Nov 30, 2021

Boris Johnson UK Omicron Variant COVID Briefing Transcript

Boris Johnson UK Omicron Variant COVID Briefing Transcript
RevBlogTranscriptsBoris Johnson TranscriptsBoris Johnson UK Omicron Variant COVID Briefing Transcript

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson held a COVID-19 press conference on November 30, 2021 to address the new Omicron variant. Read the transcript of the full briefing here.

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Boris Johnson: (00:00)
Right now our best single defense against Omicron is to get vaccinated and to get boosted. If you’re boosted your immune response will be stronger. Yesterday, in addition to offering a second dose to all 12 to 15 year olds, the independent JCVI recommended that boosters should now be offered to everyone over 18 and that we halve the minimum gap between a second dose and a booster from six months to three months. That means that over 14 million more adults have now become eligible for a booster in England alone. I am here today with the health secretary Sajid Javid and Amanda Pritchard chief executive of NHS England to set out our plan to make this happen.

Boris Johnson: (00:50)
The target that we’ve set ourselves is to offer a booster to everyone eligible by the end of January. As with the first jabs, we’ll be working through people by age group, going down in five year bands because it’s vital that the older and the more clinically vulnerable get that added protection first. Even if you’ve had your second jab over three months ago and you are now eligible, please don’t book until the NHS says it’s your turn. We’ve already done almost 18 million boosters across the UK, but we’ve got millions more to do to protect the most vulnerable. Then we’ll move down the cohorts rapidly and working together with the Department of Administrations, we want to ramp up capacity across the whole United Kingdom to the levels we achieved in the previous vaccination effort.

Boris Johnson: (01:51)
We’re going to be throwing everything at it in order to ensure that everyone eligible is offered that booster in, as I say, just over two months. Across England we’ll have more than 1500 community pharmacy sites, vaccinating people near where you live. All of our sites will increase their capacity and will stand up extra hospital hubs on top of those already active. There’ll be temporary vaccination centers popping up like Christmas trees and will deploy at least 400 military personnel to assist the efforts of our NHS, alongside of course, the fantastic jabs army of volunteers.

Boris Johnson: (02:34)
I know the frustration that we all feel with this Omicron variant, the sense of exhaustion that we could be going through all this all over again, but today I want to stress this. Today, that’s the wrong thing to feel because today our position is and always will be immeasurably better than it was a year ago. What we’re doing is taking some proportionate precautionary measures while our scientists crack the Omicron code and while we get the added protection of those boosters into the arms of those who need them most. We’re going to get behind the men and women of our NHS who’ve saved so many lives on the frontline and run our vaccination program for a year, almost without a break as they have and who are going back into the breach yet again. I want to say on behalf of the entire country, a thank you to each and every one of them for their extraordinary efforts. The best way we can all show our gratitude is by doing our bit and stepping forward when our time comes to get that booster.

Boris Johnson: (03:48)
I’ve been waiting patiently for my moment to come. It’s happening on Thursday, I’m pleased to say. Whenever your turn comes, get your booster and ask your friends and your family to do the same. It’s time for another great British vaccination effort. We’ve done it before and we’re going to do it again and let’s not give this virus a second chance. Thank you very much. I’m going to hand over to Saj.

Sajid Javid: (04:17)
Thank you prime minister. A year ago this week, this country made headlines when we became the first nation in the western world to authorize a vaccine for COVID 19. This kicked off one of the greatest collective endeavors this nation has seen in peace time and think how far we’ve come since then. 115 million jabs right across the UK and a booster program that is expanding at a phenomenal pace. Today we’ve hit that milestone of 18 million booster doses across the UK and the daily number of jabs has gone up a third since the start of this month. Not only that, but we’ve delivered more booster doses than any other country with the exception of the USA and China and that is something that we can all be very proud of. I’d like to thank the NHS, the armed forces, the volunteers and everyone who’s done so much to make this program a success, as well as every single person that has come forward for their jab.

