Oct 12, 2020
Boris Johnson Lockdown Announcement Transcript October 12
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson held a press conference on October 12 to address new lockdown rules. Read the transcript of the updates here.
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Boris Johnson: (05:09)
Good evening, everyone. Thank you for joining us. I’m glad that we have the Chancellor Rishi Sunak with us and our Chief Medical Officer, Chris Whitty.
Boris Johnson: (05:17)
We’re entering a new and crucial phase in our fight against coronavirus because the number of cases has gone up four times in four weeks and it’s once again, spreading among the elderly and vulnerable. There are already more COVID patients in UK hospitals today than there were on the 23rd of March when the whole country went into lockdown and deaths, alas, are also rising once again.
Boris Johnson: (05:44)
These figures are flashing at us like dashboard warnings in a passenger jet, and we must act now. So we’re giving local authorities across England around a billion pounds so they can protect vital services as they fight the virus, Nightingale hospitals across the North of England are being prepared for service, and so we can squash this virus wherever it appears we are today simplifying, standardizing, and in some places, toughening local rules in England by introducing three levels of COVID alert.
Boris Johnson: (06:21)
Medium with existing national measures, such as the rule of six and the closure of hospitality at 10:00 PM. High with extra measures, including a ban on indoor social mixing between households or support bubbles. And very high for places where without further action, the NHS will swiftly be under intolerable pressure. Areas within the very high alert category will be reviewed every four weeks and nowhere will be shut down indefinitely. The exact restrictions at this level, very high, will be worked out with local leaders along with tailored packages of support.
Boris Johnson: (07:04)
But at a minimum, at a minimum, they will sadly include a ban on all social mixing between households and private places, including gardens. Pubs and bars must close unless they can operate solely as a restaurant serving alcohol only as part of a main meal. We will also ask people not to travel into an outdoor very high alert level areas.
Boris Johnson: (07:32)
No one affected by this will be left to fend for themselves, and we’re going to expand our unprecedented economic support to assist those affected by these decisions, extending our job support scheme to cover two thirds of the wages of those in any business that is required to close and providing those businesses with a cash grant of up to 3000 pounds a month instead of 1500 pounds every three weeks. And extra funding too, for those in the very high category for local test and trace and enforcement.
Boris Johnson: (08:08)
You will shortly be able to type in your postcode to gov.uk and see exactly what restrictions apply where you live. The majority of the country will for now be at medium. Most areas, currently under local intervention, will be at high and Nottinghamshire, including Nottingham itself, Eastern West Cheshire, and a small area of High Peak will also move to this level.
Boris Johnson: (08:38)
Over the weekend, we’ve been working with local leaders in areas where the data are most worrying and from Wednesday, local authorities in the Liverpool city region, will move to the very high alert level.
Boris Johnson: (08:53)
In addition to pubs and bars, we’ve agreed with Liverpool city mayor, Steve Rotheram, that gyms, leisure centers, betting shops, adult gaming centers, and casinos will close. We’re still working with other local leaders to determine how best to tackle the resurgence of the virus in their areas, but tackle it we will. No one wants to impose these kinds of, least of all me, wants to impose these kinds of restrictions, erosions of our personal liberty, but I’m as convinced as I’ve ever been that the British people have the resolve to beat this virus and that together we will do just that.
Boris Johnson: (09:34)
With that, I’m going to hand over to the chancellor who has some more details on how we’ll be supporting these businesses, employees and areas affected by today’s changes. Rishi, over to you.
Rishi Sunak: (09:47)
Thanks, PM. Good evening. The Prime Minister has set out the next stage in our health response to tackling coronavirus, and I know people are frustrated at the prospect of further restrictions, but I want to reassure you that we have a comprehensive plan to protect jobs and businesses in every region and nation of the United Kingdom.
