Jul 19, 2021
Boris Johnson News Briefing Transcript July 19: Most COVID-19 Restrictions Lifted
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson held a news conference on July 19 to discuss the lift of most COVID-19 restrictions. Read the transcript of the briefing speech here.
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Boris Johnson: (00:00)
Okay, good afternoon, everybody. Thank you very much for joining Sir Patrick and Jonathan Van-Tam in London, and me here in isolation in Buckinghamshire.
Boris Johnson: (00:11)
Today, we reached the fourth step on our roadmap and I know that with cases increasing steadily and with more and more people being asked to self-isolate there will of course be those who would rather that we waited weeks or months longer and kept on social distancing and all the legal restrictions that we’ve been placing on our lives. And so I want to remind you all why I believe that it’s right to take this step now, no matter how difficult it seems.
Boris Johnson: (00:46)
The logic remains the same, if we didn’t open up now then we face a risk of even tougher conditions in the colder months when the virus has a natural advantage and we lose that far break of the school holidays. There comes a point after so many who have been vaccinated when further restrictions no longer prevent hospitalizations and deaths, but simply delay the inevitable.
Boris Johnson: (01:18)
And so we have to ask ourselves the question, “If not now, when?” And those both deaths and hospitalizations, as I said, are sadly rising, these numbers are well within the margins of what our scientists predicted at the outset of the roadmap. And so it is right to proceed cautiously in the way that we are, but it’s also right to recognize that this pandemic is far from over. And that’s why I’m afraid, it is essential to keep up the system of test, trace and isolate.
Boris Johnson: (01:56)
I know how frustrating it is for all those who have been affected or pinged. And I want to explain, therefore, the people identified as contacts of cases are at least five times more likely to be infected than others. And even if they’ve been vaccinated, there is a significant risk that they can still pass the disease on.
Boris Johnson: (02:22)
And so, as we go forward, I’m afraid that the continuing sacrifice of this large minority, those of us who are being asked to isolate remains important to allow the rest of society to get back to something like normality. And I’m afraid, at this stage, it’s simply a consequence of living with COVID and [inaudible 00:02:47] when cases are high in the way we are.
Boris Johnson: (02:51)
As you know, we’ll be moving on August the 16th to a system of testing rather than isolation for those who are double vaccinated. By which time, of course, we hope that the wall of immunity in our country will be even higher. And in the meantime, I want to assure you that we will protect crucial services, including the staffing of our hospitals and our care homes, in supplies of food, water, and electricity, the medicines, the running of our trains, the protection of our borders, the defense of our realm.
Boris Johnson: (03:29)
By making sure that a small number, a very small number, of named fully vaccinated critical workers are able to leave their isolation solely for the work that I have described. But for the vast majority of us, myself included, we do need to stick with the system for now. And of course, the only reason that we’re able to open up in this way at all, is that we’ve vaccinated such a large proportion of the population and at such speed. It is phenomenal that every adult in this country has now been offered a first dose.
Boris Johnson: (04:09)
Unfortunately, that does not mean that every person over 18 has yet had a first dose. So far, 96% of over 50s, 83% of 30 to 50 year olds have taken up the offer in England. But there are still 35% of 18 to 30 year olds, 3 million people, who are at the moment completely unvaccinated. And we can all see the enthusiasm of millions of young people to get their jabs, we need even more young adults to receive a protection that is of immense benefit to your family and friends and to yourselves.
Boris Johnson: (04:54)
And so I would remind everybody that some of life’s most important pleasures and opportunities are likely to be increasingly dependent on vaccination. There are already countries that require you, already, to be double jabbed as a condition of quarantine free travel. And I’m afraid that list seems likely to grow. And we’re also concerned, as they are in other countries, by the continuing risks posed by nightclubs. I didn’t want to have to close nightclubs again, as they have elsewhere. But it does mean not clubs need to do the socially responsible thing and make use of the NHS COVID pass which shows proof of vaccination, a recent negative test or natural immunity as a means of entry.
Boris Johnson: (05:44)
As we said last week, we do reserve the right to mandate certification at any point if it’s necessary to reduce transmission. And I should serve notice now that by the end of September, when all over 18’s will have had their chance to be double jabbed, we’re planning to make full vaccination the condition of entry to night clubs and other venues where large crowds gather. Proof of a negative test will no longer be enough.