Sajid Javid: (05:21)
Thanks to you, we’ve made so much progress over the course of a year, that we have now weakened the link between cases and hospitalizations and deaths. This is the real world protection that our vaccination program provides. Boosters in particular pay a very huge part. The booster dose provides a much higher antibody response than the primary course, so it’s more important than ever that people step up and get protected. We’re now dealing of course, with this new variant, Omicron, which the world health organization said just yesterday, they said that it poses a very high global risk. There have now been 13 confirmed cases in England and also nine confirmed cases in Scotland. We expect to see these numbers rising over the next few days.

Sajid Javid: (06:21)
There’s a lot we don’t know of course and our scientists are working night and day to learn more about this new variant and what it means for our response. Our strategy is to buy the time we need to assess this new variant while doing everything we can to slow the spread of the virus and to strengthen our defenses. One important defense is antivirals. We’ve already secured hundreds of thousands of doses of two antivirals that have the potential to speed up recovery and to stop infections from progressing. Another, of course, is that vaccination program. It’s true that we don’t yet have a full picture of how our vaccines respond to this new variant, but although it’s possible for them to be less effective, it’s unlikely that they have no effectiveness against serious disease. The best way that we can strengthen our protective wall, is to get as many jabs in arms as possible.

Sajid Javid: (07:26)
I asked the JCVI, our independent expert advisors, to look urgently at our vaccination program in light of this new variant and as the prime minister just set out, we’ll be massively expanding booster doses in line with the JCVI advice. This includes halving the dose interval for booster jabs from six months to three months, expanding the booster doses to include all remaining adults aged 18 and above and offering booster doses for people who are immunosuppressed. I’d like to thank the JCVI for acting with such speed in response to this potential threat. This means we’re now able to put our booster program on steroids and protect even more people even more quickly. We’ve got the jabs thanks to the brilliant work of our vaccines task force, who’ve made sure that we’ve had a strong supply of vaccines all the way throughout this pandemic and today we are setting out our plan to get those jabs into arms and we’ll shortly be hearing a bit more from Amanda.

Sajid Javid: (08:33)
We’ve set some hugely ambitious targets and we’re asking a huge amount from the NHS, but I have no doubt that they will rise to the challenge just as they have done throughout this pandemic. I know that the developments of the past few days have been worrying for some people and what we’re seeing recently has brought back memories of the strain of the last winter, but although we can’t say with certainty, what lies ahead, we have one huge advantage that we didn’t have back then. Our vaccination program, which has already done so much to keep this virus at bay, but these defenses will only keep us safe if we use them. This is a national mission and we all have a role to play. If we want to give ourselves the best chance of a Christmas with our loved ones, the best thing we can all do is step up, roll up our sleeves and get protected when the time comes. I’ll now hand over to Amanda.

Amanda Pritchard: (09:39)
Thank you. Yesterday afternoon, the government accepted the JCVI recommendation to accelerate the NHS COVID 19 vaccination program, in response to the potential threat from the new Omicron variant. That’s why I am writing to the NHS setting out the steps we need to take to operationalize this new guidance. As we’ve just heard…

Amanda Pritchard: (10:03)
Operationalize this new guidance.

Amanda Pritchard: (10:03)
As we’ve just heard, JCVI have advised the gap between the second dose and the booster should be halved from six to three months. This means an additional 6.9 million over 40s will be newly eligible for a booster. They’ve also advised that those between the ages 18 and 39 are also now eligible at three months after that second dose, meaning that more than 7 million people in this age group will be eligible for a booster. And on top of this, again, as we’ve just heard, JCVI has recommended the introduction of fourth jabs for those who are most vulnerable because they’re undergoing chemotherapy or have other problems with their immune system.

Amanda Pritchard: (10:44)
The NHS COVID vaccination program was already in its most complex phase and staff are now working at breakneck speed to respond to this, the biggest change in eligibility since the program has launched. In line with JCV advice, we’ll be vaccinating the most vulnerable first and then opening up further, just as we did in those opening waves of the program.

Amanda Pritchard: (11:11)
So, while changes to the booking system protocols and patient group directive are put in place, we will continue to vaccinate the millions of people who were already for their top up jabs. The booking service will then open up to others in their 40s and older people who would previously have had to wait six months before moving then onto younger age groups.

Amanda Pritchard: (11:35)
So, if you are not already eligible, please do not contact the NHS. We will let you know when it’s your turn to take up the offer.