Rishi Sunak: (10:09)
Our winter economy plan has three parts. First, the job support scheme will protect jobs, whether your business is open or closed. If your business can open safely, but with reduced or uncertain demand, the government will directly subsidize people’s wages over the winter, giving businesses the option to bring people back to work on shorter hours, rather than making them redundant. That’s the right approach for businesses who can remain open. But businesses who are being asked to close will need further support, so on Friday I announced that we’re expanding the jobs support scheme. If the closures mean you are unable to work for one week or more, your employer will still be able to pay you two thirds of your normal salary, and the UK government will cover the cost. This national program will benefit people the same wherever they live and whatever job they do.
Rishi Sunak: (11:15)
The existing furlough scheme continues throughout October with the new job support scheme available from November so there is no gap in support. And to give people and businesses certainty, this scheme will run for six months through to next spring. The job support scheme is in line with most other major European countries. And to support the lowest paid through this crisis, we have also made our welfare system more generous and more responsive too.
Rishi Sunak: (11:48)
Second, businesses in England who are legally required to close can now claim a cash grant of up to 3000 pounds per month, depending on the value of their business premises. Those grants can be used for any business cost and will never need to be repaid. And I’m guaranteeing an extra 1.3 billion pounds of funding to the Scottish, Welsh and Northern Ireland administrations if they choose to do something similar.
Rishi Sunak: (12:17)
Third, the Prime Minister has announced today we are providing additional funding for local authorities. For local authorities entering level three, we’re providing up to half a billion pounds to fund activities like enforcement, compliance, and contact tracing. And to protect vital services, we’re providing around a billion pounds of additional funding for all local authorities on top of the 3.7 billion pounds we’ve already provided since March.
Rishi Sunak: (12:49)
Our winter economy plan will give people and businesses, flexibility and certainty over the coming months, whether they are open or required to close, all part of our plan to protect the jobs-
Rishi Sunak: (13:03)
… all part of our plan to protect the jobs and livelihoods of the British people. Thank you.
Boris Johnson: (13:08)
Thanks very much Richie. Chris.
Chris Whitty: (13:12)
Thanks PM. Could I have the first slide, please?
Chris Whitty: (13:15)
The slides that follow, tell a story that is relatively clear to understand. This is the first slide, is from the Office for National Statistics, ONS, household infection survey, and it’s in our view the most robust study of the virus. And what it shows is the prevalence, how many people had it in the population from the end of April through to the beginning of October. And as you can see on this graph, the numbers of people with it went down really steadily through to the beginning of June, thanks to the remarkable efforts of the entire nation. And then continued down at a low level until the beginning of September, at which point they began to rise again. And you can see on this graph that they’re now really up to a level that was there at the beginning of May. Next slide please. Can we go back one slide, please?
Chris Whitty: (14:19)
If we look at the geographical spread of COVID in the UK at this … in England, sorry, at the moment, at this point in time, on the left here we have a map which shows the current prevalence, how many people have got it. And you can see the darker colors, which is where the most transmission is occurring are very clear on the map on the left. And on the right what we have is a map which shows the rate of change of this, and the darker colors show the more rapid change. And you can see on this map that this is now extending considerably beyond just the areas in the Northwest, Northeast, and parts of the Midlands. So there is already clear evidence of spread around the country, but at this point in time heavily centered on the areas of intervention. Next slide, please. One slide back, please.
Chris Whitty: (15:24)
The geographical spread in people over the age of 60 is however, really important. And this is what this map shows. It’s the same as the last one, except as you can see, the area is much more concentrated because you start off with transmission in younger people, and then it moves up the age bands. But the reason that this is very important and I’ll show this really clearly on the last slide of this pack is that the rate in people over 60 is a very good predictor in a bad way for the rates of people going into hospital. Next slide please. If we then use the ONS data in the different regions of the country, you can see that the rates since the middle of August have been going up steadily in the Northeast, the Northwest, and parts of Yorkshire and the Humber. Next slide, please. At a more moderate rate in the Eastern and West Midlands and in London. Next slide, please. And at a much lower rate currently. But I think we should be not lulled into a false sense of security here, in the Southwest, the East of England, and the Southeast. Next slide, please.
