Mar 22, 2020
Boris Johnson UK Coronavirus Briefing Transcript March 22: Warns Italy-style Lockdown is Possible
United Kingdom Prime Minister Boris Johnson on March 22 warned that an Italy-style lockdown was possible for the UK, and gave further COVID-19 updates. Read the full transcript of the briefing.
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Boris Johnson: (01:54)
Good afternoon everybody and thank you for coming again. I want to thank Robert Jenrick the community secretary and of course Dr. Jenny Harris, the deputy chief medical officer. And I want to thank everybody in the country today for the whole effort that we are collectively making. I want to thank the amazing workers in the NHS, everybody working in social care, in every sector, food distribution, transport, you name it. Absolutely everybody who is keeping this country going today. And I want to thank everyone who is being forced of course to do something differently today. Everyone who didn’t visit their mum for mother’s day but FaceTime them, has rang them instead. Thank you for your restraint and for what you did. Everybody who was forced to close a pub or a restaurant or a gym or any other business, bar, they could have done fantastic business on a great day like this.
Boris Johnson: (02:58)
Thank you for your sacrifice. I know how tough it must be. And I can tell you once again that this government will be standing behind you, behind British business, behind British workers, employees, the self employed throughout this crisis. And the reason we’re taking these unprecedented steps both to prop up businesses, support business, support our economy and these preventative measures is of course that we have to slow the spread of the disease and to save thousands of lives. And today we’ve come to the stage of our plan that I advertised at the outset when we first set out the plan of the UK government. When we now have to take special steps to protect the particularly vulnerable. And you remember that I said the moment would come when we needed to shield those with serious conditions. There are probably about one and a half million in all. And in a minute Robert Jenrick will set out the plan in detail.
Boris Johnson: (04:06)
But this shielding will do more than any other single measure that we are setting out to save life. And that is what we want to do. Also to reduce infection and to slow the spread of the disease. And I want to say just a couple of other things. We have to do more to make sure that the existing measures that we are taking are having the effect that we want. So it’s crucial that people understand tomorrow that the schools are closed and tomorrow you shouldn’t send your child to school unless you’ve been identified as a key worker. And more generally in view of the way people have responded over the last few days to the measures that we have set out. I want to say a bit more about how we interact outdoors. And of course I want, of course I do, people to be able to go to the parks and open spaces and to enjoy themselves. It’s crucial for health, for mental and physical wellbeing, but please follow the advice.
Boris Johnson: (05:20)
And don’t think that fresh air in itself automatically provides some immunity. You have to stay two meters apart. You have to follow the social distancing advice. And even if you think that you are personally invulnerable, there are plenty of people that you can infect and whose lives will then be put at risk. And I say this now on Sunday afternoon, Sunday evening, and take this advice seriously. Follow it because it’s absolutely crucial. And as I’ve said throughout this process, we will keep the implementation of these measures under constant review. And yes, of course we will bring forward further measures if we think that is necessary.
Boris Johnson: (06:15)
So, always remember in following this advice. I know how difficult it is. But always remember that each and every one of us, you are doing your bit in following this advice. You’re doing your bit to slow the spread of the disease. And the more we collectively slow the spread, the more time we give the NHS to prepare, the more lives we will save, the faster we will get through this, and always remember we will get through this and we will beat it together.
Boris Johnson: (06:50)
So, next Robert Jenrick to outline the shielding measures that we’re going to be bringing forward in the next few days. Robert.
