Mar 29, 2020

Transcript: British Officials Give Coronavirus Updates on March 29

British Coronavirus Update March 29
RevBlogTranscriptsPress Conference TranscriptsTranscript: British Officials Give Coronavirus Updates on March 29

In the absence of Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who has tested positive for COVID-19, British officials Robert Jenrick and Jenny Paris spoke to the press on March 29. They gave updates on the coronavirus threat to the United Kingdom and efforts to combat the virus. Full transcript here.

 

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Robert Jenrick: (00:00)
… All the emergency services, the police, the fire service, the ambulance service, with local authorities and the NHS to lead communities through this challenging period. From Cornwall to Cumbria, we’ve embedded within each of these groups members of the armed forces, including some of the finest military planners in the world. These groups are planning the local response to the virus using their expertise, their judgment and their leadership to ensure a comprehensive, a coordinated, and a consistent response across the country. Now, one issue that they have been helping us to coordinate and about which I know there is a lot of concern is the provision of personal protection equipment. We simply cannot and should not ask people to be on the front line without the right protective equipment. We have a clear plan to ensure that those serving this country at this time have the right equipment. We’ve established a national supply distribution response team, and they’re supported now by members of the armed forces and other emergency services who are working around the clock to deliver the equipment to the people who need it most.

Robert Jenrick: (01:33)
170 million masks, 42.8 million gloves, 13.7 million aprons, 182,000 gowns, almost 10 million items of cleaning equipment, and 2.3 million pairs of eye protectors, all delivered to 58,000 NHS trusts and healthcare settings, including GP surgeries, pharmacists and community providers. Every single GP practice, dental practice and community pharmacy has had a PPE delivery. All care homes, hospices and home care providers have or will shortly receive a delivery. To NHS and social care workers, all those who rely on this equipment and to their families and loved ones watching this afternoon, we understand. And we will not stop until we have got you the equipment that you need. Now, last weekend at this press conference, the prime minister and I explained why 1.5 million people who are extremely vulnerable to the virus due to the underlying health conditions needed to stay at home for a period of 12 weeks, and avoid face to face contact.

Robert Jenrick: (03:12)
Since then, the NHS have written to almost a million of these people and outlined the steps that they need to take to protect themselves. We’ve also established a dedicated webpage on gov.uk which those in receipt of the letter should go to to let us know whether or not they need further assistance over the course of the next 12 weeks. There’s also a new phone number which is on the letter they have or will receive shortly. Now, if this applies to you, I know that you will find this a very worrying time. You’ll be thinking about how you can continue to access the medicine that you need, how you can get the food and other essential supplies that you rely on. If you don’t have family or friends or neighbors nearby who you can rely on, then the NHS will deliver your medicines through the community pharmacy network.

Robert Jenrick: (04:14)
If you register online or using the phone service that we’ve set up letting us know that you need support, then we will deliver food and supplies to your doorstep. And this weekend I saw for myself firsthand the first deliveries being made. The packages included, cereal, fruit, tinned goods, teabags, biscuits, toiletries and other essentials. The first 50,000 will have been sent out by the end of this week, and we’re ramping up production to send out as many as are required for as long as it takes. If this applies to you, while you will now have to be at home for a prolonged period of time and that will be difficult, I want you to know that you are not alone. We’re here to support you for as long as you need us. We’ve all been hugely impressed by the commitment and the dedication of those working in social care in local councils delivering essential public services, like ensuring that the bins continue to get collected.

Robert Jenrick: (05:34)
None more so than me as the secretary of state for local government. We all respect the 12,000 heroic former doctors and nurses and paramedics who have come back to work and being deployed this weekend. And I think we’ve all been moved by the number of people who’ve signed up to be one of the NHS voluntary responders. Today we can announce an extraordinary three quarters of a million people have signed up to do that. In every city, in every town, in every village there’s going to be work to be done, and in each of us there is the power to do it, and so please take part, please play your part, please consider your friends, your family, your neighbors when you’re shopping. Please call the elderly and support them. When this is done, and it will be done. We all want to be proud of the part that we’ve played together. Thank you very much. And now I will answer some questions from the media, and I think the first question today is from Simon Israel from Channel Four news. Good afternoon Simon.

Simon Israel: (06:58)
Good afternoon minister. I have two questions. One for you and one for Dr. Paris. My question to you is 10 days ago the prime minister predicted the tide would be turned in 12 weeks. What’s the current forecast? And to Dr. Paris, I want to ask a message sent to staff today at King’s Hospital Trust said, and I quote, “The number of deaths being reported at Kings in national figures is below what they are experiencing.” This is not just Kings, there are a number of other trusts and the center has been made aware. Are … At what point are we being given accurate up to date figures on the numbers who have died?