Boris Johnson: (06:16)
Now let me stress, we want people to be able to take back their freedoms as they can today. We want this country to be able to enjoy the fruits of our massive efforts and of our enormous vaccination campaign, but to do that we must remain cautious and we must continue to get vaccinated and that’s why we’re asking you to come forward and get your jabs now. Thank you all very much [inaudible 00:06:51] and I’ll now ask Sir Patrick to do the status.
Sir Patrick Vallance: (06:53)
Thank you very much. Can I have the first slide, please? We have high levels of COVID and they are increasing. This slide shows the number of people testing positive for COVID in the UK from the 1st of September through to now. And you can see the size of the autumn wave, then the winter wave, and then on the right hand side of the slide where we are now.
Sir Patrick Vallance: (07:17)
So, whereas in the winter wave, we were up to around 60,000 people testing positive per day, we are now somewhere up towards 50,000. So we’re quite close to the size of the winter wave of infections and this is going to increase. And step four is a big inside mixing step, so it will increase further as we go into step four. The risks of high prevalence, high numbers of cases, are really four major risks. The first, of course, that that translates to some extent through to hospitalizations and deaths, which I will talk about more. That’s protected by the vaccine, but not completely.
Sir Patrick Vallance: (07:58)
The second is of course there will be an increased risk of long-term complications, so-called long COVID. The third is that at the high levels of infection, as the virus replicates, it makes mistakes and those mistakes are what cause variants to occur. And the fourth is, because of high levels of infection you have a high number of people who therefore pinged and off work and it affects the workforce. So there are four strong reasons for worrying about high infection rates. The fifth is that the testing process becomes very stretched at high levels of infection. So we have high levels of infection that are rising and will be expected to continue to rise. Next slide, please.
Sir Patrick Vallance: (08:44)
When we look at the number of people in hospital with COVID, it’s a somewhat different picture. So the first peak, second peak you can see clearly, and then on the right hand you can see that the number of people in hospitals increasing. So, it will increase because of the infections, but not as far as it did before and that is because of the protection of the vaccines.
Sir Patrick Vallance: (09:06)
So we do expect this number to increase. We do expect there to be over 1000 people per day being hospitalized with COVID because of the increased infections, but the rate should be lower than they have been previously because of the protective effects of vaccination and the real importance of making sure that everybody gets vaccinated. Next slide, please.
Sir Patrick Vallance: (09:29)
If you look at the curves of death, then that’s even lower. And you can see again, the autumn wave and the winter wave with unfortunately large numbers of people who succumbed to COVID infection. And you can see in the dotted line, the size of the first peak back to last year.
Sir Patrick Vallance: (09:50)
We are seeing an increase in the number of deaths, but at a much, much lower level. But they, again, will continue to increase as infections increase and will be expected to reach over 100, possibly a lot over 100, but we’ll see an increase in deaths over the next few weeks as the infections rise. But at a much lower level, again, because of the protection of vaccination. Next slide, please.
Sir Patrick Vallance: (10:16)
This tries to lay that out in a slightly different way. So the autumn wave is in orange and the current wave is in blue. And the curves for the two waves have just been overlaid. And the axis that goes up is showing you the number of increasing cases or the number of increases in admissions or deaths. And along the bottom is the number of days since the start of the wave. And what you can see is a very close increase overlap of cases increasing, very similar between the autumn wave and the current wave, and you can see the autumn wave then topped out at slightly lower levels.
Sir Patrick Vallance: (10:52)
When you look at admissions, the number of admissions was higher in the autumn wave and went up sooner. And with deaths, it went up sooner is much steeper and went to much higher levels than we’re seeing now. So this again confirms the crucial importance of vaccination in protecting against the effects of the infection, as well as reducing amongst the population, the chance of becoming infected. Next slide, please. Even with this more, more transmissible variant that we have now.
Sir Patrick Vallance: (11:29)
In terms of the vaccination profile, the Prime Minister has mentioned this, a large number of people have been vaccinated. Something like 88% of the adult population has had one dose and 68.5% have had two doses. So large numbers have been vaccinated. But, of course, it means that large numbers also have not been vaccinated. There’s still people in their 20s and 30s who have not yet been vaccinated and we need to make sure that happens. So the messages are, first that the number of cases is high and increasing so that is a risk and we need to be aware of it-
Speaker 1: (12:03)
Is high and increasing, so that is a risk, and we need to be aware of it.