Robert Jenrick: (07:00)
Well, thank you prime minister and good afternoon. As a nation, we’re confronted with the need to make big changes and enormous sacrifices to our daily lives. And this is especially true today on mother’s day when many of us would want nothing more than to be at home with our loved ones in person. But in recent weeks, heroic workers in the NHS, in social care, our public services in local government and many others have been shouldering the country’s burden. And I think we owe it to them and to the most vulnerable in society to stay at home, to protect the NHS, and by doing this, to save lives. And as the prime minister said, our response from the outset to the virus has been guided by scientific evidence. And our action plan set out the interventions that would be required to be deployed at the right time. And so today we have to go further and shield the most clinically vulnerable people to help save their lives. Following the chief medical officer’s guidance, the NHS has identified up to one and a half million people in England who face the highest risk of being hospitalized by the virus. The NHS will be contacting these people in the coming days urging them to stay at home for a period of at least 12 weeks. I know that many people will want to know whether this applies to them. This will include people who are living with severe respiratory conditions, specific cancers such as of the blood or bone marrow, those who received organ transplants and some though not all of those receiving certain types of immunosuppressant drug treatments. The full list of conditions is now online at gov.uk/coronavirus.
Robert Jenrick: (09:07)
Now, I don’t underestimate what we’re asking of people. It will be tough, but if you are one of these people, I want to reassure you on behalf of the government that you’re not alone you. We will be with you throughout to support you. And let me set out what we’re doing and how it’s going to work. This week, the NHS will contact people by letter identified as being of higher risk of severe illness from coronavirus. This will also be followed up where possible by text and by phone call. We’ll be asking these people not to leave home at all to avoid face to face contact for 12 weeks or to protect themselves. I know people will worry about what this means for family members and for carers, for those without family and friends and neighbors close by. They’ll worry about how they’ll be able to receive medicines and essential supplies. And I know people will feel anxious about supporting their mental health as well as their physical health. So let me address those concerns.
Robert Jenrick: (10:22)
Others in the household will not be required to adopt these protective shielding measures for themselves. However, they must follow the public health England guidance on social distancing. Carers, both formal and informal can continue to visit, but again, they must follow the additional measures set out by public health England. For people who do not have support in place around them, who don’t have a network of family and friends close by, we will be creating a network of local hubs covering the whole country. This will require a major national effort in a very short period of time. Medicines will be delivered by community pharmacists. Groceries, and essential household items will be delivered by local councils and food distributors working with supermarkets to ensure that nobody needs to worry about getting the food and essential items that they’ll need. These parcels will be left on the doorstep.
Robert Jenrick: (11:32)
The government, the food industry, community pharmacists, local councils, and emergency services are working round the clock to get this scheme off the ground. Members of the armed forces already supporting this effort. Including some of the finest military planners in the world. The prime minister and I are very grateful to everybody who’s been involved and will be involved playing their part in making this happen. I know that many people watching at home will want to volunteer-
Robert Jenrick: (12:03)
I know that many people watching at home will want to volunteer once the service is established. There will be opportunities and everybody can contribute in different ways. In every city, in every town and village, there’s a huge amount of work to be done and each of us has the power to do it. We need to remember our neighbors when we shop, we need to pick up the phone for a chat with loved ones. We need to display small acts of kindness, of thoughtfulness, of love and compassion.
Robert Jenrick: (12:37)
This will be a very worrying time for people with these health conditions. But whilst more people will be required to be by themselves at home and that’s difficult, let’s guarantee that they are never alone. And when all of this is done, that we emerge as better neighbors to each other, as stronger communities and that we are all proud of the part that we played in this effort. Thank you.
Boris Johnson: (13:09)
Thanks Robert. Jenny, is there anything you want to add?
I think perhaps just to add three things, I’m sure there’ll be some questions and I’m happy to answer those. I think first of all, just to highlight, this is a hugely complex task clinically to identify these individuals. Clearly we’re asking them to take themselves out of society for 12 weeks and that is no small ask and the measures that you’ve just heard recognize that difficult balance. In doing that, we have worked with the Royal College of General Practitioners, with NHS digital, with the medical rural colleges and with secondary care clinicians as well.
And I just want to offer my thanks to them and they will continue to work with us over the next week or two while we refine the individual lists. I think the second point was just to note that for any of the public listing who might be in this group, because we want to be as inclusive as possible, we may actually slightly overestimate the number of individuals and there will be opportunity to discuss in due course their individual conditions going forward.