Amanda Pritchard: (11:46)
It is our intention to ensure that everyone eligible for a booster is given the chance to book one before the end of January. To make this happen, we will need to expand vaccination capacity right across the NHS. Hundreds of hospitals are, of course, already jabbing their own staff. We’re now asking them to vaccinate other local NHS workers, eligible patients and social care staff as well. Around 30 hospitals are already offering jabs to the public through the national booking service and dozens more will be coming online from early next week.

Amanda Pritchard: (12:24)
Our hardworking GPs, community pharmacists and their primary care colleagues have delivered the lion’s share of the vaccination so far. We’re looking at how we can help them to do even more jabs by cutting other burdens on them, to free up clinicians’ time and we will ensure that they are properly rewarded for their efforts, particularly when they take time to visit vulnerable housebound patients who can’t travel to vaccination sites.

Amanda Pritchard: (12:53)
So the payment for standard delivery of vaccinations will increase to 15 pounds a shot until the end of January. To increase capacity on Sundays when many community pharmacists are not usually open, we’ll offer an additional five pounds a shot, and to ensure we’re prioritizing the most vulnerable we’ll offer a 30 pound premium for vaccinations delivered to the housebound until the end of next month.

Amanda Pritchard: (13:18)
The CQC have agreed to continue their pause on routine inspections of general practice to help free up clinicians’ time. And we’re also looking at whether we can safely reduce or even eliminate the 15 minute wait after the jab is delivered, so we could potentially increase the number of people able to get jabs every day in smaller sites like pharmacies.

Amanda Pritchard: (13:40)
We now have nearly 3000 sites available across the country. That’s almost double the number that we had back in February. But to help make it quicker and easier to get a jab, local areas will also be using mobile vaccination units, which can allow people to get protected basically on their doorsteps.

Amanda Pritchard: (14:02)
So, these are the steps that I will be setting out to the NHS, but it can’t happen overnight, particularly given the other pressures facing NHS staff who are working extremely hard. They’re working hard to address the backlogs that have inevitably built up in less urgent care while hospitals cared for more than half a million people with COVID as inpatients and of course, many, many more in the community.

Amanda Pritchard: (14:29)
They’re working extremely hard to deal with a rebound in demand for urgent emergency care and, of course, they are working extremely hard to care today for those thousands of patients in hospital and in the community with COVID.

Amanda Pritchard: (14:44)
However, as the world faces this new threat, we can take confidence in what the NHS has achieved so far. Next week, we mark the first anniversary of the world’s first Pfizer COVID-19 jab delivered here in England by the NHS. One year on, the NHS COVID-19 vaccination program is closing in on a hundred million jabs administered in England. And since the booster campaign began just over 10 weeks ago in England, NHS staff have delivered over 15 million top up jabs. And NHS staff continue to go above and beyond to vaccinate people. Just this week during Storm Arwen, an NHS team delivered hundreds of booster vaccinations in North Yorkshire by candlelight.

Amanda Pritchard: (15:34)
Of course, the success of the NHS vaccination program has not been down to health service staff alone, but the result of a huge national effort. Since its launched, we’ve been supported in particular by our amazing volunteers and many other partners. As we launch a renewed drive to protect our country, we’re working with our colleagues at RVS and St. John to recruit tens of thousands more volunteers and from Monday, we’ll start to recruit to 10,000 paid vaccinator roles.

Amanda Pritchard: (16:07)
So if you are able to help, then please do apply or volunteer. Your help can help us protect more people and save more lives.

Amanda Pritchard: (16:17)
The NHS and the entire country are living through a once in a generation event, and we all have a role to play. I am confident that with public support, the can do spirit of the NHS will once again win through.

Amanda Pritchard: (16:32)
On behalf of all NHS staff, I would just like to thank everybody who’s taken up the offer of a jab and urge, again, everyone watching to keep up their enthusiasm for this program by accepting the invite for each of the jabs available to you when it’s your turn.

Boris Johnson: (16:50)
Thanks very much, Amanda, let’s go to questions from the public first. Alex from Surrey asks, “Given that the Omicron variant spreads more in crowded and unventilated spaces, why are you not expanding the face covering requirement to higher risk indoor settings, such as cinemas and theaters given these settings are of greater risk than shops and transportation?”