Speaker 1: (12:04)
Secondly, in order to try to reduce the chance of spreading infection, it’s important that we stay cautious, we go very slowly with the opening up, and that people retain that distance and risk appetite, not to go into places where you’re going to have a high risk of infection so that we try and keep the levels down.
Speaker 1: (12:25)
Third, the vaccination is crucial, and that the vaccination of course is crucial for all the age groups who are eligible, and it’s important that we see the uptake in the younger age groups, as well as continued presence of giving vaccines to people who are older who haven’t yet been vaccinated. Thank you, Prime Minister.
Prime Minster Boris Johnson: (12:44)
Thanks very much, Patrick. Let’s get your project to the public. First Toby from [inaudible 00:12:48].
So I’ve been studying abroad for much of this last year, which meant that I’ve been fully vaccinated in Italy rather than the UK. While I have proof of vaccination and an EU green pass, I can’t get the NHS COVID pass for events, nor can I travel abroad to amber countries without quarantine. What’s been done to help recognize the vaccinated status of people like me?
Prime Minster Boris Johnson: (13:16)
Toby, I’m going to ask JVT, Jonathan Van Tam, to address this as well, but obviously we’re working with partners around the world to make sure that we understand the efficacy of the vaccines and have mutual recognition for all applications vaccines as fast as possible. But JVT, perhaps you could say a bit more?
Jonathan Van Tam: (13:40)
Thanks, Prime Minister. Thanks for the question, Toby. So, the point you’re making is a perfectly reasonable one, that if you’ve had a good vaccine in another country, then that vaccine is going to be just as good for you and give you just as much protection as the vaccines we are giving people here in the UK. There is a great deal of awareness amongst my policy colleagues in government about this, and there’s a lot of work going on to sort this out. But it has to be done in a rational, careful way, and it has to be fair for all, and we’re working as hard as we can to get there.
Prime Minster Boris Johnson: (14:17)
Thanks very much, JVT. David from Wiltshire.
Out of all the announced daily COVID cases, what percentage of these have had none, one, or both of their vaccination injections?
Prime Minster Boris Johnson: (14:33)
Right. That is a very good question. I think sadly, the number of COVID cases that have involved somebody who’s had two vaccinations has been rising, although clearly, the results of the vaccines remain very good in the sense that they protect those people very largely against serious illness and death, even if they contracted. But on the exact figures, I wonder whether Patrick, you have something to add there?
Sir Patrick Vallance: (15:03)
In terms of the number of people in hospital who’ve been double vaccinated, we know it’s around 60% of the people being admitted to hospital with COVID have been doubled vaccinated, and that’s not surprising, because the vaccines are not a hundred percent effective. They’re very, very effective, but not a hundred percent. As a higher proportion of the population is double vaccinated, it’s inevitable that those 10% of that very large number remain at risk and therefore will be amongst the people who both catch the infection and end up in hospital. So whilst vaccines are very effective at reducing severe disease, they’re also effective at reducing the chance of catching it and reducing the chance of passing it on, but they’re slightly less effective at doing that than they are at preventing severe disease.
Sir Patrick Vallance: (15:53)
So, what we will see as we get the… Let’s say everybody, if everybody over the 18 had taken up the vaccine, then of course anybody who caught it would be double vaccinated. So, the answer is that we should expect to see a higher proportion of people in hospital and catching the infection who are double vaccinated. That is inevitable that we will see that because of the less than hundred percent efficacy of the vaccines overall.
Prime Minster Boris Johnson: (16:25)
Thanks very much, Patrick. Let’s go to [inaudible 00:16:30], BBC.
Speaker 2: (16:33)
Prime Minister, are you effectively giving people an ultimatum: get vaccinated soon, or you’ll be denied entry to crowded venues? To the scientists, how concerned are you for the potential of super spreader events in nightclubs and pubs, where there is no social distancing now?