Robert Jenrick: (07:43)
Well, thank you Simon. If I can begin before handing over to Jenny, nobody’s pretending that this will be over in a few weeks. But what the prime minister said in the past, and I will reiterate today, is that if we all play our part, if we all follow the very clear medical advice, then we can turn the tide of this virus. And at the heart of that is a very simple message, which is to stay at home. By doing so, protect the NHS and then save lives. If we follow that advice, then we can turn the tide, and the more we adhere to that advice, the more lives will be saved and the faster we’ll begin to do that. Jenny?

Jenny Paris: (08:29)
Thank you. So just picking up the point about the tide and the turning, I think this is an important message to get across to the public. As I said previously on a number of these interviews, this is a bit of a moving feast which is dependent on the actions that we take as individuals and collectively as a population. If we practice social distancing effectively, we will move the peak across, and that is a good thing because as we move it, it will drop. So we need to keep practicing. The data that we have the modeling going forward will suggest that in the time period which the … Sorry, the prime minister noted, which was 12 weeks, we would get on top of the virus, and that is exactly what I hope we will do. The proof of that will come in around two to three weeks.

Jenny Paris: (09:22)
That is because our most constant figures, and we’ll come back to this in a moment, are the deaths, and the deaths follow the numbers of infections. And where it’s usually a two or three week time lag, and we also need a lag for the effectiveness of the intervention measures to come through. So what I keep saying frequently, and I’m sorry if I’m repetitive, is that we need to wait for two to three weeks to see what we have achieved collectively. And then the slope of that curve will start to indicate where a new peak will be. But we’re optimistic that that peak will be lower. So we need to keep looking at this, but it will be two to three weeks before we are-

Jenny Paris: (10:03)
We need to keep looking at this, but it will be two to three weeks before we are clear whether the peak has shifted across or not. I think that was the first question. The second one that you raised was around deaths. Clearly every death that we have is a really sad event. It involves the family and a lot of sadness. We have to make sure that when we’re reporting, the family is content and knows, and that all our data is absolutely accurate. For any event like this, whether it be COVID, whether it was Ebola, whatever it is, there is always a time lag for us to check and evaluate that the data across the system is linked. We do not want to be misreporting data and then having to correct it. The public would not have confidence if we were doing that, and as we have had sadly to register more deaths, that time period takes longer.

Jenny Paris: (10:55)
I’m not aware of the communication from [inaudible 00:00:58]. It may be that that’s gone back into the NHS. What I can say is all of our data links up and there is a time lag, and for the reporting yesterday, it would have been the deaths reported the previous day. So it is inevitable that there will be a time lag. This is not an issue of transparency. It’s an issue of ensuring that all of those family that need to know and all the parts of the system can consolidate the information and ensure it’s accurate for the public.

Robert Jenrick: (11:28)
Thank you, Jenny. I think that’s very clear. I’ll take the next question from [Pool 00:11:31] brand from ITV. Pool.

Speaker 2: (11:31)
Yeah. Thank you. Firstly to the deputy chief medical officer. Originally we were told that the lockdown measures would be for three weeks. Is it safe to now assume that they will go on for much longer than that? To the secretary of state, when will the government be making that reassessment so that people can plan their lives?

Jenny Paris: (11:52)
Shall I start with that one? I think if you look back what the prime minister said was he would review in three weeks and that actually links back to the point that I’ve just made. It would be foolish of us to start something one day and assume that it was going to have an impact the next. For all of us, it’s taken quite some time to get used to this new way of living to ensure that we practice social distancing and we stick to that. As a population we have evidence that we are getting better at that as we go through. People are staying at home more as they should, they’re using transport less. They’re only going to work when it’s essential. So those measures have now been in place solidly for a week or two. We need another couple of weeks to see that through, and as I’ve just mentioned earlier, the issue of the three weeks is for us to review where we are and see if we’ve had an impact jointly on the slope of that curve.

Jenny Paris: (12:44)
I think to make it clear to the public, if we are successful, we will have squashed the top of that curve, which is brilliant, but we must not then suddenly revert to our normal way of living. That would be quite dangerous. If we stop then all of our efforts will be wasted and we could potentially see a second peak. Over time, probably over the next six months we will have a three week review. We will see where we’re going. We need to keep that lid on and then gradually we will be able to hopefully adjust some of the social distancing measures and gradually get us all back to normal. I think three weeks for review, two or three months to see whether we’ve really squashed it, but about three to six months ideally and lots of uncertainty in that. But then to see at which point we can actually get back to normal, and it is plausible that it could go further than that. We just need to wait to see how successful we’ve been. Of course the bottom line is as we always say, keep practicing good social distancing. Because we will manage it quicker and better between us.

