Jul 31, 2020

United Kingdom Boris Johnson Coronavirus Briefing Transcript July 31

United Kingdom Boris Johnson Coronavirus Briefing Transcript July 31
RevBlogTranscriptsPress Conference TranscriptsUnited Kingdom Boris Johnson Coronavirus Briefing Transcript July 31

British officials held a coronavirus press conference on July 31. Prime Minister Boris Johnson postponed the easing of lockdown measures in the UK. Full news conference speech here.

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Boris Johnson: (00:03)
Good afternoon. Two weeks ago, I updated you from this podium on the progress we had made as a country in our fight against coronavirus. In many ways, that progress continues. The number of patients admitted to hospitals is still falling. It now stands at just over 100 each day. In April, there were more than 3,000 coronavirus patients in mechanical ventilation beds, but now the latest figure is 87. The number of deaths continues to fall. Although one is too, many that is obviously encouraging.

Boris Johnson: (00:38)
But I’ve also consistently warned that this virus could come back and that we would not hesitate to take swift and decisive action as required. I’m afraid that in parts of Asia and Latin America, the virus is gathering pace. Some of our European friends are also struggling to keep it under control. As we see these rises around the world, we can’t fool ourselves that we are exempt. We must be willing to react to the first signs of trouble. Today, the weekly survey by the Office for National Statistics reports that the prevalence of the virus in the community in England is likely to be rising for the first time since May. Around one in 1,500 now have the virus, compared to one in 1,800 on the 15th of July and one in 2,000 on the 2nd of July. The ONS also estimate that there are now 4,900 new infections every day, up from around 3,000 per day on the 14th of July and 2,000 per day at the end of June.

Boris Johnson: (01:43)
We just can’t afford to ignore this evidence. It’s vital to stress, of course, that we are in a far better position to keep the virus under control now than we were at the start of the pandemic, because we know so much more about the virus. We have so many more tools at our disposal to deal with it. Our testing capacity has increased a hundred fold. We have a contact tracing system up and running, which has led to over 184,000 people isolating or who may otherwise have spread the virus. It’s capable of tracing thousands of contacts every day. We’ve secured billions of items of PPE to withstand the new demands on hospitals and care homes. Of course, we have new treatments pioneered in this country, like dexamethazone, remdesivir to shorten recovery times and reduce mortality rates.

Boris Johnson: (02:37)
But as I say, we cannot be complacent. I won’t stand by and allow of this virus to threaten to cause more pain and more heartache in our country. That’s why last night the Health Secretary announced new restrictions on household contact in the Northwest, specifically greater Manchester and in parts of East Lancashire and West Yorkshire. These are targeted measures on the social contact between households, which the data tells us is driving the current increase in cases. Businesses and workplaces should continue as before in those areas. I know how hard it is to have restrictions like this imposed on seeing your family and your friends. But we have to act rapidly in order to protect those we love. We know this sort of intervention works. Measures taken in Leicester and Luton have suppressed the virus and allowed us to relax measures.

Boris Johnson: (03:36)
Even as we act locally, it’s also my responsibility to look again at the measures we have in place nationally in the light of the data that we’re seeing about incidents. You all know that every point I have said our plan to reopen the society and the economy is conditional, that it relies on continued progress against the virus, and we would not hesitate to put the brakes on if required. With those numbers creeping up, our assessment is that we should now squeeze that brake pedal in order to keep the virus under control. On Saturday the first of August, you’ll remember we had hoped to reopen in England a number of the higher risks settings that had remained closed.

Boris Johnson: (04:26)
Today, I’m afraid of what the spring, those changes for at least a fortnight. That means until the 15th of August at the earliest, casinos, bowling alleys, skating rinks, and the remaining close contact services must remain closed. Indoor performances will not resume. Pilots of larger crowds and sports venues and conference centers will not take place. Wedding receptions of up to 30 people will not be committed, but ceremonies of course can continue to take place in line with COVID secure guidelines. I know that the steps that we’re taking will be a real blow to many people, to everyone, obviously, whose wedding plans have been disrupted or who cannot know and celebrate Eid in the way that they would wish. I’m really, really sorry about that. But we simply cannot take the risk. We will, of course, study the data carefully and move forward with our intention to open up as soon as we possibly can.