Prime Minster Boris Johnson: (16:59)
[inaudible 00:16:59], I want to make one thing absolutely clear. Young people have been absolutely [inaudible 00:17:04] throughout this pandemic, and they’ve made enormous sacrifices in their lives, very largely to protect the vulnerable, to protect the older generation, to protect the NHS. They’ve faced huge restrictions on their liberties, and I’ve got boundless aberration for what they’ve done, the character that they have shown. We’ve got to make sure that we allow that younger generation to bounce back as quickly and as fast as we possibly can.
Prime Minster Boris Johnson: (17:35)
I think one thing that would really help would be if we can continue to reduce the time that we’re al living under this pandemic, and the best way to do that is if we all get vaccinated as fast as possible. The offer is that if by today, July the 19th, everybody has had an offer over 18 to get a vaccine, three million of the 18 to 30 year old group have yet to take it up. What we’re saying is, come on folks, this is it. You won’t regret it. It’s the right thing to do for you, for your family, and for everybody else. Above all, it’s the right thing for you to take that to help get back the freedoms you love.
Sir Patrick Vallance: (18:20)
I think in terms of the question about super spreading events, I’ll have a go, and then Johnathan may want to add to this. Right the way across the world, we’ve seen that nightclubs and venues where you’ve got lots of people indoors, crowded together, are a focus for potential super spreading events. That has also been seen in terms of what’s happened in Holland and Israel where nightclubs opened and you saw a big increase in cases.
Sir Patrick Vallance: (18:48)
So I think there’s no question that that is an environment in which spreading is easier. You’ve got lots of people quite close together. You’ve got the environment in which spreading becomes easier, and I would expect that with opening of nightclubs, we’ll continue to see an increase in cases. We will see outbreaks related to specific nightclubs as well, and that’s, again, why it’s so important that everybody comes and gets a vaccine, so that we can reduce the chance of spread and we can reduce the chance of consequences of that spread.
Jonathan Van Tam: (19:20)
Thanks, Patrick. So I’ll just go back to what I’ve said at this podium more than once before, that the principles of how COVID and other respiratory viruses spread follows the Japanese three C’s, which the Japanese government have used to advise their citizens from the outset of this pandemic.
Jonathan Van Tam: (19:40)
C number one, closed settings where the ventilation is relatively low. C number two, crowded settings where there are lots of people per square meter, basically. C number three, close social contact if that’s the purpose of being there, particularly, and particularly if it’s strangers or people you don’t normally mix with.
Jonathan Van Tam: (20:02)
Now, I don’t particularly think it’s helpful to pick out a particular type of building or a particular type of business. I could create the Japanese three C’s by inviting a load of strangers into a garden shed and sitting around having a beer with the door shut. That would do it. That is the Japanese three C’s encapsulated. So, those are the things that as scientists, we are concerned about, wherever they occur, and under whatever circumstances.
Prime Minster Boris Johnson: (20:34)
Thanks very much. Dan [inaudible 00:20:36] at ITV.
Thank you, Prime Minister. You all said the roadmap was cautious but irreversible with so much uncertainty over how high infection rates and hospitalizations could get. Do you concede that is now a promise that you can no longer keep? That you may have to at some point reimpose these restrictions later on in the year?
Prime Minster Boris Johnson: (20:57)
Thanks, Dan. Yeah, thanks for asking that, because I want to repeat really what I said last week and I think perhaps the week before about this. The roadmap is we hope to be reversible. Well, I think I said that from the get-go. But we can’t guarantee that. Something could obviously happen that changes our calculations. We’ve got to be humble in the face of nature. There could be some new mutant variant of the virus that we have to respond to in a particular way. I’ve always been very clear about that. The only way we can make the roadmap irreversible, Dan, is by continuing to be cautious, and that, I’m afraid, is why we’ve got to continue to the measures that we are, continue with the routines that we have [inaudible 00:21:47]. I’ll say, but above all, we’ve got to continue to focus, as JVT and Patrick have said, on that vaccination campaign and getting a jab. Tom [inaudible 00:22:00] from [inaudible 00:22:00] Radio.
Thank you, Prime Minister. A question to Sir Patrick and Jonathan Van Tam first. The successive step four would seem to depend on when the peak arrives and when it starts decreasing, a time which no one really seems to be clear. There’s been estimates of mid August, estimates end of August. Is it right to say that the next crucial date we should all look out for is the beginning of September, when schools start to come back? Because if cases haven’t started to decrease by then, were still rising, then that would have to be the moment you’d need to step in and reduce transmission by imposing restrictions again?