So it is possible that an individual might, for example, receive a letter which has been digitally constructed because that is the quickest way to identify individuals. But we recognize also that the person at the end of the digital number is an individual living their lives and their condition changes on a regular basis. So it may be that somebody will receive a letter from the clinic as well. This is part of the plan to ensure that we contact all of those who need to be in this group.
And then I think the final point I just wanted to make is whilst we’re asking these individuals to be isolated very firmly, many of them have very, very complex conditions or they not be in this group. And I just want to assure them that the normal services which they have from conditions or from other care systems will continue. And on an individual basis, they will either receive care at home through more virtual means, where that’s appropriate or arrangements will be made to bring them safely into clinical areas where they can be managed. So they should not worry that their care will continue. Thank you.
Boris Johnson: (15:25)
Thanks very much. Jenny. Let’s go to some questions now please. Vicki Young, BBC.
Vicki Young: (15:32)
Prime minister, you’ve said that we’re two to three weeks behind Italy in a newspaper article and that we need to make a national collective effort to stop the NHS being overwhelmed. At the moment that you’re still advising people to follow these measures rather than imposing them and I just wondered what evidence you’re basing that on given that it’s clear that some people aren’t listening. And just a quick question on the courts, they’re still going to be open tomorrow. Why is that?
Boris Johnson: (16:00)
First on the courts quickly, Vicki. Many courts are already using video trials using a remote technology to do their business, but we’re keeping that under constant review. And on your general point about where we are in the balance of prohibition and allowing people to enjoy themselves outside. Let’s be absolute here, we’ve already taken some very, very draconian steps. We’ve closed the schools where we’ve closed a huge swath of the UK economy, bars, pubs, restaurants, theaters, gyms, and so on.
Boris Johnson: (16:37)
A huge quantity of our normal daily life has been totally transformed. It is very important for people’s mental and physical wellbeing that they should be able to get out and exercise if they possibly can. And many, many people do not have access, let’s face it, to private green space where they can do that. And that’s why parks, open spaces are so absolutely crucial for our country and for our society. But when we do that, we have to do it responsibly.
Boris Johnson: (17:11)
And so our message to people, the message that I want to get over tonight, because we’ve all seen how people have been enjoying themselves over a beautiful weekend. My message is, you’ve got to do this in line with the advice. You’ve got to follow the social distancing rule. Keep two meters apart. Otherwise, if you don’t do it responsibility, people don’t exercise responsibly in the parks and green spaces then Vicki as you suggest, there is going to be no doubt that we will have to bring forward further measures and we are certainly keeping that under constant review. Sam Coates, Sky.
Sam Coates: (17:51)
Sam Coates, Sky News. Robert Jenrick, you’re going to be asking a one and a half million people to do something completely unprecedented. I just want to ask a little bit about the practicalities of what you’re talking about. First of all, are you saying that there is a government guarantee, local government, national government that anybody who needs food and needs medicine will be supplied it in this group?
Sam Coates: (18:14)
What can people expect? Will they get a telephone number to call when they get this letter? Who do they let know that they’ve run out of things? How will it work on a practical level and are you relying on the state or are you relying on effectively the big society which risks gaps opening up? Prime minister, I am confused by government guidance. I want to focus in on one example again, which is playgrounds.
Sam Coates: (18:40)
So Sadiq Khan says, don’t go out unless absolutely necessary. You got a stay at home on your podium there. The community secretary on the telly this morning said you can go to playgrounds providing children distance themselves from one another. Have you ever taken a child to a playground and successfully convinced a five-year-old to stay two meters away from another five-year-old on a piece of equipment?
Sam Coates: (19:07)
Isn’t there a reason why Ireland closed their playgrounds? And doesn’t this show how people are taking mixed messages away from what you’re saying? And deputy chief medical officer, the graphs showing that the UK has more deaths at this stage than Italy are terrifying. Is there anything that you can say for people looking at those numbers and worrying?