Boris Johnson: (17:07)
Well, Alex, thank you very much for that and that’s a question that’s been asked a lot in the why aren’t we doing face coverings all over the place? And the answer is that we’re trying to take a balanced and a proportionate approach, Alex, slowing down the spread of, of Omicron while we get to the bottom of the exact effect that it has. But, Sajid, do you want to add on that?

Sajid Javid: (17:33)
No, that’s right, PM, and of course, we keep all this under review, but we still don’t know enough about the variant to understand properly it’s spread compared to Delta. But as we learn more, we will certainly share that.

Boris Johnson: (17:47)
Thank you.

Boris Johnson: (17:48)
Tanith from Surrey asks, “Given the concerns of the Omicron variant being more highly transmissible and possibly bypassing the vaccines, what is the government doing to protect those designated as clinically extremely vulnerable, especially in those who are immunosuppressed in which the current vaccines do not have the same efficacy, as in say, a normal, healthy person who is not immunocompromised?” Saj, I think you touched on that earlier on.

Sajid Javid: (18:16)
Yeah, one thing I can certainly share with Tanith and all those listening is that the antivirals that we’ve procured, the way the antivirals work, the two I mentioned earlier, so we’ve got 730,000 courses already, one of them has already been approved by MHRA, our independent regulator. I think we are the first in the world to approve it, and because they work in a very different way to the vaccines, we are confident that they would provide a high degree of protection. And, of course, the priority for those antivirals will be those that are clinically extremely vulnerable.

Boris Johnson: (18:51)
Great. Thanks very much, Saj, and thank you, Tanith.

Boris Johnson: (18:54)
Let’s go to Vicky Young of BBC news. Vicky.

Vicky Young: (18:57)
Prime Minister, one of your top health advisors suggested this morning that we should all minimize our socializing over Christmas. Was she right to say that? Do you agree with her? Do you think that we should be canceling Christmas parties right now? And to Amanda Pritchard, can the NHS, we know there’s a lot of pressure, especially going into winter, can the NHS really cope with what is a massive expansion, really, of this vaccine program? And to the Secretary of State, what more can be done to persuade those who haven’t had any vaccines at all, we’re of course talking today a lot about the booster program, but we do know that particularly in hospitals, a large proportion of those there have not had any at all.

Boris Johnson: (19:35)
Thanks very much, Vicky. So the answer is no, the guidance remains the same and we’re trying to take a balanced and proportionate approach and as I explained on Saturday when talking for the first time to everybody about Omicron, we’re really dealing with two variants at the same time. We’ve got the measures in place to fight Delta, which we think are appropriate and then we’re bringing in some tougher measures to stop the seeding, the-

Boris Johnson: (20:03)
… Then we’re bringing in some tougher measures to stop the seeding, the rapid seeding of Omicron in this country, to give us the time we need to get the boosters in and of course, to find out more. Those measures, as you know, are the tough measures. The borders, the PCR test. When you arrive, quarantine until you’ve got a negative result, then tougher measures on masks, and then making sure that contact for anybody who comes into contact with an Omicron case also has to quarantine. We think that’s the right balance and we will keep it of course, under constant review.

Boris Johnson: (20:46)
I should say, of course, we’ve got tougher measures, even tougher measures for travel for those countries, for those 10 countries, that seem to have particular problems with Omicron.

Boris Johnson: (21:01)
Is that it? I think that was it. Good. Thank you.

Speaker 1: (21:05)
To Amanda about the NHS.

Boris Johnson: (21:06)
Oh, sorry. Go ahead. Sorry.

Amanda Pritchard: (21:08)
Thank you. So look, I think there is absolutely no doubt that this is the most complex part of the vaccine rollout program so far, and NHS staff have done, I think an incredible job. They’ve stepped up every time there’s been a change and responded magnificently through the whole of the past year as the program has expanded and changed. So I have absolutely no doubt that they will, again.