Chris Whitty: (16:41)
I think something which has got a lot of attraction over the last few days in the press is the fact that there are very variable rates by different age groups. And in blue, light blue, we have those 10 and 19. In reality this is mainly people over the age of 16, and in green those 20 to 29. And what we have in these areas is the first rapid rise is in younger people, but then you start to see rises across the entire age group. And illustrated this in the Northeast, the Northwest, and Yorkshire and Humber. But the same pattern is being seen at a much lower rate elsewhere in the country. Next slide, please.
Chris Whitty: (17:25)
Now, I think there was a hope that this would not translate into hospital admissions, but the hospital admissions occur at the high end of the age range. And what we have here is everybody admitted to hospital with COVID since the middle of July. And again, initially a steady fall due to the work that everyone had put in, but on the right a rise, which is on every age band, but in particular, in those aged over 65, over 75, and in particular those over 85. And what this is translating into is an increase in hospitalization, in particular in those areas where there is a high transmission. So this is not just rates going up. This is rates going into hospital are going up. Next slide please.
Chris Whitty: (18:15)
So the final slide is just to show that regrettably, when you start to see a rise in the rates going into hospital in people over the age of 60, that is mirrored almost exactly with some delay with rates going into hospital, and those curves follow one another inexorably. So watching those rates of people over 60 rising in the community will translate into cases in hospital.
Chris Whitty: (18:43)
My final point is a more optimistic one. If we had not been doing all the things that everybody is currently doing, if there had not been in every business a real attempt to try and be COVID secure and to limit the amounts of transmission, if people were not seeing fewer numbers of people, which is clearly happening across society, the rates that we’re seeing in these graphs would be substantially higher in my view, and certainly I think in general most people’s view significantly higher across the whole country.
Chris Whitty: (19:15)
So what people are doing now are significantly reducing the rates compared to where they would have been. But what we can see is that we need to go further or these rates will continue inexorably to rise. Thank you very much.
Boris Johnson: (19:28)
Thanks very much, Chris. Very, very clear indeed. And let’s go, first of all, to questions from the public. Helen from Darby is on the video.
Following your announcement, the businesses who need to close during localized lockdowns will receive targeted further support for their employees. What support is there for industries like the event sector, who due to government restrictions have been shut down since March?
Boris Johnson: (19:56)
Well, I should say that all businesses that have been forced to close get the JSS, the Job Support System that Rishi has announced. But Rishi, why don’t you say a bit more about what businesses like the events sector? I mean, you’re right Helen. It’s a massive business. I think it’s worth about 90 billion to our country, but there’s plenty that we’re doing to support it.
Rishi Sunak: (20:19)
Yeah, thanks PM and thanks Helen. You’re absolutely right. We’ve put support in place since March for across hospitality, leisure, and retail through our business rates reduction program. So people with physical properties are not paying any business rates. Many businesses would have received cash grants of £10,000 or £25,000 at that time. But you’re right. There are some sectors which are now not able to trade in the way that they normally would. And for those, what we’ve put in place is the Job Support Scheme, which allows companies who are open but not trading to benefit from wage support from the government. So they can bring employees back, but not at the same level that they previously had because the demand is not quite there, the activity’s not quite there. And that wage subsidy will help. And that’s something we announced a few weeks ago.
Rishi Sunak: (21:05)
I think more broadly, there are specific businesses that are being told to close by government, not just now going forward in this localized way that have been told to close for a while. And now if you’re in that category, nightclubs being another one for example, you will be able to benefit from the expansion of the JSS. If you’ve been told to close in the past, and that continues, you will also be eligible for that extra support and those extra business grants.
Rishi Sunak: (21:30)
But I’m very sympathetic to your situation and those of other businesses like yours, and we’re all keen to try and find a way where we can to get our economy going and get your businesses back to life as well. That’s the best way in the long-term to try and protect the jobs that your sector has.
