Dec 2, 2020

Boris Johnson Press Conference Transcript December 2: Pfizer Vaccine Approved

Boris Johnson Press Conference Transcript December 2: Pfizer Vaccine Approved
RevBlogTranscriptsPolitical TranscriptsBoris Johnson Press Conference Transcript December 2: Pfizer Vaccine Approved

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced on December 2 that the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine has been approved in the UK and will begin being distributed next week. Read the transcript of the press conference announcement here.

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Boris Johnson: (00:34)
Good afternoon and welcome to the latest number 10 press conference. I’m very pleased to be joined by Jonathan Van-Tam, Deputy Chief Medical Officer and Simon Stevens, chief executive of NHS England. It is almost a year since humanity has been tormented by COVID. Across the world, economic output has plummeted and a million and a half people have died. All the time, we’ve been waiting and hoping for the day when the such lights of science would pick out our invisible enemy and give us the power to stop that enemy from making us ill.

Boris Johnson: (01:10)
And now the scientists have done it. And they’ve used the virus itself to perform a biological jujitsu to turn the virus on itself in the form of a vaccine in an idea that I think was pioneered in this country by Edward Jenner in 1796. And today we can announce that the government has accepted the recommendation from the independent medicines and healthcare products, regulatory agency to approve the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine for distribution across the United Kingdom. After months of clinical trials involving thousands of people to ensure that the vaccine meets the strictest internationally recognized standards of safety, quality, and effectiveness. Thanks to the fantastic work of Kate Bingham and the vaccines task force, we’ve purchased more than 350 million doses of seven different vaccine candidates. And the UK was the first country in the world to pre-order supplies of this Pfizer vaccine securing 40 million doses. Through our winter plan, the NHS has been preparing for the biggest program of mass vaccination in the history of the UK, and that’s going to begin next week. And in line with the advice of the Independent Joint Committee on vaccination and immunization, the first phase will include care home residents, health and care staff, the elderly and those who are clinically extremely vulnerable.

Boris Johnson: (02:46)
But there are immense logistical challenges. The virus has got to be stored at -70 degrees. Each person needs two injections, three weeks apart. So it will inevitably take some months before all the most vulnerable are protected, long, cold months. So it’s all the more vital that as we celebrate this scientific achievement, we’re not carried away with over optimism or fall into the naive belief that the struggle is over. It’s not. We’ve got to stick to our winter plan, a comprehensive program to suppress the virus, protect the NHS and the vulnerable. Keep education and the economy going and use treatments, testing and vaccines to enable us to return to much closer to normal by the spring.

Boris Johnson: (03:41)
Today in England, we’ve ended national restrictions opening up significant parts of the economy in doing so, but also replacing them with tough tiers to keep this virus down. And I know that those tiers will mean continued hardship for many, and it’s going to continue to be tough for some sectors. But until the vaccine is deployed, our plan does rely on all of us continuing to make sacrifices to protect those we love. So please, please continue to follow the rules where you live. Remember, hands, face, space. And if you live in a tier three area where community testing will be made available, please take part in that community testing.

Boris Johnson: (04:31)
Together, these steps are for now the surest way to protect yourselves and those you love. And by reducing the transmission of the virus, help de-escalate your area to a lower level of restrictions. As vaccines and testing, as I say, take an ever larger share of the burden. As we do all this, we’re no longer resting on the mere hope that we can return to normal next year in the spring, but rather the sure and certain knowledge that we will succeed and together reclaim our lives and all the things about our lives that we love. So I want to thank the scientists and all those around the world who’ve taken part in the trials and got us to this stage. And I want to hand over now to Simon Stevens of the NHS.

Simon Stevens: (05:26)
Thank you, and good afternoon. Obviously, as the Prime Minister says today is a news bringing great optimism. We have a vaccine that has been independently shown to be both safe and effective, but I suspect that what people want are practical answers to three questions. Who will be first in line? When will the vaccines be available? And how will we get it to you from the NHS?