To the Prime Minister, your announcement just now on mass events, vaccination passports as mandatory for mass events, what are the mass events that you’re thinking about? What about football stadiums? Would they be [inaudible 00:22:50] there? A lot of enclosed spaces at halftime, or you’re getting a burger. The Emirates, for example, you’re very packed in. If you’re going to do this, why not do it now? Why wait till September? Why get 10 weeks to mass spreading? Because nightclubs have already told you they’re not going to do this?
Prime Minster Boris Johnson: (23:07)
Thanks. I think is it Chris or Patrick who is going to going to go first, please? Sorry.
Sir Patrick Vallance: (23:11)
Well, I’ll have a go, and then Jonathan may want to come in as well on this. The timing of the peak is uncertain, as you rightly say, and it varies in the models over August at different times, and it could even be you get a peak and then it goes down, it comes back up again a little bit as the step four effects kick in. So that’s really quite uncertain. But most of the models are suggesting that there should be a peak and start seeing some sort of either plateau or decrease over August. At that point, if things continue to increase at the rate they are, and as I said, at the outset, there is something like 50,000 or near 50,000 cases per day or positives per day at the moment being detected. With a doubling time of-
Sir Patrick Vallance: (24:03)
… positives per day at the moment being detected. With a doubling time of 11 days, you can see that that gets to pretty high numbers very quickly and another doubling time will take you to even higher numbers, of course, that would be really quite, quite worrying. So we would like to see some flattening of this, some decrease in the trajectory. Ideally, as you rightly say, you’d like to see this coming down by September as return of schools would add another pressure on top of that.
Jonathan Van Tam: (24:32)
Yeah. Thanks, Patrick. So what I’d really add to that is this huge uncertainty about how high the peak will be, Tom, and how long it’s going to take us to get there. But the reason why the modelers tell us there is this uncertainty at the moment is because so much of it is going to be driven by human behavior over the next four to six weeks. So really it is kind of in everybody’s hands, yours and mine. If we are gradual and cautious and we don’t tear the pants out of this just because we’re glad to have our full freedoms back, then we will materially affect the size and shape of the remainder of this epidemic curve and where the peak occurs and how big it is. It is literally in the hands of the public in terms of the behaviors. I would just urge people to be gradual and people to be cautious to the extent possible. That doesn’t mean you can’t have fun. I was back at the Boston United new stadium on Saturday, having a bit of fun. It can be done but, gradually and cautiously, please.
Prime Minster Boris Johnson: (25:46)
I want to echo that completely. I think JVT has totally summed it up. Just on the point about nightclubs, I don’t particularly want to single out any sector or business, Tom, but as I said earlier on there is evidence from countries that have had a particular problem with the opening up of nightclubs. So what we’re repeating today is we want nightclubs to behave responsibly, use the COVID NHS app. We’ll reserve the right to go to mandation for that if we have to, and we may well want to change to a certification regime for that kind of setting with nightclubs once everybody over 18 has had the opportunity to get two jabs, which will be by the end of September, and I I do think that that’s a sensible approach, but, on the other hand, we don’t want now, as you suggested, simply to close nightclubs or to keep them closed. I don’t think that that would be the right thing to do.
Prime Minster Boris Johnson: (26:52)
To get back to what I said earlier in the argument you have to ask yourself if not now, when. We have the opportunity now, the firebreak of the school holidays, plus we have the risk of opening up in the colder months and the point of the epidemic at this stage, or the feature of the epidemic at this stage, now that so many people have been vaccinated is that if you keep on restrictions, all you’re really doing in a way is not preventing hospitalizations, but you’re simply postponing them. So you’re back to the if not now when argument, Tom. It is a difficult judgment, but we have to proceed cautiously in the way that JVT has, I think, really perfectly laid.
Prime Minster Boris Johnson: (27:48)
Harry Cole of The Sun.