Boris Johnson: (19:34)
Robert Jenrick: (19:34)
Yeah, prime minister. Well, the NHS will be writing to 1.5 million people. These letters should start to land on individuals’ doormats from Tuesday of this coming week. The letter will give a website and a phone number and those will be live by the time the individuals receive the letters. They’ll be able to use those services to alert us if they feel they don’t have family, friends, neighbors and existing support network to help them to get the medicines, the food and other supplies that they need.
Robert Jenrick: (20:07)
We imagine a very large number of people will have already the support network around them. This service is specifically designed to step in for those people who don’t have that, who are isolated and who will need our support as a government and as a society. We’re going to then be working with local councils who’ve already set up their hubs with the support of the armed forces to ensure this a very well organized mission logistically, and then we’re working with supermarkets and national food distributors to get the product, the food and supplies to their homes.
Robert Jenrick: (20:40)
And as I say, we hope that we’ll be having the first parcels arriving towards the end of next week if individuals need them to that timetable. I don’t underestimate how difficult this is as a challenge. Nobody’s tried to do this before and so it is going take time and we hope that people will bear with us and this will be an iterative process. The first food parcels will inevitably be fairly generic, although we will take obviously account to people’s medical and dietary requirements. In time, we hope to refine this into a more sophisticated product which is better for people and better responds to their individual needs.
Boris Johnson: (21:18)
Thanks Robert. And just Sam, remember while we’ve been trying to listen as absolutely scrupulously to the scientific and medical devices and what they’ve always said so far is that the health benefits for the whole of society of keeping the parks open and the playgrounds open if we possibly can, outweigh the epidemiological value of closing them. But of course, looking at the way people behave, at the way they are responding, we keep that under constant constant review.
Boris Johnson: (21:55)
And if people can’t make use of parks and playgrounds responsibly, you make a very good point about kids. But if they can’t do it in a way that observes the two meter rule, then of course we’re going to have to look at further measures. And the general principle should be that we should all, as far as we possibly can, stay home, protect our NHS and thereby save lives.
So responding to your comments about the number of deaths, I mean, obviously any death is a sad event and it’s really difficult for us to, I think, contemplate the fact that we will have many more in this country just as we have seen in other countries. We are expecting that. The actions today particularly are focused precisely on avoiding those additional deaths. That is the main purpose of the shielding task. Not the reduction in numbers, but the reduction in deaths.
So I think it makes it even more important that we’re taking this action. But I think there is a general count, which I’ve alluded to before in expectation about numbers. Because when you start counting deaths and the percentage, I’ve just done a very quick sum, while I was doing this about what our current position is. And I think if you calculated Italy’s case fatality rate now is about 10% and ours is four. Actually, we think overall, and we still think that it should be about 1%.
And what both of these numbers demonstrate is that the numbers that you get change throughout the course of an epidemic and it changes very much on how you count the cases as well. So as you go through a very sharp rise in numbers, which we will see going forward, you have to be careful not to be comparing to precisely because at the moment in this country, we are counting the most significant disease and it will look as if our case rates, our death rates are actually increasing. We know that is what will happen. So it’s…
Right, so we’re actually increasing. We know that is what will happen. So it’s really just a reminder to say we will look back in due course sadly and see the true number of people who have died from coronavirus, but a direct comparison with another country and against individual numbers is something that we should be very cautious of as we go through the epidemic.
Boris Johnson: (24:22)
Thanks, Jenny. Jess Savage, ITV. Jess.
Jess Savage: (24:25)
Hello, thank you Prime Minister. Thank you. In speaking about social distancing and the two meter rule that you’ve spoken about, it’s very obvious from a lot of the images that we’re seeing across this weekend that a lot of people are not adhering to that. And you’ve spoken about further measures potentially being introduced. Could you explain to us what you think those further measures might be and when you would consider Implementing them?