Simon Stevens: (05:53)
So taking those three questions in turn. First of all, in terms of who will be first in line. As the Prime Minister says, the Independent Medical Experts, the joint committee on Vaccination and Immunization have clearly recommended that the NHS should make sure that the first people to be offered the vaccine are those at highest risk, together with the people who look after them. In practice what that means is starting with the over 80s, who are at much higher risk of severe outcomes from coronavirus, as well as people in care homes, together with some of the frontline health and social care staff who are looking after them.

Simon Stevens: (06:34)
And then as more vaccine becomes available, we will be in the new year, extending that to many more people across the country in line with the JCVI recommendations. So that in turn helps answer the question when, in that, although we are the first health service in the world to be able to get vaccinating, supplies from the manufacturer are phased. So the initial tranche in December is going to enable us to get started. But the bulk of this vaccination program, either through this vaccine or hopefully others as well that will join it, will take place in the period January through to March or April for the at-risk population.

Simon Stevens: (07:17)
The majority of the early vaccinations will, as I say, before the over 80s and for care home residents. And since you need two jabs with an initial injection and then a booster, typically around 21 days apart, that means that we’ve got to reserve the second dose for the people who are getting the first dose in December to make sure that, that second dose is available for them. And it also means that the people who are getting the first dose in December, will not have the full protection from the vaccine until they get the second dose in January, which emphasizes the point that we need to continue to be extremely careful during December and into January, and then as the vaccination expands to the wider population. So that’s who, and that’s when.

Simon Stevens: (08:10)
In terms of how, the vaccine that has been approved for the NHS to deploy today, the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, is being independently shown to be medically safe, but it is logistically complicated. We have to move it around the country in a carefully controlled way. Initially at -70 degrees centigrade or thereabouts, and then there are a limited number of further movements that we are allowed by the regulator to make. It also comes in packs of 975 people’s doses. So you can’t at this point, just distribute it to every individual GP surgery or pharmacy as we normally would for of the other vaccines available on the NHS.

Simon Stevens: (08:59)
So the phasing of delivery, the way we will do it is that next week around 50 hospital hubs across England will start offering the vaccine to the over 80s and to care home staff and others identified by the JCVI. Typically, they may be people who were already down to come into hospital next week for an outpatient appointment. So if you’re going to be one of those people next week or in the weeks that follow, the hospital will get in touch with you. You don’t need to do anything about it yourself.

Simon Stevens: (09:35)
That will then be followed in the subsequent weeks with GP practices coming together in each area to operate local vaccination centers. And that will grow to over 1,000 places right across England, where GPs will be in touch with the at-risk patients, inviting people to come forward for vaccination. We had an excellent response from GPs across the NHS wanting to participate in this program. And as the extra vaccine comes available, we’ll be able to turn on more of those GP led clinics.

Simon Stevens: (10:11)
And then if the MHRA, the independent regulator, as we expect they will, give approval for a safe way of splitting these packs of 975 doses. Then the good news is that we will be able to start distributing those to care homes. And then as even more vaccine becomes available, finally, we will be able to switch on large vaccination centers across the country, and indeed invite local community pharmacists, probably at the beginning of January, to begin to offer vaccination as well.

Simon Stevens: (10:48)
So in a nutshell, this is going to be a phased program. We, the NHS, your GP or your hospital, the NHS will contact you if you are ready to be offered the vaccination. And today, of course, is a day of great optimism, but for all-

Simon Stevens: (11:03)
And today of course is a day of great optimism but for all the reasons I’ve said I think it needs to be tempered with realism around phasing. The NHS has got a fantastic track record around vaccine delivery but this is the first time in the world that these particularly complicated logistics are being put to the practice and, finally, I should of course conclude with a big thank you to not only the scientists and the researchers who have managed to produce this vaccine but to all of my fellow staff across the health service. The nurses and doctors and the therapists and the paramedics who are all going to now mobilize for what is the biggest vaccination campaign in our history.

Boris Johnson: (11:39)
Thanks very much Simon. Jonathan do you have anything to add?

Jonathan: (11:43)
Thanks Prime Minister. Yes, I’d like to add a few science reflections if I may and begin with the fact, to tell you quite openly, and I don’t mind telling you. I’m not saying it for effect. The office will tell you it’s true, that I was quite emotional this morning when I heard [inaudible 00:12:01], Pierre Mohnen and Wei Shen Lim lay out how they’ve got very meticulously to their conclusions about the Pfizer vaccine and what a momentous journey and international effort it has been, discovery by two scientists who originally lived in Turkey, development by a German biotech company, involvement of a massive US pharmaceutical giant and then involvement of our own UK MHRA to bring home the goods in terms of the UK. What a fantastic journey.