Robert Jenrick: (13:50)
Well absolutely. From the outset of this crisis we drew up the measures that could be implemented, and then on expert medical advice, we have chosen the right time for this country to implement them. We’ve taken a number of very significant steps on social distancing over the course of the last 10 days, as Jenny has just said. It is the nature of this virus that it takes a couple of weeks to see how effective each one of those in turn has been. When we’ve implemented them, we’ve said that we will review these in three weeks or so and when the prime minister made his announcement on Monday bringing to a close nonessential shops and encouraging us all to stay at home to restrict what we do in our leisure time, he made clear that we would review these steps at Easter on the basis of the expert medical opinion and that’s exactly what we intend to do.

Robert Jenrick: (14:48)
The evidence that I have seen suggests, as Jenny has said, that the public generally complying. I’ve spoken to a number of chief constables from across the country over the course of the last few days and business owners are behaving very responsibly. Of course, there are always small numbers of people who aren’t, but in general the public is doing the right thing. The more we comply, the more we will be able to protect the NHS to save people’s lives, and the faster we’ll turn the tide on the virus.

Robert Jenrick: (15:20)
If I could take the next question from David Shukman, who’s from the BBC. David, good afternoon.

David Shukman: (15:28)
Thank you very much indeed. The two questions, if I May, first Mr. Jenrick to you, the prime minister in his letter talks about leveling with the public about things getting worse before they get better. What do you think the coming week is going to look like, and then a question for Dr. Harris. We’ve had confirmation of the very sad death of an ENT surgeon, Amged El-Hawrani. What do you think that says? What message does that send to NHS staff on the front line?

Robert Jenrick: (15:58)
Well. Thank you very much David. Can I also give my deepest sympathies to the family of Dr. El-Hawrani? We heard the news just a few moments ago that he had very sadly passed away. With respect to your question, the prime minister has now written, or will be over the course of this week, to all the households in this country setting out very clearly the task that is before all of us. We see on the news the difficult scenes in other European countries, like Italy for example. The deaths that we are reporting daily and these press conferences are very sobering. Every death is a tragedy. We don’t want to see any unnecessary death.

Robert Jenrick: (16:42)
So what the prime minister has said to all of us in that letter is that we all have the power to influence the course of events with respect to this virus. If we want to protect people’s lives, if we want to help the NHS to be able to have the capacity to continue to perform the good quality public service that we all want it to do throughout the course of the virus, then we need to take heed of the medical advice. We do need to stay at home. By doing that, we’ll protect the NHS and we’ll help to save people’s lives. This is on all of us. We all have a responsibility to protect each other. We just need to follow the advice in the days and weeks ahead. Jenny.

Jenny Paris: (17:29)
Okay. Well, clearly you will not expect me as a medical professional to comment on an individual case. That would be normal practice, but equally as a medical professional, of course, I’m very saddened by the fact that one of our professional colleagues has passed away. It clearly is a worrying event. It’s worrying for the nation because it’s another death in our statistics. It’s another loss to a family, and it will be a loss to an NHS family as well. I think for NHS staff on the front line, and our caring staff, it’s not just in our health services, it’s all people who are battling against this virus, they will inevitably be concerned. Some of the work that we’re doing around communications and around personal protective equipment is to just try and ensure there is a common understanding between us of the support that is there for them.

Jenny Paris: (18:25)
It is in no one’s interests that we lose our colleagues on the front line and we really, really want to support them. The only thing I would say is though, clearly in a disease like this, which is affecting everybody, we just need to remember that it’s not just the NHS or just a family. We’re finding this right across the population. It will affect all of us. It will upset undoubtedly our colleagues in the NHS, excuse me, but we shouldn’t take that as any signal specific to their NHS. We do have some new guidance coming out for colleagues in the NHS shortly, and I’m hoping that will help to support them in their work on the front line.

Robert Jenrick: (19:09)
Thank you, Jenny, and the guidance that’s going to be published shortly will also apply to those working in other essential public services, for example, in social care, in local government and other settings, so that they can have the best possible advice as to the type of PPE that they need to continue to do their role safely in the days ahead. The next question I think is from Sam Lister from The Express. Sam.

Sam: (19:35)
Oh, thank you. If I could ask Dr. Harris first, I just want to be really clear about what you’ve said. Are you saying that come judgment day in two or three weeks time, if you’ve not seen the necessary changes that you require, the country realistically is facing lockdown for six months.