Boris Johnson: (21:45)
Brilliant. Thanks, Rishi. Let’s go to Charlotte from Chesterfield. Charlotte asks: After months apart from our extended families, many people are clinging to hope of having some kind of family Christmas, though understandably not a normal one. What kind of restrictions do you expect over the festive period, Charlotte asks.
Boris Johnson: (22:05)
Well, all I can say, Charlotte, and to millions who are wondering the same question is that we’ll do our absolute best to try to make sure that we get life back to as close to normal as possible for Christmas. But that is going to depend I’m afraid on our success in getting this virus down and our ability as a country to follow through on the package of measures. And I’ve said it before and I’ve said it again, but it will mean that in those local areas that we’ve talked about, we’re not only going to have to intensify the measures, but we’re going to have to enforce generally the social distancing, the rules, the guidance, hands, face, space, get a test if you have symptoms, self-isolate if you’re contacted by NHS Test and Trace, all that basic stuff is essential if we’re going to come out of this and allow people to have anything like a normal Christmas.
Boris Johnson: (23:06)
But Chris, is there anything you want to add on, on that? Thanks very much Charlotte. Let’s go to the media. And first to Laura from the BBC.
Thanks very much Prime Minister, a question for each of you tonight. Prime Minister, you’ve said many times you want to avoid another national lockdown, but it seems every week you introduce extra rules and cases still rise. Are you just delaying the inevitable? And Chancellor, you encouraged people to go out and spend money when cases were much higher still in the North of England than in the South. How do you now expect workers in pubs and bars in the North of England that have to close to live on two thirds of their wages when they can’t pay two thirds of their bills? And Professor Whitty, are you confident what’s being announced now is really enough to slow the spread of the disease? Can I just lastly ask one of you to explain what people who are really vulnerable, who may have been shielding should do now, because we haven’t heard very much about them today?
Boris Johnson: (24:08)
Okay. Well, first of all, Laura, I really hope that we won’t have to go into back into anything like a national lockdown of the kind that we did in March and in April. And I really hope that with the package of measures that we’ve got, if properly implemented and enforced, we can get the R down. I just go back to what Chris was saying. These measures do work. I mean, don’t forget the R was coming down in this country before we went into full lockdown in March, because people had already started to follow guidance about restricting contact and restricting transmission in the way that they needed to do. Lockdown was also essential to drive that home. But this package depends on public support.
Boris Johnson: (25:02)
I think what’s encouraging today is we’ve got people like Steve Rotheram in the Liverpool city region stepping up with a strong local leadership. I think if we can get that over the next few days across the country in the areas where we’ve got high incidence, that will make a huge, huge difference. But, being that this is a balanced package, we could go for, now for a national lockdown again. I think many people would think that was extreme, and it would do a great deal of extra harm to our economy, to our ability to … We’d have to take kids out of school. It would do a lot of immediate harm. We don’t want to go down that extreme route right now.
Boris Johnson: (25:45)
Similarly, there are the people on the other side of the argument to say, “Well, let’s just learn to live with this. Let’s stop trying to fight this virus. Let’s stop trying any kind of measures at all to contain it.” I can’t support that approach I’m afraid Laura, because all the maths is brutal, it would lead to too many …
Boris Johnson: (26:03)
All the maths is brutal, it would lead to too many fatalities. So we have to do a balanced approach, the moderate approach that we’re taking and relying on the public, on the cooperation of local government and government at all levels to make it work.
Boris Johnson: (26:21)
[crosstalk 00:26:21]. Yes.
Rishi Sunak: (26:22)
Laura, you’re absolutely right, this is very difficult for people who aren’t able to be at work. And that’s why throughout this, I think all of us have had that in our heads and we’ve tried to protect as many people’s jobs and incomes as possible, and that remains at the forefront of our mind as we go through this difficult winter period. With regard to the exact level of support I would make two points, if I may, the first is that at two thirds were very much in line with large other European economies who provide similar wage support schemes. France, for example, is 60% or 70%, depending on the sector. Germany’s scheme starts at 60% and goes up from there. Spain is 70% and drops down to 50%. I could go on, but the broad picture is we’re very much in line with peers, but obviously that might not be comforting to you if you’re the person on the other end of that, and you still need to try and make ends meet.