Boris Johnson: (05:26)
Two weeks ago, I also said that from tomorrow, the government would give employers more discretion over how employees can work safely, whether by continuing to work from home or attending a COVID secure workplace. We know that employers have gone to huge lengths to make workplaces safe, so that guidance remains unchanged. We also said that we would pause shielding nationally from the 1st of August, based on clinical advice. That national pause will proceed as planned and our medical experts will be explaining more about that decision and about the shielded group later today.

Boris Johnson: (06:09)
Most people in this country are following the rules and doing their best to control the virus. But we must keep our discipline and our focus and we cannot be complacent. I’ve asked the Home Secretary to work with the police and others to ensure the rules, which are already in place, are properly enforced. That means local authorities acting to close down premises and cancel events, which are not following COVID secure guidance, and it means a greater police presence to ensure face coverings are being worn where this is required by law. We will also extend the requirement to wear a face covering to other indoor settings where you’re likely to come into contact with people you do not normally meet, such as museums, galleries, cinemas, and places of worship. We now recommend face coverings are worn in these settings, and this will become enforceable in law from the 8th of August.

Boris Johnson: (07:08)
At this stage, we’re not changing the rules on social contact nationally. I don’t want to tell people to spend less time with their friends. But unless people follow the rules and behave safely, we may need to go further. Two weeks ago, I said we would hope for the best but plan for the worst. And of course, we continue to hope for the best. But the way to get there and to achieve that optimum outcome is if we all follow the rules, wash our hands, cover off faces, keep our distance, and get a test if we have symptoms so that NHS testing trace can keep the virus under control. That is how we will avoid any return to a full national lockdown.

Boris Johnson: (07:59)
We’ve made huge progress together. I know we’re going to succeed and I know we’re going to beat this if each and every one of us continues to play our part. I’ll know handover to Chris Whitty. Chris has nothing to add to that. But I’ll now them go straight to the media. I think we’re going to go to … Is it Sam Coates of Sky. Let’s go to Sam Coates of Sky. Sam.

Sam Coates: (08:30)
Thank you, Prime Minister. You’ve just described how the virus is dramatically on the march, but also how you’re going to go ahead with Gilligan’s changes tomorrow that lift lock down some more to encourage employees to get back to work, and say that the most vulnerable can’t tell their employees that they’re shielding. Do you really still want people to go back to the workplace in August and people back to school in September or do you think that curving people’s social life will be enough? Are you not risking a trade off between lies and livelihoods?

Sam Coates: (09:05)
And Professor Whitty, after what we’ve seen, could people still get back to work in the coming weeks and back to school in September?

Boris Johnson: (09:12)
Well, thanks very much, Sam. I want to stress that what we’re what we’re introducing today in in the Northwest should not be characterized as a return to lock down. I know that many people will feel that it’s disruptive and intrusive on their lives, but it’s really a return to some of the social distancing measures that we’ve seen before. In many ways, things remain opened up in across the country. Your basic point is a very good one about the trade offs that we’re looking at here.

Boris Johnson: (09:45)
What I would say to you, is I do believe that getting our children back into school on the 1st of September or 11th of August they’re going back in Scotland. I think that’s a good thing. That should be a national priority. That should be something that we aim to deliver. It’s the right thing for children. They can be educated in a safe and a COVID secure way. We should be getting in the back of school. What we will continue to do, obviously, is institute local lock downs in order to stop the virus on getting out of control. hat’s, why we’re taking the measures that we are.

Boris Johnson: (10:20)
The best thing we can all do to stop the spread of the virus is just the things that I’ve already mentioned. Wash your hands, cover your face where necessary, keep your distance hand space, space, plus get a test if you have symptoms, and self isolate. That’s the way we’re going to beat. Chris, anything you want to add on the shielding thing, Chris-

Chris Whitty: (10:46)
I’ll talk about shielding and also the question you addressed to me directly. I think we’ve all known that what we’ve got to try and do is get to the absolute edge of what we can do in terms of opening up the society and the economy without getting to the point where the virus starts to take off again. Because if you do too much in terms of opening up the virus, we’ll come back. Obviously, if we do too little, big impacts on society, big impacts in terms of increasing all the effects of unemployment and all the things that go with that. It is a very, very difficult balancing act.

Chris Whitty: (11:22)
I think what we’re seeing from the data from ONS and other data is that we have probably reached near the limits or the limits of what we can do in terms of opening up society. What that means, potentially, is if we wish to do more things in the future, we may have to do less of some other things. These will be difficult to trade offs, some of which will be decisions of government and some of which are for all of us as citizens to do. But we have to be realistic about this. The idea that we can open up everything and keep the virus under control is clearly wrong. What we’re seeing is that we are at the outer edge of what we can do and therefore choices will need to be made. But people, I think, are very clear for example, that schools are an absolute priority for the welfare of children.