Jess Savage: (24:52)
And also ITV News has heard from one doctor who says that her hospital is already running out of ventilators and that people as young as in their 30s and 40s are waiting to get into intensive care and that she fears they may in fact die before they’re treated. So do you believe there are enough ventilators? And how fast are hospitals going to get more?
Boris Johnson: (25:15)
Well, first of all, Jess, on ventilators, we have, we think, a good supply at the moment, but we need to get far, far more. You’re absolutely right. And that’s why there’s a huge national effort to equip ourselves, not just with ventilators, but with all the testing kits, the reagents, all the stuff that we’re going to need to beat this disease and we will. But I’ll ask Jenny to say a bit more about the particular hospital that you mentioned and the threat that was… I’m not aware of that particular issue.
Boris Johnson: (25:50)
On social distancing and the further measures that we may bring in. Well, I don’t think you need to use your imagination very much to see where we might have to go. And we will think about this very, very actively in the next 24 hours. We need to think about the measures that we’ve seen elsewhere, other countries that are being forced to bring in restrictions on people’s movements all together.
Boris Johnson: (26:16)
Now, as I say, I don’t want to do that because I’ve tried to explain the public health benefits, the benefits to people’s mental and physical wellbeing, in the sense that you can go out and it’s so important that pleasure and that ability is preserved, but it can only really be preserved if everybody acts responsibly and conforms with those principles of staying apart from one another in social distancing. I know it’s hard, but that’s the best way forward. If we can’t do that, then yep. I’m afraid we’re going to have to bring forward tougher measures. But Jenny, do you want to say something particularity about the ventilators? Because, I’m not-
Yes. I wasn’t actually going to refer specifically to a hospital, but I think just to say, so I think we’re all very aware that London currently, and a few other places, are starting to see very significant rises. We knew this would happen. It’s not what we want to happen, but we know that will happen. So the flexing of the system is designed to manage some of these bumps, if you like, where we get a high throughput of patients requiring ventilation.
We monitor beds all the time. The data I have here says that in England, only 12% of adult critical care beds are currently occupied with COVID patients. That will change drastically as we go through the epidemic. But I’m also aware that all hospitals have been asked to step up their training. So on a personal basis, I have a junior doctor in my family, I know she was doing ventilator training on Friday. So there are a number of approaches to which, if we’re looking at what we might say was a standard ventilator bed, what we, if you were in a hospital, you would see routinely is that that is the capacity. There are flex plans sitting behind that to boost them using additional support. So I think we are not in a position where the country at the moment does not have sufficient ventilator capacity.
Boris Johnson: (28:18)
Thank you. There we’re working very hard to gt it, to massively to increase it. Be of no doubt about that. Chris Smith, the Times.
Chris Smith: (28:29)
Thank you. Firstly, to Dr. Harris, on the shielding plans. How confident can we be that the NHS is going to identify the right people [inaudible 00:28:39] databases are not sophisticated enough to do this? A lot people are going to fall through the net or be wired unnecessarily. And also what thought has been given the demands you’re placing on people, isolating themselves for an open ended period of time, that the mental health toll of this is not itself going to be quite dangerous for them?
Chris Smith: (28:55)
And to the Prime Minister, you said we’re two weeks behind Italy, two weeks ago tomorrow, Italy imposed a lockdown. You’ve hinted today that you are thinking of that, but given where we are in the epidemic, if not now, then when?
[crosstalk 00:29:11]. Shall I start?
Boris Johnson: (29:12)
Let me just say on, again, just taking Jenny’s earlier points about the difficulties of comparison between countries, but what we are trying to do is to push down on that growth curve and to get our NHS ready. What we don’t know is the effect that the measures we have already taken, we don’t know at this stage whether the measures we took 10 days ago, a week ago, so on, whether their starting to have an effect. And that’s the thing that’s incalculable at the moment. But we can’t obviously take any risks with that.