Rishi Sunak: (27:13)
What I’d say is we’ve invested several billion pounds in improving the generosity of our welfare system this year, primarily through the increase in universal credit and also local housing allowance. And what that means is not only is that system more generous, it’s also responsive to people’s needs. So as people who are the lowest paid that you talked about, see that their earnings are going down, the way universal credit works is that the welfare payments will go up to compensate for a good chunk of that. And if you look at someone say in their, pick an example, someone in that late 20s privately renting, working 35 hours at the minimum wage, let’s just say living in a city like Manchester, for example. What they would see on an after tax and after benefits change in their income would mean that they’re probably just over 90% of their previous income once all those changes had worked through. So our system is designed particularly to help those who are lowest paid to help them get through what we hope is a temporary, but no doubt, difficult period.
Chris Whitty: (28:16)
On the two you asked me, I am very confident that the measures that are currently in place are helping to slow the virus and these measures will help to slow it further. I am not confident and nor is anybody confident that the tier three proposals for the highest rates, if we did the absolute base case and nothing more, would be enough to get on top of it. And that is why there’s a lot of flexibility in the tier three level for local authorities guided by the directors of public health, who are absolutely superb around the country, to actually go up that range so that they can do significantly more than the absolute base. Because the base will not be sufficient, I think that’s very clearly the professional view, but there are quite a lot more additional things that could be done within that with local guidance.
Chris Whitty: (29:08)
And the central thing about this is, these only work if people buy into them, I don’t just mean the political leaders, although absolutely essential that they do and from much consensus as possible. But also everybody has got to buy into them because that’s how it works, it’s everybody doing their bit within this. And therefore that is important that we have local as well as national agreement, this is what we need to do.
Chris Whitty: (29:33)
In terms of your fourth question on shielding, Jenny Harries is going to give a much longer, I think, discussion on this tomorrow. But the short version is people who were previously in the shielding group are at greater risk, and we would advise them always to take greater precautions, but we also recognize that there was significant difficulties and often mental distress and loneliness for people who were put into shielding as they certainly perceived it. And I think we’re trying to deal with that in the way that we approached shielding over the next phase, but it is something where we do want people to take extra precautions where they can.
Boris Johnson: (30:15)
Thanks very much, Laura. Let’s go to Robert Peston of ITV.
Robert Peston: (30:20)
Prime Minister, are you saying that if it were not for the opposition of some mayors and local government leaders, other areas, especially in the North, would already be in the very high category? And Professor Whitty, the Prime Minister said today there are now more people in hospital than when the country was locked down on March the 23rd. People are scared and confused. We know that lockdown suppressed the virus, how can we be confident that these much lesser measures will do the same job of protecting us?
Boris Johnson: (31:04)
Well, first Robert, it’s absolutely correct to say that we’re working with local authorities across the country, but particularly with those badly affected regions that everybody knows about in the Northwest, in the Northeast, Yorkshire, Humber and so on, trying to work with them to support a collective package of measures. I was very pleased that, Steve Rotheram of the Liverpool city region, came forward with a package, we’re helping him. And the offer is that to all local leaders who are facing problems, big increases in infection rates, we’ll help to support local more local tests and trace more local enforcement and so on. We stand ready to work with local government at all levels. But clearly, as a national government, we have to think about our primary duty, which is to save life and to protect the NHS. And we will also do whatever we think is necessary over the next few days and weeks.