Harry Cole: (27:50)
Thank you. Prime Minister. A question for Professor Van-Tam. You repeated your famous plea there not to tear the pants off of lockdown lifting. What’s your response to the images that we’ve seen over the last few days of packed beaches and nightclubs and parks and crowds and the scenes we saw around the Euros finals? Are we already tearing the pants off it? And are you worried yet? And, Prime Minister, a couple of things, if I may. You’ve spoken today about the importance of everyone playing their part, sticking with the system and isolating. So why on earth did you think you were above the rules on Saturday? What was going on there? And, on vaccine passports, is this just a thin end of the wedge? You’ve previously ruled out vaccine passports for pubs. Can you definitively say you will never be asked to show your papers to get a pint in a pub this year? And, on a slightly different subject just while we’ve got you on the record, very simply does your 2019 manifesto commitment not to raise National Insurance or income tax still stand?
Prime Minster Boris Johnson: (28:56)
Okay. A lot of good stuff for me there, but, I think, JVT, you were going first.
Jonathan Van Tam: (29:03)
Yeah. So I think my question was about beaches, parks and nightclubs, and some of the scenes of crowding, I guess, we’ve seen in the last few days. So two of the settings you’ve mentioned are outdoors with lots of ventilation, with lots of ultraviolet light, and therefore a much, much safer environment in terms of the aerobiology of COVID-19 and indeed other respiratory viruses. The other one you mentioned is a closed indoor setting, very strongly associated with deliberate close social contact, the consumption of alcohol quite often and late in the evening, so they are rather different.
Jonathan Van Tam: (29:47)
Am I worried about it? I think I want everybody to go cautiously and gradually. I think a lot of people in the UK, a lot of ordinary citizens, see the case rates high, see that at the moment, although hospitalizations are increasing and there are significant parts of the Northwest and the Northeast of the NHS that would tell you now they’re under quite a bit of pressure again from COVID, so citizens are worried about this, and I think they get it, by and large, that it’s really important to go slowly and to go gradually at this. Our destiny is very largely in our own hands in two ways: how gradually and cautiously we are and how well we can finish the job of the vaccination program in adults. It’s as simple as that.
Sir Patrick Vallance: (30:43)
And a lot of people already have said, I mean, a vast majority have said they intend to continue wearing masks in indoor spaces, where they might come into contact with people. So I think the caution, as Jonathan has said, is there in the way people intend to behave.
Prime Minster Boris Johnson: (31:00)
Brilliant, thanks, thanks very much. Harry, on your first point and of course I absolutely didn’t think that and here I am today on Zoom or Teams or whatever brilliant system that it is that we’re using.
Prime Minster Boris Johnson: (31:14)
Secondly, you asked about pubs. As I’ve said many times before in this pandemic, I don’t want to get a situation where people are asked to produce papers to go anywhere, to enjoy any of the pleasures that they do, but we’ve got to make sure, and so I certainly don’t want to see passports for pubs, but whether the settings that the JVT describes as corresponding to the three Cs, closed, crowded with close social contact, we reserve a right to do what’s necessary to protect the public.
Prime Minster Boris Johnson: (31:57)
And on your final point about fiscal measures, which I think may be a brilliantly veiled question on the longer awaited plans to deal with the problem of social care and how to cover all that and health care as well, a problem that has bedeviled governments for at least three decades, all I can say, Harry, is we’ve waited three decades. You’re just going to have to wait a little bit longer. I’m sorry about that, but it won’t be too long. It won’t be too long, now I assure you.
Prime Minster Boris Johnson: (32:34)
George Parker, Financial Times.
George Parker: (32:40)
Thank you, Prime Minister. It’s a question for all three of the speakers. First question to Patrick Vallance. I think you mentioned earlier that in an instance where there are very high number of cases, that testing becomes stretched. I wonder if you could elaborate on that. Do we have enough lateral flow tests? And do we have enough PCR tests to see it through this very difficult period ahead? The question for Jonathan Van-Tam, back on the nightclubs question you’ll know very well that in the Netherlands they allowed nightclubs to reopen and then a few weeks later they had to close them. The prime minister, Mark Rutte, apologized. He said the government had made a mistake. So very straight question for you, bearing in mind what you were saying earlier about the three Cs, do you think that nightclubs should be reopening in this country now? And finally a question to the prime minister, just like to ask you a little bit more about the exemptions you’ve announced to the self-isolation policy. You’ll have heard Lord Bilimoria, the CVI president, saying today that the exemptions were crippling the economy in every sector. Can you just describe in a bit more detail which sectors you think should be exempt and would you hesitate to extend that list of exemptions if serious economic disruption was being caused?