Boris Johnson: (29:57)
And when you say if not now, when is the moment? The answer is always to be guided by the science. And there’s a point that I think people intuitively understand about the timing of these measures. You’ve got to impose these interventions in the spread of the epidemic, at the moment when they can have the maximum effect. And after all, when the epidemic is hardly spreading at all, that’s not the moment to impose curfews and prohibitions on movement and so on and so on. You’ve got to wait until, alas, until it’s the right moment to do it. And that’s always been how we’ve been guided.
Boris Johnson: (30:39)
So for instance, in the measure that we’re announcing today on shielding, I think I made it clear right at the beginning, if you were there at the beginning, that we wouldn’t bring in shielding, which is the moment of maximum protection, and as you say psychologically quite taxing for elderly people, we wouldn’t bring that moment in until it coincided with their moment of maximum exposure to the disease. So you try and make the two things coincide.
Boris Johnson: (31:10)
And we will do absolutely everything in accordance with the advice that we get from Sage, from the CMO, from the CSA, about when our measures can have the maximum impact in stopping the spread of the disease. But basically what people need to understand today, is that that best bet to stop the spreading of the disease, protect our NHS, save lives, is stay at home if you possibly can. Stay at home if you possibly can.
I’ll work in reverse if that’s all right. I think you mentioned the mental health issues, which are actually were recognized, as the Prime Minister said, if we’re asking people to stay away broadly from others for 12 weeks, that’s quite a large ask of people. It is obviously for their own protection and many of them will be able to self identify, but I’ll come back to that. For mental health, the letter that they will receive will direct them to Every Mind Matters and to the NHS Mental Health and Wellbeing Websites.
Now we recognize that a number of people, these are people of all ages. Obviously people perhaps if they’re older will not be as familiar with that and that’s exactly the purpose of the hubs to ensure that there is a safety net behind so that if somebody has psychological needs as well as a general daily living needs or a clinical need, they have a support system.
And I suspect what is likely to happen is local authorities know their communities really well. They know where their vulnerable individuals are, for whatever it be, whether it be clinical need or a social one and they’ll make that connection and the individual will be able to support. Some will need very little support at all. They’ll have families who can help them. But clearly it’s the most vulnerable that we need to. So that is very well recognized. It’s written within the guidance and it will come through the hubs.
On the issue of identification. You are right, it is a hugely complex task. These diseases are not common. 1.5 million sounds a large number, but it’s actually a very small proportion of the population and they are spread across a number of different clinical specialties. So we have approached it by three or four different routes.
So the first one is, as I said, through a digital route, but we absolutely recognize that that will not pick up, for example, every individual with a condition who is having a particular immunosuppressive treatment [inaudible 00:33:39] being provided maybe not by their GP but by a hospital specialist.
So we’ve gone down four different routes, one through that digital element, one through the clinical reference groups who do much of these specialized health service commissioning work, one through the trust and the medical role colleges, and then finally there is a catch all at the end of it which is in a couple of weeks if you have not had contact that way, then you can always raise it with your GP yourself.
We’re not keen for people to do that initially. We’re pretty sure we will get most of those people, or they will identify themselves and clearly those GPS are working really hard on the front line at the moment. So there is a catchall at the end of it and the general practitioner is perfectly entitled to raise the issue for any of his patients, his or her patients, that they think are in that category. So hopefully we will catch everyone.
I would also just like to say, of course, this is not a treatment that we’re trying to give them. What we’re actually saying is do what we’ve asked you to do, all of the things we’ve said, but just do them very tightly. So in the interim phase, if they just follow the social distancing policy tightly, that’s effectively what we’re asking them to do.
Boris Johnson: (34:55)
Thanks, Jenny. Larissa Brown, Daily Mail.
Larissa Brown: (34:58)
Thank you. Prime Minister, people aren’t acting responsibly. So when are you going to get tougher and bring in the police and Mr.-
Boris Johnson: (35:07)
Bring in the police?