Amanda Pritchard: (21:35)
On winter, you are absolutely right to say there is significant pressure. I’ve mentioned some of the pressures on urgent emergency care, as well of course, as continuing to try and deal with some of the backlogs that were inevitably created across the last 18 months of the pandemic.

Amanda Pritchard: (21:52)
But whilst we are supporting them with that, we have said very consistently, we are expecting this to be a difficult winter. But last year, let’s not forget what they achieved, stood up to. The second massive increase in COVID cases, began that life saving vital rollout of the vaccine program, and of course dealt with all of the usual winter pressures as well.

Amanda Pritchard: (22:13)
So I think we can take great comfort from what the NHS has done over the last year and a half and certainly what I see across the NHS is a huge number of people pulling out absolutely all the stops to do the right thing for their patients.

Boris Johnson: (22:27)
Absolutely right. So Emily Morgan of ITV.

Emily Morgan: (22:30)
Prime Minister, should people be taking your advice, or the advice of one of your scientific advisors, who said we should be limiting unnecessary social contacts? Can you see why people are confused?

Emily Morgan: (22:40)
And to you, Amanda, even if you did 3.5 million booster jabs every single week, it would still take until mid-February, by my calculations, to get through all those who are eligible. How are you going to do it by the end of January?

Boris Johnson: (22:55)
Well, first of all, the guidance remains the same. That doesn’t mean that people shouldn’t take sensible precautions and everybody should continue for instance, to wash your hands and make sure that you have good ventilation and wear a mask when you are in a confined space with people you don’t normally meet.

Boris Johnson: (23:16)
What we’re doing is we’re toughening up the regulations in a specific ways that I’ve outlined to deal with Omicron and I think that’s the right approach. We’re taking a balanced under and a proportionate approach. But as I said, I think on Saturday, the most important thing is we still think that your best single of protection against all variances to get the booster and I’m still confident that this Christmas will be considerably better than last Christmas and that remains my view 48 hours later.

Emily Morgan: (23:56)
Do you want me-

Boris Johnson: (23:56)
Yes, Amanda, go on.

Amanda Pritchard: (23:59)
So look, thank you. It is our clear intention to ensure that everyone who is eligible, has a chance to book that booster by the end of January. In order to achieve that, I’ve set out a whole range of things we’re going to be doing. There’s no maximum to the number of jabs that we’re aspiring to give out week-on-week, but what we do need to recognize is this is going to build up over the next few weeks and inevitably there will be things that change and adapt as we go along, as has been the case all the way through the vaccination program. But the range of things that I’ve set out does mean that we have confidence as we stand, that we will be able to make sure that all of those people who are eligible will have that opportunity to book.

Boris Johnson: (24:42)
Great. Thanks. Ben Kentish, LBC.

Ben Kentish: (24:45)
Thank you. Amanda, just briefly to me, that target at by the end of January, you need about 30 million doses. Could you just confirm that there’s no issue with supply of the Pfizer and Moderna jabs when it comes to that?

Ben Kentish: (24:57)
Health secretary, if I could just ask you briefly about the restrictions that came in today. Governments in many European countries have advised their citizens to wear not just face coverings, but specific FFP2 or N95 medical grade masks, because they’re much better at protecting both the wearer and the people around them. As the rules of masks tighten today, would that be your advice to people here too?

Ben Kentish: (25:18)
And prime minister people could be forgiven this week for asking when this is all going to end? Obviously we know it’s not imminent and the Omicron variant raises a lot of uncertainty, but can you give people some hope that the day when we won’t have to wear masks, we won’t have to test or quarantine, when restrictions can be lifted, when that day may come, clearly there’s uncertainty. It’s been reported that government was planning initially for it to be potentially next March. Is that still the case or does Omicron set that back. Thank you.

Boris Johnson: (25:48)
Thank you. I think Amanda, your first.

Amanda Pritchard: (25:50)
Well, look. Thanks to the outstanding work of the vaccine task force, I am reassured that we absolutely do have the supply. we need.

Sajid Javid: (25:59)
On the face coverings, there’s already guidance on face coverings, including the types of face coverings that are recommended and we see no need to change that. I just want to touch if I may on Vicky’s question earlier on those that are unvaccinated. It’s right to point to that. There’s some five million people throughout the UK that haven’t even had one jab and they really are putting themselves in harm way, themselves in harm’s way and their loved ones and we really urge them to come forward.