Chris Whitty: (32:23)
My experience as a doctor has been absolutely that people in Britain actually do not tend to get scared, what they want is people to give them very straight news and know the worst and then discuss what we should do and then get on a workout, a plan for how to do it. Now in terms of lockdown, as people put it… I mean, lockdown now means a whole bunch of different things in different areas, and we’re not talking about the kinds of lockdown that where at the end of March and the beginning of April. But it is the case we are going to have to do more, that’s the whole point of what the prime minister has just announced and probably in some areas significantly more. And the balancing act here, and in a sense that’s reflected by the fact the chancellor and I are standing here, is the doing things which do the… The things which pulled down the virus to the point where the [inaudible 00:33:15] goes below one, but with a minimal impact on the economy that you can get away with, with that.
Chris Whitty: (33:20)
But none of us had any illusions about this, and I would like to be really clear about this because I think we should not have any illusions. The idea we can do this without causing harm is an illusion. And every country in the world is struggling with this, and I’m confident we will get through it, but it is a balancing act between two harms, a harm for society and the economy on the one hand and a harm for health on the other hand. And if we damage the economy, we damage longterm health, and if we damage health, we damage the economy and the confidence in the economy. So getting these right is critical, and we’re all trying to find the balance, the middle way, really narrow path between these two harms on either side, accepting whatever we do is not going to be easy.
Boris Johnson: (34:07)
Thanks very much, Robert. Beth Rigby at Sky News.
Beth Rigby: (34:10)
Thank you, Prime Minister. You just said the latest data is flashing at us like dashboard warnings in a passenger jet, and we must act now. And yet the only parts of the country today put under these much stricter rules is the Liverpool City Region. Why is your rhetoric on this outstripping the reality of the measures you actually introducing? And is it because you’re struggling to take regional leaders with you? And Chris Whitty, some areas like Bradford, where I am now, have been living under restrictions throughout the summer and into the autumn. And analysis from the Labor Party last week showed 19 out of 20 of those areas put into local lockdowns have still not come out of them, what is going on? Were they the wrong restrictions, or are people who are not following the rules?
Boris Johnson: (35:05)
Well, first of all, Beth, I mean, just really to repeat what I said to Robert, we want to take local authorities with us, obviously a local approach can be immensely valuable in enforcement. There’s the local knowledge of the places where the virus may be transmitted, local activity and closing down people who are transparently breaking the rules. Local enforcement, local [inaudible 00:09:37], these can be fantastically powerful and we want to work with local authorities to deliver this. And that’s why we’re offering the deals and the solutions that we are. But just to repeat the point I made just now, if we can’t get agreement, then clearly it is the duty of national government to take the necessary action to protect the public and to protect public health, and we will.
Chris Whitty: (36:05)
And on Bradford specifically, I mean, Bradford actually has shown superb leadership, the local authority has, the director of public health have, the local NHS have in the way that they have tackled this. If they had not done so and consistently, working with the communities of Bradford, we would be in a substantially worse place than they are at the moment. In terms of wrong… What Bradford is trying to do, as every town and city and area of the country is trying to do is to find this balance between keeping the rates down without doing unnecessary harm to society, to the economy and to all the other things that in the long run have major implications.
Chris Whitty: (36:42)
And I think they’ve done a large number of very imaginative things, I see no evidence that this is because the people at Bradford are flouting the rules. I think, inevitably, very occasionally people will, but the evidence over the country as a whole is the great majority of people intend to follow the rules and do follow the rules because the great majority of people want this to protect their neighbors, to protect their family and to improve the situation over once we get through the winter, which is going to be difficult, and everybody knows that.
Boris Johnson: (37:13)
Thanks for very much, Beth. Let’s go to Gordon Rayner of the Daily Telegraph.
Gordon Rayner: (37:19)
Thank you, Prime Minister. You pointed out earlier today that there still isn’t a vaccine for SARS, if there isn’t a COVID vaccine this winter, will your default position be to ask people to adhere to the current restrictions for the coming year or so? And just also Andy Street, the West Midlands mayor has pointed out that his area is in tier two even though it only has a quarter the level of infection that Manchester does, which is in the same tier. Do you acknowledge that there are huge inconsistencies in decisions over which area goes into which tier?