Larissa Brown: (35:08)
Yes. You’ve talked about curfew, so could you talk about what the police could do and when. Mr. [Jimmerick 00:11:13], People that aren’t on the list, if they’re still worried, can they contact and make use of these community hubs? And Dr. Harris, can you talk a bit about the dangers of being outside and if you can contract the virus whilst you’re walking outside and should over 70s be going on strolls in the evening or should they be staying at home? Thank you.
Boris Johnson: (35:33)
Thanks. Well, I really repeat the answer I’ve given. I say as firmly, as strongly as I can to everybody that in going outside now, in taking exercise and enjoying themselves, enjoying yourselves out of doors, you’ve got to take account of the medical advice. You’ve got to observe social distancing. And Larissa, yes, you’re absolutely right, and I’ve said it several times now this afternoon, if people can’t…
Boris Johnson: (36:01)
I’ve said it several times now, this afternoon, if people can’t do that, won’t do that, don’t do that, then yes, of course we’re going to have to bring in tougher measures. And we don’t want to do that, of course we don’t, but that may well be necessary.
Robert Jenrick: (36:16)
Well, if I may answer your question as well, of course, as you heard from Jenny Allie, no system is full safe. There may be some individuals who have not been caught by the various process that we’ve been through, although, because we hope that isn’t the case. If there are people who feel that they fall into that category, they can contact their GP or they can contact their local hub once that’s established. But for all the reasons that Jenny set out, we don’t encourage people to do that today because we don’t want to put an unnecessary burden on GP surgeries and their phone lines.
Robert Jenrick: (36:49)
There’s also another group of people who are otherwise vulnerable who will be self isolating or staying at home in the weeks and months ahead, and those individuals may not be on these lists because they may not have a specific clinical reason to be concerned for and for within the shielding initiative that we’re launching today, but nonetheless they may be vulnerable, they may need support, they needed that in many of their medicines and food brought to them. And for them the hubs will absolutely be there to support them, as well all sorts of other volunteering efforts that we’re encouraging as a government and which are already taking off in most parts of the country.
Boris Johnson: (37:29)
Thanks Robert. Last question from … Oh sorry.
So I think you asked the question about 70s and over and going outside. So number one, if the 70 and over are in the shielded group, they should not, we’re saying very, very strongly they’re stay at home, which is very much an enclosed group, which is why it’s such a big thing to ask people to do. If you are 70 and over and are therefore more vulnerable because of your age or perhaps an underlying condition with your age, we are encouraging you to stay at home. We are asking everybody, but this group particularly, to cut right down on their social contacts. The principal running along this and the principle of staying at home is reduce the number of social contacts that you have. So, that applies to this group as well and we’re asking people in the general vulnerable group, the elderly people included in that to do that.
However, as we’ve heard with a number of these other areas, there is a real balance point here. What we do not want to find is that we grow mental health problems or we grow other physical problems because of such a strict imposition, which is exactly the point that the Prime Minister’s making. So, I think the real point here is we keep discussing but just to put the science behind it, the virus doesn’t last well outside for all sorts of reasons around temperature, UV light, and everything else. So ,actually an outdoor environment compared with an indoor one is generally a safer one. But the difficulty is if people are congregating outside or coming together. So, a reasonably fit 70 year old who has been cooped up because he’s safely isolating in a home for a number of times and wants to go for a bit of fresh air and does so at a distance of two meters from somebody else, will no doubt boost his mental health until full able then to tuck himself away perhaps for the next 23 and a half hours quite safely and reduce the total number of his social contacts. So, it is the principles underlying this which are really important and I think it’s those ones that we should be trying to get out to the public and you know through that encouraging people who currently are congregating, they are dangerous. They are making the outside environment unavailable to others who need it. And it’s those individuals that we would ask not to congregate outside and to ensure that everybody can have just a little bit of safe space when they need it.
Boris Johnson: (40:00)
Thank you. That’s very, very clear. Charles Haim is 10:00.