Jonathan: (12:42)
I gave you the train analogy many weeks ago now. The train has now slowed down safely. It has now stopped in the station and the doors have opened. That was the authorization by the MHRA. What we need now is for people to get on that train and travel safely to their destinations. Those destinations are all over the UK. This train is going to stop several times on the way. It’s going to have to reach all parts of the UK. There will be trains that come behind it and that is all going to take time. So, everyone needs to be delighted with the news today but equally patient and realistic about how this rolls out over the next few months.

Jonathan: (13:29)
And now some serious science points. Number one, we have one authorized vaccine but we need more. We’re very hopeful we will get some more but it is still possible that some of the ones in development will fall by the wayside and you have to be prepared for that. We then need an assured supply and that is a big and difficult ask for manufacturers and it won’t all come at once, and it may stop and start a bit at times. We just have to manage that as best we can as it happens. Number three, we need people to take it. This vaccine isn’t going to help you if you don’t take it, and you will need two doses of this vaccine and most of the others to have full protection.

Jonathan: (14:22)
Watching others take it and hoping that this will then protect you isn’t going to work necessarily. We don’t know if this vaccine will prevent transmission or any of them. We have to wait for the science to tell us if it will prevent transmission, though we are very hopeful on that point. We also have to be patient to see the real live effects on transmission and hospitalizations and deaths and until we see that, as scientists, we can’t then scope what the likely impact is going to be on bringing this pandemic to an early end.

Jonathan: (15:04)
Roll out won’t be instant. Already on the JAVI phase one list we have roundabout 30 million people who are going to be targeted at some point and even if you gave me 60 million vaccines here in this corner now, in a freezer of course, but if you gave me the 60 million no system in the world could distribute those really, really quickly in the matter of a few days. So we have to be realistic about how long this is going to take. It’s going to take months, not weeks.

Jonathan: (15:42)
And for now, the other measures, the tier measures, the social distancing have to stay in place. If we relax too soon, if we just kind of go, “Ah, the vaccine is here, let’s abandon caution” all you’re going to do is create a tidal wave of infections and this vaccine has then got to work in a headwind to get back ahead of the game. That will make it harder. Then the final point is, look, everyone wants social distancing to come to an end. We’re fed up with it. Nobody wants lock downs and to see the damage they do but if you want that dream to come true, as quickly as it can come true, then you have to take the vaccine when it’s offered to you. Low uptake will almost certainly make restrictions last longer.

Jonathan: (16:39)
Finally, please stick to the guidance until we say it is safe to stop. Thank you Prime Minster.

Boris Johnson: (16:47)
Thanks very much Jonathan. Let’s go to questions from the public. First, Dhillon from World Way.

Dhillon: (16:53)
Thousands of year 13 students like myself across the country have been held in suspense over the last few months over our A levels. When does the government intend to provide certainty as to what is being planned for next summer?

Boris Johnson: (17:05)
Right. Dhillon, thank you very much and first of all I want to thank everybody has been in school and the efforts that schools, teachers, pupils have gone to to keep our schools going. That’s been one of the prime objectives of the way we’ve fought the pandemic here in this country, to make sure kids are in school. Dhillion, we’re going to be sending out some more tomorrow about exams but let me just say that we want exams to go ahead. We think they’re very important but we’ll also be sending out some ways in which we’re going to help pupils to do them next summer given the exceptional circumstances the country finds itself in and given that so many pupils had their education disrupted by the pandemic. So we’ll be sending out a lot more about that tomorrow.

Boris Johnson: (17:57)
Let’s go to Katherine from Queniborough. I’m sorry Katherine. Which hospitality restrictions remain in place over the Christmas relaxation? Will families be able to socialize in pubs and restaurants or just in their houses? I’m sorry to say, Katherine, that we’ve got to stick with the guidance that we set out, the tiering system throughout the Christmas period. As Simon was just saying, and Jonathan as well, it would be a really fatal mistake now to respond to this good news by letting the virus run wild again and letting it get out of control by too much transmission over Christmas and so that’s why we’ve got to stick very tightly to the tiering that we’ve set out. Let’s go to questions from the media. Fergus Walsh, BBC.