Boris Johnson: (37:59)
Well Gordon, first of all, on the sort of variations in the tiers and people’s feelings of that there are anomalies, that’s inevitably going to happen in a complex campaign against a pandemic like this. I don’t want to put the West Midlands [inaudible 00:38:15] anywhere into the measures that we have to do, but as you’ve heard from Chris and you’ve heard from me, we have to get that virus down, it is necessary. I mean, I’m afraid it is going up in the West Midlands, as indeed it is across the whole country, there’s no area where it isn’t going up anymore, alas. And that’s why we’ve got to take especially dynamic measures in those areas that are particularly badly affected.
Boris Johnson: (38:41)
And on your sort of your bigger point about what happens if there’s no vaccine, well, that doesn’t mean that there’s not going to be the kind of scientific and technological progress that will start to make a real difference. Already you’re seeing how drugs are changing for the better, the mortality rates in ICU, drugs, the treatments, and…
Boris Johnson: (39:03)
… ICU, drugs. The treatments and understanding of the disease is helping to reduce the number of people who go from hospital admission into ICU. We’re making progress in fighting this disease, and we will continue to make progress. I have high hopes, as I said before, that we will get much, much further on types of mass testing. But for now, for now, and I’ll hand over to Chris to give a longer-term prognosis, but for now this is the best utensil that we have to fight the virus collectively together. Strong local and national measures combined.
Chris Whitty: (39:44)
I mean, I’m just going to reiterate really, even more strongly what the Prime Minister has said. We, collectively, humanity has a phenomenal capacity to tackle infectious diseases. Sometimes by vaccine, sometimes by drugs, sometimes by other measures. But our track record on this collectively has been remarkable, and the UK has been one of the leaders in this, and the UK is one of the leaders in a lot of the science that is going on at the moment. So, this does not depend on a vaccine. Science will support us from many different directions. And I cannot predict, and no one can predict what are the combinations of treatments, vaccines, diagnostics, and other interventions that we will have available to us. But I am extremely confident that when we go into the next winter, we will do so in a remarkably better place than we do today.
Boris Johnson: (40:33)
Thanks very much, Chris. Thanks very much, Gordon. Helen Pidd of The Guardian.
A question for the Prime Minister. The Deputy Chief Medical Officer Jonathan Van-Tam said earlier, “The epidemic this time [crosstalk 00:40:52] in the North of England earlier than it did in first wave, and that almost certainly relates to the fact that disease levels in the North, and certainly in the Northwest, never dropped as far in the summer as they did in the South.” Do you accept that the lockdown was too early for the North of England, and was a decision taken from London to suit London South? My question for Chris Whitty. What evidence is there that hospitality is a key setting for infections?
Boris Johnson: (41:12)
No, Helen, I don’t accept that at all. I think the difference between this bout of the pandemic and the first one is how much more localized it is. We took measures on a national basis then at every stage, and on the basis of the scientific advice. That’s what we did.
Chris Whitty: (41:43)
On the evidence on hospitality. So I think Jonathan Van-Tam, to go back to your first bit of your question, put it extremely well today. What we have is a group of things, all of which contribute to people mixing. And the ones that are the most likely to lead to transmission events are indoors, with households that are not your household, in relatively crowded environments, and certain places without masks, and so on. This is true for hospitality. It’s true for other sectors as well. But it is one of the areas where, around the world, there is a view that this is one of the contributors. Not the only one. One of the contributors to this. That is the reason why the hospitality sector has been involved in restrictions, in some cases very significant restrictions, in multiple countries across Europe and the rest of the world.
Chris Whitty: (42:35)
This is a professional judgment. We will not have randomized control evidence or grade-A evidence of that sort for some time for any intervention. Currently we have basically two poles that we are confident of. A full lockdown works, and letting it go will lead to very substantial numbers. Between those, what we’re trying to do, and every country is trying to do, is find, for any particular society and for our society here, the right balance between the various things. All of which cause harm, all of which we would not want to do, but which can collectively, if you do them all together, pull the numbers down. If you look at what the UK has decided to do, and for good reasons, in terms of protecting education in particular, but other things as well, then you have to look at all the things that remain. So, that is the situation we have with hospitality.