Sajid Javid: (26:29)
It is right also, when you look at hospital admissions, that it’s a disproportionate number of people that haven’t been vaccinated. You’re sadly, for example, if you look at all the pregnant women that are in hospital because of COVID, almost every single one, almost every single one is unvaccinated. So it’s really important that people come forward and that evergreen offer of a vaccine, whether it’s for your first dose or your second dose, will always be there and we’re urging those people to come forward as well.

Boris Johnson: (26:54)
And Ben, on your question, the crucial thing, the $64 million question, or billion dollar question, whatever is, does this new variant beat the vaccines and does it beat… Particularly, does it beat the booster? As I’ve said over the last few days, we think that the chances are that the boosters will continue to give you protection against every variant, protection of some degree. That’s why it’s so absolutely vital to get the boosters but we need to check that. We can’t… This is what we think, but we need to check that and that’s why we’re waiting to see what the science tells us.

Boris Johnson: (27:41)
What I can certainly tell you is that the measures that we’ve put in place will not last a minute more than we think they are strictly necessary for the protection of public health.

Boris Johnson: (27:54)
Jason Groves, Daily Mail.

Jason Groves: (27:57)
Thanks. Mr. Javid, you said there’s now 13 cases. Do you think it’s likely that we are now seeing community transmission in England and the rest of the UK?

Jason Groves: (28:08)
Ms. Pritchard, could you tell us a little bit more about what the troops are going to be doing in this rollout? And you talked about a proportionate response, but we are seeing people responding to the news they’re seeing by canceling Christmas parties, scrapping nativity plays. Would you urge them to think again and get this in perspective?

Sajid Javid: (28:28)
First of all, on cases, the cases that we identified at the start of the weekend, they were all… We were able to confirm quickly that they were linked to travel to South Africa. They were also part of one sort of family cluster.

Sajid Javid: (28:42)
The recent cases that we’ve confirmed today, we haven’t. We are not able to say whether or not, at this point, we don’t know. We’re doing that work right now, at speed, to determine whether they all have a link to South Africa or not.

Sajid Javid: (28:55)
Is there likely to be community transmission? I think we have to be realistic. There is likely to be, as we’re seeing in other European countries and also, as I said earlier, that we would expect your crisis to rise, as we now actively look for cases, because now having identified the variant in our concerns around it, UKHSA’s actively looking back at anyone who’s traveled to South Africa over the last 10 days or so, and searching for these cases and taking action, of course if they find them.

Amanda Pritchard: (29:26)
Thank you. So the NHS has had brilliant support all the way through this program, whether that’s from volunteers or from the military, or partnership with a whole range of other community groups and local government. So, once again, we will be working with military in a range of ways, everything from can support the logistics through to actually providing jabs.

Amanda Pritchard: (29:48)
I would just use this, as I may, as another big plea for people, if they are interested in thinking about coming forward as a volunteer because the volunteer workforce was critical all through the whole of the last year and really will be again and I know that the incredibly dedicated…

Amanda Pritchard: (30:03)
… and really will be again. And I know that the incredibly dedicated staff who are working in the NHS really value the support that they get from that volunteer workforce and from those wider partners.

Boris Johnson: (30:12)
Thank you. Yes, and Jason, just on your point about Christmas parties and Nativity plays, we don’t want people to cancel such events. And we think that overwhelmingly the best thing for kids is to be in school, as I’ve said many times throughout this pandemic. What we’re doing is trying to take a balanced and proportionate approach to the particular risk that seems to be posed by Omicron, or certainly is posed by Omicron, are focused in particular on measures at the borders. And we think that’s the right way to go for the time being, until we know more and until we can get more boosters, as we’ve been saying, into people’s arms. Can we go to Jasmine Cameron-Chileshe of the FT, please?

Jasmine Cameron-Chileshe: (31:01)
I just have a couple of questions on the new restrictions.

