they are behind by around, in some areas, 10%, other parts of the country. So they’re high, and I think we shouldn’t pretend that they’re low. They’re high, but they should be even higher.
Some of this is mechanistic. It’s because there’s a lot more people move around in London. Records and so on are less clear cut. There’s a number of reasons why London, in common with other major cities in the U.K., always tends to have slightly lower rates of vaccination and screening and many other medical interventions of this sort.
But you are completely right that what we need to do is concentrate on these areas where the rates are lower, because we want to get all of them right up to the very highest rates, which is what provides protections for individuals, and by being vaccinated, someone provides protection for those around them. So you are completely right. We do need to concentrate on that, and look in the different particular bits of London, because London is a very varied city and find the areas with the lowest rates and really push to get them up, whatever the reasons are.
Boris Johnson: (41:00)
Thank you very much, Chris. Look, Joe, I am concerned also, actually, about London. Of course, it’s absolutely correct, as Chris says, that huge numbers of Londoners have come forward and can be very proud of what they’re doing, but I think it’d be great if we could get those rates up even higher.
Boris Johnson: (41:17)
And on your point about opening up everything on July the 19th, I’m acutely conscious that it’s not just that nightclubs and I can’t go ahead, and the theater industry and many other sectors are still not able to open fully. There are many businesses that need to move beyond the social distancing, many jobs where we need to be able to do things in the way that we always used to do them. And people are yearning to get back to that, as indeed, as I am.
Boris Johnson: (41:49)
And so I’m determined to be able to do that by July the 19th. At the moment, I am confident, on the basis of what we can see, on the basis of the effectiveness of the vaccines, the rollout that we can do, I’m confident that we’ll be, barring unforeseeable, new variants and so on, I’m confident that we will get there.
Boris Johnson: (42:14)
But, in this game, fighting this virus, you’ve got to learn to be cautious. We want a roadmap that is irreversible, and to achieve an irreversible roadmap, you have to be cautious. And the objective of this short delay is to use these valuable, these crucial weeks, to save thousands of lives, lives that would otherwise be lost, I’m afraid, by vaccinating millions more people as fast as we can. And that’s what we’re going to do, and that’s the announcement tonight. Thank you all very much.