Charles Haim: (40:07)
One question to you, Prime Minister, is the issue of gatherings and what size is a gathering? The you should restrict and ban and particularly as regarding private gatherings where you might have a group of students who’ve got together for a party, how are you going to deal with that? Are you going to make that illegal?
Charles Haim: (40:25)
And then Mr. Jendrick, just very simple, straightforward question on the packages. Is the food going to be free and how will they actually order it? Just the precise details of how that process works.
Boris Johnson: (40:41)
On the technicalities of the size of gathering, if you don’t mind, I’m going to ask Jenny to answer.
So, I think as we’ve said in a number of these briefings before actually, the very large gatherings, you are still surrounded by a smallish group of individuals and this is that proximity, which is the problem, but it is the social gathering as well, usually with a large one most before and after. So there’s the pub, the restaurant, the getting in the buses in an enclosed environment.
In actual fact, the epidemiology suggests that it is quite smallish gatherings, which are actually the most difficult. So, somewhere around 10, 12, 15, 20, that sort of size. So, in fact, the reason we’ve probably all not had good Mother’s Days is because having a family gathering where people are quite intimate with each other in terms of the social distancing, it’s very difficult to be in a family group when you know each other very well and stay two meters apart. So, the fact they are probably the riskier gatherings rather than the large ones.
Charles Haim: (41:43)
Will you ban them?
Well, we have already asked that people do not go that way. So it was exactly the same message as the outside, which is, it’s very difficult if you are, if you’re living in a family unit, you’re in the same household. But it’s very difficult to actually do that. And throughout all of this, we have tried to put in the science, put in epidemiological methods, but at the end of the day it relies on the public to actually make it work. It’s not something that government or medicine can do. We actually all have to do it.
Boris Johnson: (42:16)
And wash your hands.
And wash your …
Boris Johnson: (42:16)
Robert Jenrick: (42:20)
Yes. And on your questions to me, the letters that will go out will provide a whole range of advice, but they’ll also highlight this issue of whether you wish to be part of the shielding arrangement for medicines and for food. You’ll be directed then either to a website which will be applicable for some people, obviously there will be others who won’t want to use that route. There’ll be a phone number that you can call and on either of those routes you’ll be able to state your preferences, whether you don’t have family, friends, neighbors close by, people who could support you, whether you need this service and at that point you’ll be asked what your preferences would be in terms of dietary requirements, medical conditions and so on, which will then guide us to provide the parcel to you.
Robert Jenrick: (43:05)
In the first instance, the product’s going to be free paid for by the Exchequer for simplicity. If over time we’re able to refine it into a more sophisticated offer, which is more tailored to individual’s needs and we’re working with supermarkets to see if that is possible in time, then it may be a different arrangement. But to begin with it’s going to be free to ensure that people who really need it get the supplies as soon as possible.
Boris Johnson: (43:30)
Thanks. I just want to wrap up because we’re going back over this debate that we’ve been having about about public space, open space and how to handle it. Because I think I want get back to the point I was making at the very beginning, which is I want to fight the vast majority of people who are really behaving incredibly responsibly and following the guidance and the advice on social distancing.
Boris Johnson: (43:53)
And the difficulty, of course, is that what’s happening is that some people have either through heedlessness or whatever are not making it easy for us because they are, as Jenny says, congregating in a way that is likely to spread the disease. So, we have to think very carefully now about how we take steps to correct that. And as I’ve said, we will be thinking actively over the next few days. But the best thing that everybody can do, if you’re going outside, observe social distancing. Stay two meters apart. It’s not such a difficult thing. Do it. And we say generally to people, “Stay at home.” That is the best way to protect the NHS. That is the best way. If you possibly can stay at home, that’s the best way to save potentially many, many thousands of lives.
Boris Johnson: (44:49)
And the more we comply now, with what Jenny and others have been saying, then the faster we will beat it and the faster we will get through it. That’s not the first time you’ve heard me say it, but it is absolutely true.
Boris Johnson: (45:07)
Thank you all very much. See you next time. Thank you.