Boris Johnson: (12:07)
Thanks very much, Chris. And thanks, Sam. Paul Brown of ITV.

Paul Brown: (12:12)
Thank you. Prime Minister. We’re here in the Northwest where there was a lot of confusion last night about a change in the measures. As the rules become more complex, haven’t you got to get better at explaining them? And to the Chief Medical Officer, do you think that this is the beginning of the second wave?

Boris Johnson: (12:30)
Thanks so much, Paul. Look, I’m going to put my hands up immediately and say, “Of course, we’ve got to make sure that we explain things as crispy and as clearly as we can.” But Paul just so everybody understands, what we’ve got is a virus that yes, as I said earlier on we’ve got some drugs that are not good at treating, dexamethazone, remdesivir. But we don’t get had a vaccine.

Boris Johnson: (12:52)
The only real utensil we have for controlling the spread of this new virus is human behavior. The only way we can encourage people to behave in one way or the other is through advice. You’re totally right that we need to keep it as simple as we possibly can. To sum it up in a nutshell, it’s hand space, space, wash your hands, cover your face in the settings that we’ve mentioned, and keep your distance from other people where you don’t know them or you’re coming to contact with them for the first time, and of course get a test and self isolate if you have symptoms.

Boris Johnson: (13:32)
I hope that was pretty punchy, I think. Hand space, space, and get a test. I think everybody can more or less remember that. That’s what we’re asking everybody to do. Chris?

Chris Whitty: (13:43)
I don’t think it’s probably sensible to think about this as a second wave that’s somehow traveling around the world. Those things do happen with some epidemics. Rather, this is a situation where if we go beyond a certain point in terms of people getting together, linking up households, the rates of this virus will start to increase. We have probably reached the limits of that. If people continue to increase the number of people they meet, increase the social interactions they have, then the virus rate will go up absolutely inevitably.

Chris Whitty: (14:17)
This is really within our hands, as society, as to how we’re going to respond to this. We either say we’ve actually probably taken it to the limit. We’ve got to stop now. We may have to pull it back a bit, in fact, to keep this under control. Or we do not. If we do pull back, then we should be able to hold the line. If we do not pull back and we start having further interactions, then we can expect to see an increase in cases with all the consequences that go with that.

Boris Johnson: (14:47)
Thanks very much, Chris and thank you, Paul. Let’s go to Leila Nathoo the BBC.

Leila Nathoo: (14:55)
Thank you, Prime Minister. When you last stood here, you talked about a plan for a significant return to normality by Christmas. Now we’re talking about a rise in infections. How worried are you that this is going to turn into a surge? Why is it that we find ourselves in this position? Because the government’s message has been unclear and inconsistent, or are we all to blame? And just another one if I may, including to professor Whitty, did we move too fast with the loosening of restrictions?

Boris Johnson: (15:24)
Well, thanks very much, Leila. Let’s be clear. I’ve said throughout the pandemic that there would be fresh outbreaks. I think from May, I think I said when we set out our plan I said, we would not hesitate to put on the brakes at the slightest sign that the numbers were going in the wrong direction. We’re now seeing a warning light on the dashboard. It is right to respond in the way that we are. And as Chris has rightly said, the answer lies with all of us following that guidance and doing the right thing. I’m going to repeat it. Hands, face, space, get a test. If we do that, I’ve got absolutely no doubt that we will continue to bring it down.

Boris Johnson: (16:14)
It was very telling that in Leicester, in Luton, in many other places around the country where they’ve had an outbreak, they put in place measures, they’d got on top of it, they got touch, they’ve asked people to self isolate. That is working. You’re seeing the incidents come down again. That’s how we get back to as close to normal as possible. As I said two weeks ago, it’s by maintaining discipline and maintaining focus. Hands, face, space, get a test.

Chris Whitty: (16:48)
In terms of whether it was too fast, every society is having to test how fast we can open up. There are clearly big disadvantages to opening things up in the winter months where everything is against us. They benefit the virus and they disadvantage the health service and the NHS specifically. I think what has clearly happened is the Minister has decided to go in a very staged way and that’s allowed stopping things if the system does not allow. That’s what’s happening today. That’s what the Prime Minister has just announced, is actually by going in stages you can stop at certain points and say, “Actually, this is a perfectly sensible thing to think about. But looking at the data now, this does not look like a sensible step to take at this point in time.”