Boris Johnson: (31:03)

Jasmine Cameron-Chileshe: (31:03)
So with the changes in the self-isolation rules, businesses in particular have warned of a second pandemic with potential disruption to staff and that sort of thing. Is that inevitable as cases rise? And is there anything you can say to reassure businesses? And just another point, the government has ruled out plan B, but can you confirm whether contingency measures are being placed, say for example, for work from home measures ahead of Christmas? And can you rule out local restrictions, for example, if there’s a surge of cases in one particular pocket of the country, for example?

Boris Johnson: (31:35)
Thanks very much, Jasmine. So just on the risks of going back to where we were in July of the so-called pandemic, I don’t think that is likely to happen in the sense that so far at least, the numbers of cases of Omicron are small, but we’ll have to see and we’ll have to keep that constantly under review. On the issue of you asked about local measures, I certainly think that we went around that a lot in the last year. And I think that we’ve settled pretty much on the view that, as far as you possibly can, moving together is the way to do it. And sorry, you had a middle question.

Jasmine Cameron-Chileshe: (32:29)
It was just that the government has ruled out plan B, but-

Boris Johnson: (32:32)
Oh, sorry. Thanks, Jasmine. We haven’t ruled out anything. I’ve got to tell you, I think another lockdown of the kind that we’ve had before is extremely unlikely. I’ll be up front with you about that, but we keep everything under constant review. In our fight against the Delta variant, we think that it’s basically been going our way or going the way that we planned. Although cases remain high or high-ish, you are seeing a decline in the numbers of admissions to hospital and a decline in the number of deaths. And that’s the crucial thing that we’ve been following. So at the moment, we see no cause to move to plan B. But as I’ve said to you many, many times before, we’ve got to keep that under review. But the measures we’re talking about to deal with Omicron are, as I’ve said, distinct. Last to [Joe Maze 00:33:39] of Bloomberg.

Jason Groves: (33:41)
Prime Minister, just to press on the work from home point, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland are all advising to work from home if people can. So what is your reasoning around the harms of working from home and why do those harms outweigh the public health benefits that could come from significantly producing transmission or potentially dangerous variants? And just briefly on migrants, how do you plan to mend the UK’s relationship with France? And when did you last speak to Emmanuel Macron about the crossings?

Boris Johnson: (34:09)
Thanks, Joe. So on your point about working from home, this is not something that we think currently is necessary for the reasons I gave to Jasmine. We’ve got a package of measures that we have in place to deal with the Delta variant, and that’s principally been rolling out the vaccine and it’s been working. And I repeat what I said just now about the numbers of deaths and hospitalizations coming down. We now have a particular issue to deal with the potential seeding of the new Omicron variant. And there, what we want to do is focus particularly on tough measures at the borders. We’re also doing something to stop transmission by reintroducing face masks in some settings. So continuing to advise them in other settings, but tightening the rules on face masks.

Boris Johnson: (35:13)
And the reason for not proceeding with plan B is we want to take an approach that is proportionate and balanced and suits the needs of the present risk. Of course, we will change things as necessary, but what we’re looking for is the first real reassurance that we need that the vaccines are efficacious against this variant. Even if the effectiveness is reduced, it’s still very important to know whether they’re effective or not. And in particular, we need to know quite how effective the boosters are. As I’ve said, we think there are good grounds for believing that the boosters will give you, under all circumstances, the protection that you need, considerable protection. That’s why the most important thing for everybody to do is go out and get your booster. And that’s the number one thing that people need to be doing. Thank you all very much.

Boris Johnson: (36:24)
Listen, I just want to say something, because nobody’s asked about it so far. I just want to say something about Storm Arwen and its effect on the north of the country. And I just want to say how I’m extremely sympathetic to everybody who’s suffered these power outages and it must be appalling. I think a million homes lost their electricity. 950,000 have seen that electricity now restored. But clearly, for 50,000 people, that is not good enough. And I want to reassure everybody that we’re working as hard as we can to get power back to those homes. All I can say is the gusts were going at 100 miles an hour, and talking to the people who operate the grid, they say that there was nothing that they could do about it. But we are doing everything we can to restore power, talking to Northern Powergrid and everybody else to get that fixed. And I appreciate it. It must be a very, very tough time for those homes that are currently without power. And I’m afraid that is all we have time for. Thank you all very much. Thank you.

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