Fergus Walsh: (19:06)
Prime Minister now we have a vaccine. How important is this moment?

Boris Johnson: (19:12)
Well Fergus this is a huge moment and as JVT’s Jonathan-Tam was just saying, it’s also a very moving thing and I’m really lost in admiration for science and the ability of scientists to solve human problems in the way that they can and this is not easy. Bear in mind we’ve got a vaccine now for COVID that really, really works. There’s no question that it works but we haven’t got a vaccine for SARS or for MRSA or for HIV. There’s a huge, huge fantastic effort that has gone into this and when you consider the damage, as I was saying earlier, the damage that this virus has done to human life across the planet, the economic damage, the social damage, to say nothing of the cost of life and suffering, it is a fantastic moment. But, to repeat the key message, the worst thing now would be to think that this is the moment where we can relax our guard and think that it’s game over in the fight against COVID. This is not. This is not the end. We have to fight on and we have to continue with the top measures that we’ve announced today.

Boris Johnson: (20:39)
Thanks very much Fergus. Let’s go to Emily Morgan of iTV.

Emily Morgan: (20:46)
Hello, thank you. A question to you Prime Minister, your scientists have said that care home residents should be the first people to get this vaccine. Are you confirming then that they won’t be and, if not, aren’t you failing to protect our most vulnerable? And, if I may, a question to you Simon Stevens, what are you doing right now to address this logistical challenge to get the vaccine to care homes sooner rather than later?

Boris Johnson: (21:14)
Well I think I’ll ask Simon to correct me if I’ve got this wrong but you’re quite right. The issue is of course we want to get it into care homes to protect the most vulnerable as fast as we possibly can [inaudible 00:21:31] vaccination and immunization is rightly said that care home residents must be a priority. The difficulty is in distributing the cases to care homes. Each case has 975 vaccines in it and obviously you want to avoid wastage and the difficulty is that the MHRA has not yet authorized the people who would be transporting the vaccine to the care homes to be-

Boris Johnson: (22:03)
Transporting the vaccine to the care homes to be able to effect the division themselves. I know it sounds complicated, Emily that’s because this vaccine and JVT, also Jonathan may want to come back with this, this vaccine, it needs to be kept deep frozen, as you know, minus 75. There is a risk that if it is allowed to degenerate by being improperly handled, it simply won’t work. So the rules around the transport of this vaccine are extremely important. To get your point about speeding this up and making sure we get it into care homes, as soon as possible, we’re expecting to hear more soon from the MHRA about how that can happen. But I think it would be fair to say that we certainly want to be putting it into the groups that [inaudible 00:23:00] talked about just now, care home residents, care workers, NHS, and above all, or those above 80, who are the most vulnerable. Our objective must be to use the vaccine stocks that we have to protect those who are most likely not just to fall ill, but to succumb to the disease. That’s what the JCVI has decided, and I think quite rightly, but Jonathan and Simon.

Jonathan: (23:33)
If I may come in prime minister and say, Emily, I think your remarks about failure are extremely unfair when one considers that a new virus emerged less than 12 months ago, and we already have our first vaccine. Professor Stevens has been very clear that as soon as it is legally and technically possible to get the vaccine into care homes, we will do so. But this is a complex product with a very fragile cold train. It’s not a yogurt that can be taken out of the fridge and put back in multiple times, it’s really tricky to handle. And so I think, we’ll get there as fast as we can is the answer. We are trying extremely hard.

Boris Johnson: (24:22)
Sorry, anything you want to add on that point?

Simon Stevens: (24:24)
No, I think you’ve both said it absolutely accurately. I mean, we are raring to go in the NHS. We wants to be able to vaccinate people in care homes for COVID just as we vaccinate care home residents for many other things, including winter flu. Just as soon as we have the regulatory sign off that we can do that. We can get the jabs to the care homes so that the GPs and the nurses can then arrive and give those care home residents that [inaudible 00:24:47] the vaccination, we will do that. And we, at this point with a fair wind, fully expect that that will be in the first tranche of priorities for vaccination during this month.