Boris Johnson: (43:27)
And don’t forget, Helen, we’re not an outlier in this in the sense that I think they’ve closed the bars in Paris. And in Berlin, they’ve got the first curfews since 1949. So across Europe and elsewhere, you can see people tackling this in very similar ways. Let’s go lastly to Liam Thorp of the Liverpool Echo.
Liam Thorp: (43:52)
Thank you. Good evening. Initially to the [inaudible 00:04:54], back in the spring, you deemed it appropriate to pay 80% of the wages of those who could no longer work because of the lockdown. Are you now saying that the jobs, the lives, the prospects of the hundreds of thousands of people in the Liverpool City Region, many of whom will now earn less than the minimum wage and be unable to pay their bills. Some of them may even be forced into destitution. Are they valued less now?
Liam Thorp: (44:19)
And to the Prime Minister, you’ve tried to strike a chord of agreement and cooperation with the leaders of the Liverpool City Region. We’re getting a very different idea locally. The first that anybody here, including the leaders, even heard about your plans to shut pubs, et cetera, was in the pages of the national newspapers. And today, at the very last minute, Matt Hancock called a meeting with the region’s MPs with 10 minutes’ warning, meaning that several of them missed the briefing. Some of them trying to connect on a train. They described it as just a total lack of respect for a region where you potentially won’t win any votes. Is it that, or is it just the chaos of trying to organize a lockdown?
Boris Johnson: (44:58)
[inaudible 00:45:00], you want to get this?
Rishi Sunak: (45:02)
Liam, I think it’s wrong to say that any particular area has been treated any differently to any other. We value all jobs and all people’s livelihoods equally. The schemes that we’ve put in place are national. So wherever you happen to be, wherever you live, whatever job you have, not just regions in England but wherever you are in the United Kingdom, you’ll be treated the same. And this is a national scheme. So if your business happens to be told to close and you work for that business, wherever it is, you will be treated the same. There’s no difference in Liverpool or elsewhere as we go through the winter. That was the first thing to say.
Rishi Sunak: (45:34)
I think secondly, in terms of the level of support, obviously you heard my answer previously about our levels of support being in line with most other major countries. Indeed, for those on the lowest page, you talked about those on the minimum wage. It’s precisely those people who benefit the most from the responsiveness of our universal credit system. The example I gave you would show that actually someone in that situation will end up on over 90% of their post-tax, post-benefits income after this situation. So I think actually, that shows that the system is working.
Rishi Sunak: (46:05)
More broadly, we are in a different phase of this now. What in March we thought might … You remember the original furlough scheme was meant to last for three months, and obviously has ended up going on for eight months. Now, we’re putting in place support that we believe is both sustainable and affordable for the long-term. This scheme, the Job Support Scheme, will start on the 1st of November and it will run all the way through to the spring. We wanted to provide businesses and individuals with that degree of certainty and flexibility to manage through the period. That’s a level of support which I think in absolute terms will protect a lot of people’s incomes and livelihoods, but is also sustainable over the medium term.
Boris Johnson: (46:44)
Yeah, thanks. Liam, just on your point about cooperation with Liverpool City Region. Actually, I talked to Steve Rotheram yesterday about what we were doing, and he was at the COBRA meeting today to green-light the proposals. And my team’s been talking to local government across the country for days, and days, and days. And we will continue to do so, because I do think that the package of measures, if we implement them all, as Chris has said, very effectively. If we implement tier three properly, in the way that it needs to be done, I do believe that we can drive the arc down in the way that we need to do. But it will take a combination of local and national government working together to get this done. Of course, it will also take all of us to play our part, and do our bit, and follow the guidance.
Boris Johnson: (47:46)
Thanks very much, Liam. Thank you all very much, and see you next time.