Boris Johnson: (17:30)
Thanks very much Leila and thank you, Chris. John Stevens, Daily Mail.

John Stevens: (17:36)
Thank you, Prime Minister. You said that we still want more workers to return to the office from the start of August. But after warnings about a second wave and these latest restrictions, some people who might be feeling slightly apprehensive. What’s your message to them? And quickly, what are your own plans for the summer?

Boris Johnson: (17:55)
Well, John, I will say I will be working flat out, as you can imagine. Though I may allow a brief stay-cation to creep into the agenda if that’s possible. But on the point about what should people do and the message for employees or our workforce in the country. It’s what you and I have discussed before. I want to see people discussing with their employers whether they can work from home. Lots of people can work from that. A lot of people discover that it does work. But if employers think and then employees think that actually to be productive, you need to be at your place of work then that’s a very, very important consideration. It is safe to get into a COVID secure workplace. People should understand that and that is our guidance.

Chris Whitty: (18:46)
But I think we should just be really grateful that huge numbers of employers have put in an awful lot of effort into trying to make workplaces COVID secure. It is absolutely essential that everybody does that. But the great majority are. Then when that happens, people stick to the guidance and the rules they’re given.

Boris Johnson: (19:05)
John, it goes without saying that if people feel that their work place isn’t secure, then the HSC, the Health and Safety is there to enforce it, is there to … If employers don’t keep their work places COVID secure, then that’s a matter that can be enforced in law. We will come down hard on people who are not doing the right thing. But as Chris says the businesses, firms in our country have done a fantastic job of adapting to COVID and will continue to do so.

Boris Johnson: (19:35)
Thanks very much. Harry Cole of the Sun.

Harry Cole: (19:39)
Thank you, Prime Minister. Thousands of our readers have had their European holidays ruined this summer. And now with the Southwest having a similar rates as the Northwest, are stay-cations in doubts? What’s your message to people who are scared about possibly traveling around this country, spreading the virus, or catching it? Have you just canceled summer?

Boris Johnson: (20:00)
No, Harry. I didn’t think so. I would encouraged people still to think of wonderful stay-cations here in the UK. There are all sorts of fantastic destinations, the best in the world, I would say. All my happiest memories are of holiday vacations here in the UK back in [inaudible 00:20:23] or whatever. I thoroughly, thoroughly recommend it. I’m sure that people will have a great time over the summer. Thank you. Let’s go to Rob Parsons of the Yorkshire Post.

Rob Parsons: (20:40)
Hello, Prime Minister. A conservative MP in one of the affected area of West Yorkshire says local BAME communities are not taking this seriously enough and that until people take it seriously, we’re not going to get rid of this pandemic. Do you agree with him on that point?

Rob Parsons: (20:56)
And on a separate topic, given all the problems in care homes, if there was a big upturn in cases and hospital admissions over the winter either in Northern England or elsewhere, can you provide an absolute guarantee that no one will be discharged from a hospital to a care home or their own home if they are positive for COVID, which would obviously mean all patients being tested before they’re discharged?

Chris Whitty: (21:20)
Yes. Thanks, Rob. On, the second point. Absolutely. As well as I know, we’ll make sure that there are no discharges into care homes of people who test positive. We will be testing everybody in both asymptomatically and otherwise in care homes, as you know.

Chris Whitty: (21:39)
But on your first point about are certain communities responding enough to the guidance. Well, I think it’s up to all of us in government to make sure that the message is being heard loud and clear by everybody across the country, and to make sure that everybody is complying with the guidance. A huge amount of effort is now going into that. I want to thank all the community leaders. I want to thank everybody, the mosques who have worked so hard with us to get messages across, all faith leaders, and other communities getting that message across throughout society.

Chris Whitty: (22:24)
But ultimately, it’s up to everybody. It’s up to the whole country to get this right and to do it together. You know what my message is going to be. It’s hands, face, space, and get a test if you have symptoms, and self isolate. If everybody does that, we will find this thing much, much easier to defeat. And we will defeat it. It’s by working together collectively that we will get this done.

Chris Whitty: (22:59)
Chris, anything to add to that? Listen, thank you all very much indeed. Hands, face, space, get a test, self isolate if you have symptoms. Thanks very much. I think I repeated that often enough. Good.