Boris Johnson: (24:59)
Thanks very much. Thanks, Emily. Let’s go to Beth Rigby of Sky News.

Beth Rigby: (25:03)
Thank you. Prime minister, we’ve got two big events today, celebrations about the vaccine, but also unhappiness about the tier system. You’ve told MPs that current restrictions will expire on February the third. But given that you also said in your COVID winter plan, that January and February are traditionally the hardest months for the NHS. The depths of winter when our hospital wards are under the greatest pressure, should we all still prepare for restrictions to run through to April? And if I may to Professor Van-Tam, one in five Britons have said in a just released You Gov poll, they’re not confident about this vaccine. How worried are you that people won’t take it and given that you just said, we don’t know if it reduces transmission, what percentage of the population would need to take it for it to be effective enough to be able to lift restrictions? Thank you.

Boris Johnson: (26:00)
Well, first of all, just on the tiering and yes, of course, I totally accept that they’re tough. These tiers are obviously a huge amount of the economy is opened up, but the restrictions do remain tough, particularly in tier three on hospitality. We deeply, deeply regret that. We’re doing everything we can to help, but the way forward is not just the steady roll-out of the vaccine and several vaccines, we hope, that we’ve been describing over the next few weeks and months, but also using observation of the tiering plus community testing as they have in Liverpool with great success. 284,000 people in Liverpool took part in community mass testing. So local leaders, MPs, everyone can get together to do those community tests and isolate the positives and help the negatives to do things differently. And that way, drive the incidents down and get the virus keep the virus under control and come down the tiers. We hope before Easter as well. So that’s the tool that we see working in addition to the vaccine.

Jonathan: (27:25)
So, Beth, thanks for the questions. On a vaccine that reduces transmission, that is always the final, big win, if you can get a vaccine that does that. Because we can’t be sure of that yet, and we’ll have to wait and see if that is the case with this vaccine and others to follow. I’m quite optimistic, but far from certain. Because we can’t say to what extent, the percentage of transmission that is taken out by the vaccine, because it’s not binary. It’s not kind of it either does, or it doesn’t, it’s a percentage that it will take out. Until we know that and the scientists can model that, we won’t be able to say the kind of total population vaccine uptake, the magic number you’re after, and understand why you’re after it, but we can’t give it to you yet. I don’t want to take away from the fact that the not immediate, but quite in the foreground almost as big win, is stopping people, going into hospital with COVID-19, stopping them dying in hospital from COVID-19, and removing that fear that they’re going to have to run that risk.

Jonathan: (28:44)
If we can do that, that’s much closer in the terms of the time to the future when we’ll know those kinds of answers. We already know from the preliminary data from AstraZeneca, as in their press releases, that they had no hospital admissions at all in the group that received the vaccine. Those kind of things are very encouraging and if we can get the hospital burden under control, then at that point, and when we’re confident, it’s under control, we can start to think about what the other options are around the edges of getting this country back to normal, which we all want so much. So just kind of stay with us.

Boris Johnson: (29:30)
Thanks.

Beth Rigby: (29:31)
Can I just jump in quickly? Prime Minster, just to be clear, do you expect to roll over the tier system on February the third?

Boris Johnson: (29:39)
We will judge the situation, as I told the House yesterday, it’ll be on the basis of the data. But I think for the time being, Beth, you’ve got to take it that tiering is going to be a very, very important part of our campaign against coronavirus and I think it’s absolutely vital that people continue to stick to the guidance and follow the rules. That is completely crucial. Macer Hall of The Express.

Macer Hall: (30:13)
Thank you, Prime Minister. If I could ask the medical experts, first of all, as the vaccine is rolled out and we progress through the priority list, at what stage would you feel it be right to lift the majority of the restrictions? Is it a matter of inoculating people in the seventies, eighties who are most at risk, or would you want to see a much greater proportion of the population vaccinated? And Prime Minister, this vaccine has been approved in the UK faster than in EU countries. Is that because we’ve left the EU? Should we see this as our first Brexit bonus? Our first big Brexit bonus? And on the subject of Brexit, the EU is saying that there’s now less than 72 hours left to cut a deal. How confident are you that we can get a deal in that time?