Sam: (19:54)
If I could ask the secretary of state, we’ve seen a number of police forces over the weekend set up hotlines where people can report concerns about-

Speaker 3: (20:02)
… where people can report concerns about the neighbors or the people they believe how flouted the rules. Would you encourage people to raise their concerns with these hotlines?

Jenny Paris: (20:13)
So I’ll start with that one. So I think just to be clear on what I have actually said, I don’t think I have said we will be in lockdown for six months, just to be clear. I also haven’t said we’ll definitely be in the best place possible until three weeks. The important thing is this is a moving target. If we do well, it moves forward and comes down and we manage all our care through our care, health and care systems sensibly in a controlled way. And that’s what we’re aiming for. The issue about the two to three weeks is there is a time lag between when somebody gets the disease and becomes symptomatic and potentially transmits it. And then very sadly for those people who become ill, they will be, usually are real for a period of time and then deteriorate in their health status.

Jenny Paris: (21:04)
And sadly, some of them will end up dying, and there are time periods for that. So one for how well we do our intervention, if we’ll stop shopping on Monday, we would not expect any of this data to change on Tuesday. We would expect to start seeing a footfall dropping over the first week, we would start to see new infections dropping over the next week and we would start to see deaths dropping over the following week. So the implication there is, and the prime minister’s letter is we actually anticipate that our numbers will get worse over the next week, possibly two, and then we are looking to see whether we have managed to push that curve down and we start to see a decline.

Jenny Paris: (21:46)
The issue about the timeframe is really important. So this is not to say we would be in complete lockdown for six months, but it means that as a nation, we have to be really, really responsible and keep doing what we’re all doing until we’re sure that we can gradually start lifting various interventions which are likely to be spaced based on the science and our data until we gradually come back to a normal way of living and that may mean that we have a few bumps on the way rather than the nice curves that you’ve seen in graphs in the media or on our charts.

Jenny Paris: (22:23)
It’s really important that we all do that together. We will not have succeeded until we get right to the end of this outbreak and we understand how the disease transmits. As we get more information in due course about the pattern of transmission, then we will have more insight into how to manage that tail end of it and we can provide more information then.

Robert Jenrick: (22:46)
Thanks Jenny. Well, as I said earlier, the measures that we’ve taken, which are very restrictive and not things that we’ve taken lightly, the evidence that we’ve seen so far suggests a high degree of compliance from members of the public. The scenes that we saw last weekend have by and large not being replicated this weekend. Police forces have reported very few instances of nonessential retailers remaining open against the rules. And so I think it’s very encouraging that people are increasingly taking this seriously and playing their part in helping us to protect the NHS and save lives as a result. Police forces have powers. They are able to enforce these measures. They can fine individuals and those fines can ratchet up for the very small number of people in society who repeatedly refuse to follow the measures and take the advice of the police. And that’s absolutely right. But we want to do this by consent. We want to do this with us all coming together in a national effort. And there’s a moral obligation on all of us to play our part, protect ourselves, but also protect others.

Robert Jenrick: (24:02)
And that’s regardless of your age. And there are many young people who feel that they are invincible. That isn’t correct. The virus affects all of us, but each of us has the ability to protect others. And so I really urge, once again, everybody to pay heed to adhere to the strong medical advice that we’ve all received to stay at home and where you do go out, do it in the manner that we’ve advised, respecting social distancing advice. And when you can’t work from home, try to work from home, but when you can’t do so, then go to work and at work, follow Public Health England’s guidance whilst you’re there as well so that together we can protect the country and begin to turn the tide.

Robert Jenrick: (24:52)
Now, I’ll come down to the last question, which is from Jack Blanchard from POLITICO. Jack, good afternoon.

Jack Blanchard: (25:00)
Thanks very much. A question for each of you please. First, Chief Medical Officer, we’ve seen very alarmingly large increases in the number of deaths over the last each of the last two or three days. Is that as you had expected or are the number of deaths increasing more quickly than you had hoped? And secretary of state, have you modeled more extreme social distancing measures? Should they be necessary? And can you give us an indication of where things might go if what we’re doing so far doesn’t prove to be enough.

Jenny Paris: (25:33)
So thank you for that Jack. Sadly, the answer is yes, it is as expected in many ways. It’s not an easy position to stand on a platform and say we expect a large number of people to die, but we have a pandemic on our hands and it is an unprecedented event for this generation in this country. I think it is because of where we are on the [inaudible 00:25:56] all the above, as I’ve said previously, applies. We are expecting that that number will increase for the next week or two, but then we anticipate that if we keep doing what we’re doing, and I can’t emphasize that we have to keep doing it, it’s no good just doing it for a few days and stopping, that we do anticipate that those numbers will start to drop.