Prime Minster Boris Johnson: (33:52)
Thanks, I’ll go last, go on.
Sir Patrick Vallance: (33:56)
Yes. The point about testing is really two fold. One is just numbers of tests and ability to use them. But the second is the whole system comes under strain, obviously the larger the numbers, the more difficult it is to actually make sure everybody does get tested. And I’ve said before that things like test, trace and isolate are most effective when numbers are low, actually, and they become increasingly difficult to operationalize when cases are high. So I think the combination of those things is what puts testing under pressure as numbers go up. It depends, of course, how high they go as to how much pressure ultimately it comes into. So I think that’s what we need to watch out for as numbers continue to increase.
Jonathan Van Tam: (34:40)
So, thanks for the question. I have young adults who are my friends and parts of my family, and they like socializing and they like partying, that’s clear. They have also, in some cases, and I’m not referring now to my family but I’m referring to young people in general, because of the sacrifices essentially they have made for the older populations in the UK to lock down and prevent those catastrophic levels of hospitalization and dying in the elderly, they have made sacrifices in terms of the kind of social interactions they can have and in terms of the relationships, they can be building at a time when young people want to and have the absolute right to build relationships for the future. So I completely sympathize with that.
Jonathan Van Tam: (35:38)
On the science side, however, it is a case in point that if you pack my garden shed full of people and they are unvaccinated, the likelihood of transmission is going to be far greater than if you pack my garden shed full of people who have been fully vaccinated and are 14 days out the other side of their second dose. It will not reduce the-
Jonathan Van Tam: (36:03)
… the other side of their second dose. It will not reduce the risks to zero. Nothing reduces the risks to zero, other than standing in a meadow completely on your own ad infinitum with nobody coming within three meters of you. But it is a case in point that epidemiologically and scientifically the rest on the policy side is for ministers, but epidemiologically, vaccinated groups of people are generally safer on transmission terms than unvaccinated people. I’m sure Patrick would agree with that.
Sir Patrick Vallance: (36:37)
Prime Minster Boris Johnson: (36:40)
Thanks very much, JVT. Just on your points about Karen [inaudible 00:36:47] and the CVI. Karen’s absolutely right to draw attention to the destruction that this is facing. Everybody is being inundated with appeals for us to end the pinging system, to end the test, trace and isolate. I totally understand that. The list I’ve read out of the sectors that are absolutely crucial for our country, that we’ll be able to get on different arrangements. That’s not a negligible list, some important sectors there. But we don’t want to extend it to widely, obviously, George, because this is one of the few shots we’ve got left in our locker. One of the only shots we’ve got left in our locker to stop the chain reaction of the spread of COVID. You’ve heard the statistics, you’re five times more likely to catch it if you’re a contact of someone who has it, and even if you’ve been vaccinated, you’ll still capable of spreading it.
Prime Minster Boris Johnson: (37:52)
There are sound epidemiological reasons now for keeping cautious, and I’m afraid that’s what we’ve got to do. I know how frustrating it is for people, but we will be moving, once we got more people vaccinated, on August the 16th. We will be moving to a different regime based on testing rather than isolation. I know that’s a while to wait, but this was never going to be an easy period where we’re opening up now in a surge of infections. We can only do it because we’ve vaccinated so many people. The answer is: Please follow the recommendations of NHS tests and trace, and please get a jab.
Prime Minster Boris Johnson: (38:37)
Paul Waugh, Huff Post.
Paul Waugh: (38:41)
Thank you. First, to Professor Van-Tam. Last week, Chris Whitty said the number of people hospitalized could hit quote, “Pretty scary numbers if the trend continues.” If rising hospitalizations do pose a risk to the NHS, what would be the first restrictions you’d be tempted to reapply that would have the most proportionate and immediate impact? To Sir Patrick, no countries relaxed restrictions as cases are rising so rapidly as they are here. Do you think we should level with the public that this is essentially a huge experiment and that they’re the Guinea pigs?