Simon Stevens: (31:05)
So maybe on the first question, I’m sure JVT wants to come in as well. The goal of the vaccination program, for coronavirus, just like for anything else is firstly, to protect vulnerable individuals. The lists that are given, unfortunately, coronavirus strikes very unequally in terms of its impact and you are at far greater risk if you’re over 80 than if you’re in your thirties and so forth. That’s why it’s a graduated list of the most vulnerable people. That will help protect them. Then the second goal is preventing people spreading it unknowingly to others. And as JVT said, we don’t at this point, know whether this vaccine will have that effect, but that’s obviously one of the great benefits that you get from the winter flu vab jab. It’s the benefit you get from the measles, mumps and rubella jab. So there is a good sort of reason to thinking that that might be the case, but we don’t definitively know that that’s the case as we sit here today.

Jonathan: (32:03)
So most of all I would add to that is to say that the JCVI priority list, phase one, which takes us down to people 50 years of age and over, and obviously under the age of 50, if you’re in an at-risk group. Taking together those groups, it’s not an accident that they take out with a very effective vaccine and very high uptake, 99% of COVID related mortality deaths in the UK. There’s not an accident that that’s how JCVI got to the phase one priority listing.

Macer Hall: (32:49)
Yeah. And Macer, just on your question about how come the UK is seeming to get the vaccine soon, early, perhaps ahead, of many other countries. I think that’s, that’s really….

Boris Johnson: (33:03)
… of many other countries. I think that that’s really down to the Vaccine Task Force more than anything else and the way they’ve gone out to organize that. But you know what I would say about this, all these vaccines, all seven of the ones that the UK is backing, these are global efforts. You’ve got scientists around the world coming together to make this possible. And it’s a truly international thing and very moving to see it. On Brexit and where we are with the negotiations, we remain absolutely committed to trying to get a deal if we can. I think our friends know what the UK bottom line is and what people voted for on June 23rd, 2016. They voted to take back control. It’s about making sure that the UK is able to run its own laws, its own fisheries and so on, and that’s fundamentally what it’s all about. And that’s what we’re all working for. Let’s go to Hugo Guy VI.

Hugo Guy: (34:14)
Thank you. Prime Minister, when you first announced the new tiering system that’s come into effect today, you suggested that it was likely to stay in place until the end of March. Given the good news on vaccines recently, is there a chance that that day could change and that the current COVID restrictions could be ended early. And Professor Van-Tam, can I ask this? There’s been a lot of attention on the precise details of the COVID rules recently, but perhaps less attention on the broader principles of how people can protect themselves against COVID and how COVID’s transmitted. Are you confident that the public knows enough about the risks of COVID transmission, particularly for example, issues around ventilation, which it now seems may be more important than other factors that were stressed early in the pandemic?

Boris Johnson: (35:10)
Yeah, well, Hugo, on your first question, which a lot of colleagues have asked in one way or the other, what difference does this make to the tiering? Well the first thing to say is for now it makes absolutely no difference. Absolutely no difference. We’ve got to focus on keeping the virus under control, getting it down, tough tiering, mass community testing as I’ve described. But clearly as we go on in the next weeks and months, and hopefully we’re able to use testing and the vaccine to drive it down, I suppose there will come a moment when, as the graph of, people fell out with graphs, but if you imagine the graph of immunized, vaccinated, inoculated people going up one way, then there will come a moment when we’re able obviously to start to relax the non-pharmaceutical interventions, all the things that drive us, that are so difficult, we’ll be able to steadily, we hope, to take those off just as those community testing allows what we hope will allow areas to come down the tiering scales. But we’re not there yet, Hugo.

Boris Johnson: (36:28)
And I’ve got to stress that. This is theoretical. We’ve got to wait and see how fast we can vaccinate people. It’s weeks, months of work to go before we’re in that situation, alas, but thank goodness we now have a vaccine to work with.

Jonathan: (36:49)
So thank you, Hugo, on the point about ventilation. I think you make a very good point indeed. And it’s not just because I have some Far Eastern origins. I’m a great admirer of the Japanese system of looking for risk for transmission of COVID, the three Cs to which I add myself D and V. The first C, look for closed spaces, often ones with low ventilation. They are risk areas. The second C, look for situations where there’s going to be crowding or where you can’t avoid crowding. The third C, look for situations where close contact, particularly indoors, is likely to happen.