Jenny Paris: (26:17)
The important thing about the number of deaths and it is a very sadly, an easy to count statistic if you like, and it’s quite difficult to translate what it means often to the public in terms of death rates. And there has been a huge amount of media written and reported on that, but it is a stable statistic, but it lags behind impressions on the rate of increase of infections. So we just need to watch it carefully, hold tight for a week or two, keep doing what we’re doing and then come back and ask me the question again and I think hopefully we’ll be on the way down a little bit.

Robert Jenrick: (27:00)
That’s right. Well, I think as Jenny said, the task for us all now as a country is to adhere to the social distancing measures that we’ve already announced. These are very significant moves, unprecedented in our peace time history. If we all follow those measures, then there’s every reason to believe that we can turn the tide on the virus and we’ll be able to protect the NHS and to save people’s lives. Of course, if those measures prove insufficient or if members of the public are not complying with them, then we will have to consider what further options are available to us. But that is not our intention. We hope and believe that these measures can be sufficient. But it will take, because of the nature of the virus, a couple of weeks as Jenny’s articulated, before we can see whether that’s truly happening.

Jenny Paris: (27:50)
And if I could just add to that just for reassurance because obviously we’ve talked a lot about the capacity of the NHS to manage the number of people flowing through. We have plenty of capacity in the NHS right now to manage people coming through the system. So those deaths represent, very sadly, individuals who have not been able to respond to the high quality care that the NHS has provided.

Robert Jenrick: (28:14)
Very good. Well, I think there’s… Sorry, I think there’s one further question please from Channel 5.

Kate Proctor: (28:25)
I think the further question is from Kate Proctor from The Guardian.

Robert Jenrick: (28:30)
Oh, sorry. I do apologize, Kate. Go ahead.

Kate Proctor: (28:31)
It’s okay.

Robert Jenrick: (28:32)
Hi, good evening?

Kate Proctor: (28:35)
Afternoon. Seeing the reports of Britt stranded abroad, he really, really wants to get back to the UK. And what can you tell us about the size and the scale of the repatriation package that you’re going to put together? Germany has put aside €50 million. Will Britain be putting together something on a similar scale and will you be using the RAF to bring people home? And if I may, Michael Gove this morning said that the UK haven’t got all the information that it needed from China to make some decisions earlier on in the coronavirus outbreak. Do you know what information was missing from decision making?

Robert Jenrick: (29:09)
Well, thank you Kate. Well, firstly, with respect to British citizens overseas, we have and take seriously our responsibility to protect our nationals wherever they are in the world. That’s a top priority for the government. And the foreign secretary has been working extremely hard with British missions all over the world to try to bring those citizens back to the UK. And he spent this weekend speaking with his counterparts in a range of countries where there are citizens who we want to get back safely to the UK as soon as possible.

Robert Jenrick: (29:40)
We’ve advised British citizens abroad to come back to the UK whilst there are still commercial flights available. That isn’t the case in all countries, but it is in many. We haven’t ruled out repatriation flights and we are doing those in some cases. There is a flight ongoing at the moment, for example, to Peru to bring back a group of British citizens who’ve been in a difficult situation there.

Robert Jenrick: (30:03)
If we need to do more steps of that kind in the days ahead, then we will of course do so. We want to get those British citizens back safely to the U.K. With respect to the international picture more generally, well the U.K. is leading the international efforts. This is a global pandemic and we want to play our part to the full. the prime minister has been speaking to his counterparts from the G7 and the G20 we are now the world’s leading country in offering funding to support vaccine research. Almost $500 million pounds we’ve offered and we will put more at the disposal of that very important mission if that’s required. And there may be more steps that we can do as an international community in the future and we want to be absolutely at the heart of that.

Robert Jenrick: (30:56)
Of course there will be lessons to be learned in the future about how we and other countries have responded to this virus. But the U.K., our government at the moment, is focused 100% on trying to save lives here. And that means putting in place the measures that we’ve discussed today. It means supporting the NHS and social care, shielding those vulnerable individuals for whom we’ve been providing food parcels beginning this weekend. And above all, for people listening this evening to this broadcast, it means each and every one of us in our own lives following the advice from Jenny and her colleagues. Stay at home, protect the NHS. And that is the way that we can all save lives and begin to turn the tide on the virus. So thank you, Jenny, for joining us this evening. And thank you very much indeed everybody for watching at home.