Paul Waugh: (39:15)
Prime Minister, finally, Sir Jeremy Farrar, a member of SAGE, has said today, “It’s a disgrace that the public inquiry into the pandemic won’t start until next year at the earliest.” He said, “There’s absolutely no reason for the delay other than political maneuvering.” Is he right?
Prime Minster Boris Johnson: (39:34)
Patrick and JVT, and then I’ll come in.
Jonathan Van Tam: (39:37)
Paul, your first question was to me, and I think for once I probably got the easy question.
Jonathan Van Tam: (39:42)
On hospitalizations, we are in a situation now where the NHS is not in, at the moment, anything like the pressure that it was back in January and February. But today is the day when society opens up. The knock-on effect on infections will be 7 to 10 days from now, before we can even really see much of a flicker of the impact of that. Then we’ll have to wait another 7 to 10 days after that to see the impact on hospitalizations. But all the predictions are that if cases continue to rise, there will be increased pressure on hospitals.
Jonathan Van Tam: (40:27)
What the NHS has in front of it now is not only dealing with these new hospitalizations, but also dealing with the catch-up of other care that it needs to now provide that it couldn’t when, frankly, there were times when the NHS could do very little other than care for patients with COVID because it was so overworked. On top of that, of course, hospital staff, healthcare staff, primary care to across the whole gamut, these heroes have been flat out for 18 months and they are tired people. I have to say that. I know that. All those factors are important in terms of hospitalizations.
Jonathan Van Tam: (41:12)
Then in terms of, well, what would we do if we got into a position where we were in that situation? I think that’s something that absolutely would go back to SAGE for consideration. But I think we know that what puts the pressure back on an upward pressure back on R is close contact indoors. It is indoor things that are the worst things. That’s one of the reasons why right now with the weather as it is and the summer ahead of us, now is, if there is a good time and there’s no such thing as a sweet spot I’m afraid with COVID-19, but if there is a sweet spot going into the summer, when many of the things we like doing can be outdoors, is probably a good place to be right now.
Jonathan Van Tam: (42:01)
Sir Patrick Vallance: (42:02)
Thank you. It’s not possible to open up without cases going up, and so that’s an inevitable consequence. If you look back at the roadmap right from February and the modeling, it predicted that levels would go up following Step Three and they’d go up further following Step Four. Where we are is where you would expect to be, as you begin to open up, even with a heavily-vaccinated population. That has been, of course, amplified by the presence of the Delta variant, which is much more transmissible.
Sir Patrick Vallance: (42:36)
We are now in a situation, as I said earlier, with high case levels that will increase further and opening up will increase that again because of the big indoor step associated with Step Four. The models all show that if you go more slowly and it comes back to the point you’ve said repeatedly, go very cautiously, slowly change behaviors slowly, avoid the sorts of environments where you’re going to get more spread and be careful, then the size of the peak will be lower. But the opening up into an increasing wave does carry specific risks of increased infection, which is then mitigated by the presence of vaccinations.
Sir Patrick Vallance: (43:17)
The sorts of numbers that the models are saying is it is very likely we’ll get to above a thousand hospitalizations today. It could be a quite a lot higher than that, and there will be deaths, of course, associated with that. I think it’s laid out very clearly in the papers as to what the risks are associated with that. Opening up into an increasing wave, as predicted, will lead to a further increase. I think that’s very clear.
Prime Minster Boris Johnson: (43:43)
Thanks very much. Paul, I’d really answer the point made by Jeremy Farrar, he’s a brilliant public scientist, with the observation just now by another brilliant public scientist, Jonathan Van-Tam, which is we’re still right now working flat out, at least the NHS is working absolutely flat out. We’re in the middle of a third, not insignificant, wave of COVID. I just don’t think this is the right time to ask so many leading public officials to concentrate so much of there energy and mental space to a public inquiry. But I do think that next spring will be, as far as I can tell, looking at the epidemic. I think that almost certainly will be the right time and we will go ahead. They’ll be a full, proper public inquiry. But I wanted to stress to you, Paul, and to all our viewers, that we continue to learn lessons the whole time.
Prime Minster Boris Johnson: (44:43)
Okay, everybody. Thanks to Patrick and to Jonathan Van-Tam, and thank you all very much for watching.