Jonathan: (37:34)
And then finally, on top of all that, think about how long you’re going to be in those situations, D, duration. And then finally on top of that, think V, volume, how loud and noisy is it going to be with people shouting, with raised voices, singing, et cetera, in those kinds of closed low ventilation spaces. These are all recipes for transmission. I hope that helps.

Boris Johnson: (38:02)
Thanks very much. Let’s get Harry Cole, Harry Cole of The Sun.

Harry Cole: (38:06)
Thank you, Prime Minister. A question for Professor Van-Tam. I know you can’t give us a magical number of how many people will need to be vaccinated before we can begin to lift some measures, but can you envisage a world perhaps in the winter, a new normal, where masks and hand sanitizer just become part of everyday life. And Prime Minister, I don’t think I heard you give a direct answer to Mason’s question. There is this a Brexit bonus? Have we beaten the world to this because we’re free from Brussels. And are you concerned that 70 of your MPs were unable to back you last night? And aren’t you staring at a defeat in February? Or what are you going to do to win over your own party on your tier system, given they’re in open mutiny?

Boris Johnson: (38:51)
Well, JVT, do you want to go first?

Jonathan: (38:54)
Yeah. Thank you. Thank you, prime Minister. So Harry, to your question, I’ll answer it in three chunks if I may. Number one, I don’t think we’re going to eradicate Coronavirus ever. I think it’s going to be with humankind forever. Secondly, I think we may get to a point where Coronavirus becomes a seasonal problem. I don’t want to draw too many parallels with flu, but possibly that is the kind of way we would learn to live with it. And the third point is, do I think they will come a big moment where we have a massive party and throw on masks and hand sanitizer and say, that’s it, it’s behind us, like the end of the war. No I don’t. I think those kinds of habits that we’ve learned from that clearly stop the spread of other respiratory viruses, such as flu, will perhaps persist for many years. And that may be a good thing if they do.

Boris Johnson: (40:03)
Yeah. So maybe, on the other hand, we may want to get back to life was pretty much close to normal, but anyway, I have high hopes that eventually the vaccine will make a very bracing significant difference the way we live our lives. But, Harry, on your point about why we’re lucky enough to be the position on vaccines. Again, I’m going to exercise a self denial as my favorite diplomacy and tact, and just say I think that this is something that has been working on, the NHS has been working on for a long time. The Vaccine task Force, many people have been working on this very hard for a long time. I pay tribute to all of them.

Boris Johnson: (40:52)
And as for what might happen in future decisions of the House of Commons on where we should go in the tiers, I totally understand people’s frustrations with the tiering system. I understand people who feel frustrated because they feel that are in the wrong tier. They’ve been attracted into a too high a tier by proximity to some other neighborhood that has higher incidence of infection. I know how people feel about it. It’s incredibly frustrating. What we are going to do, and I said this many times today, and yesterday, we’re going to make sure that we are as local and as sensitive as we can possibly be to local achievement and local incidents of the disease. But don’t forget that the thing I keep saying is, there is this opportunity with mass community testing for people to acquire agency in this, and to get a test, squeeze the disease, kick COVID out, even before the vaccine comes.

Jonathan: (41:59)
So Harry, I’d like to come back, because I do like to be challenged when I have perhaps not made myself clear and the Prime Minister’s picked me up on this occasion. And it’s quite all right.

Boris Johnson: (42:09)
I didn’t mean to-

Jonathan: (42:10)
No, but it’s quite all right, because it gives me a chance to clarify what I mean here. I do not think the government will continue to have to recommend social distancing, masks and hand sanitizer forever and a day. I hope we will get back to a much more normal world. But the point I was trying to make was do I think possibly some of those personal habits for some people will persist longer and perhaps become enduring for some people? Yes. I think that’s possible.

Boris Johnson: (42:47)
As in the Far East?

Jonathan: (42:49)
Yes.

Boris Johnson: (42:50)
Well, who knows, who knows? Thank you very much, everybody. That concludes the session for today. Thanks, Harry.