Jun 3, 2020
United Kingdom Boris Johnson Coronavirus Briefing Transcript June 3
British officials held a coronavirus press conference on June 3. Prime Minister Boris Johnson said “many, many job losses” are “inevitable.” Full news conference speech here.
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Boris Johnson: (00:00)
Let me first run you through the latest data on our coronavirus response. 4,786,219 tests for coronavirus have now been carried out or posted out in the UK, including 171,829 tests yesterday. 279,856 people have tested positive, and that’s an increase of 1, 871 cases since yesterday. 7,485 people are in hospital with COVID-19 in the UK, down 16% from 8,921 this time last week. Sadly of those who tested positive for coronavirus across all settings, 39,728 have now died. That’s an increase of 359 fatalities since yesterday and once again we are with their families in mourning. Now that the rate of transmission in the UK has fallen significantly from its peak, we need to take steps to manage the flare ups and stop the virus from re-emerging. I want to update you on the progress we’re making on three fronts to prevent a second wave of infections that could overwhelm the NHS. First, we’ve set up NHS Test and Trace in order to identify, contain, and control the virus in the UK, thereby reducing its spread. As we move to the next stage of our fight against coronavirus, we’ll be able to replace national lockdowns with individual isolation and if necessary local action, where there are outbreaks. NHS Tests and Trace will be vital to controlling the spread of the virus. It’s how we will be able to protect our friends and family from infection and protect our NHS. It does this by identifying anyone who’s been in close contact with someone who’s tested positive, asking them to isolate for 14 days in order to avoid unknowingly infecting others. The system clearly relies on everyone playing their part. I want to stress again today, we need you to get a test if you have coronavirus symptoms, a high temperature, a new continuous cough, or a loss of taste or smell. There is plenty of capacity and everyone with symptoms is eligible. Everyone with symptoms. Please order a test from nhs.uk/coronavirus as soon as you develop symptoms.
Boris Johnson: (02:59)
We need you to isolate yourself if a contact tracer tells you that you have been in contact with someone who’s tested positive. NHS Test and Trace started operating a week ago and already thousands of people are isolating who wouldn’t have been doing so before this service was introduced. They are thereby protecting others and reducing the spread of the virus. While we’re going to all these efforts here in the UK to control the virus, we must also ensure we don’t reimport the virus from abroad.
Boris Johnson: (03:38)
The second action I want to update you on is the introduction of public health measures at the border. Today, the home secretary has brought forward the legislation needed to establish the new regime from Monday. I want to explain the reasons for introducing these measures now. When coronavirus started to spread around the world first from Wuhan and then from Northern Italy and other areas, we introduced enhanced monitoring at the border in an attempt to stop the virus from gaining a foothold in the UK.
Boris Johnson: (04:11)
These measures applied at various different times to arrivals from China, Japan, Iran, and Italy, and required people with symptoms traveling from those countries to self isolate for 14 days. However, once community transmission was widespread within the UK cases from abroad made up a tiny proportion of the total. At the same time, you’ll remember, international travel plummeted as countries around the world went into lockdown. As a result, measures at the border were halted because they made little difference at the time in our fight against the virus. Now that we’re getting the virus under control in the UK, there is a risk that cases from abroad begin once again to make up a greater proportion of overall cases.
Boris Johnson: (05:02)
We therefore need to take steps now to manage that risk of these imported cases, triggering a second peak. Just as we’re asking people already in the UK to isolate for 14 days when contacted by NHS Test and Trace, we’re also asking those arriving from abroad to isolate so that they don’t unknowingly spread the virus. There will be some exemptions for a limited number of people who need to cross the border such as those engaged directly in the fight against coronavirus or who provide essential services. We will review how the policy is working after three weeks. Of course we will explore the possibility of international travel corridors with countries that have low rates of infection, but only when the evidence shows that it is safe to do so.
Boris Johnson: (06:01)
The third point I want to make today is we need effective international action to reduce the impact of the virus across the globe. This is the moment really for humanity to unite in the fight against the disease. Health experts have warned that if coronavirus is left to spread in developing countries, that could lead to future ways of infection coming back and reaching the UK. While our amazing NHS has been there for everyone in this country who needs it, many developing countries have healthcare systems which are ill prepared to manage this pandemic.
Boris Johnson: (06:44)
To ensure that the world’s poorest countries have the support they need to slow the spread of the virus, tomorrow I will open the Global Vaccine Summit hosted by the UK and will bring together more than 50 countries and leading figures like Bill Gates to raise it at least $7.4 billion for Gavi, The Vaccine Alliance. Over the next five years, with the UK’s support as Gavi’s biggest donor, this vaccine alliance aims to immunize a further 300 million children in the poorest countries against deadly diseases like polio, typhoid, and measles. Again, saving millions of lives.
Boris Johnson: (07:26)
This support for routine immunizations will shore up poorer country’s healthcare systems to deal with coronavirus and to help to stop the global spread and as I say, prevent a second wave of the virus reaching the UK. This virus has shown how connected we are. We’re fighting an invisible enemy and no one is safe, frankly, until we’re all safe. Again, of course, this is all contingent upon each of us continuing to do our bit. As I never tire of telling you, let us not forget the basics. Wash your hands regularly and for 20 seconds. Wash your hands. Do not gather in groups of more than six outside. Always observe social distancing, keeping two meters apart from anyone outside your household. I want to stress one final point, which may be relevant today as the weather threatens I think to take a turn for the worse, some of you may be tempted to move the gatherings you’ve been enjoying outdoors indoors out of the rain.
Boris Johnson: (08:38)
I really urge you, don’t do that. We relaxed the rules on meeting outside for a very specific reason because the evidence shows that the risks of transmission a much lower outdoors. Much lower outdoors. The risks of passing on the virus is significantly higher indoors, which is why gatherings inside other people’s homes are still prohibited. Breaking these rules now could undermine and reverse all the progress that we’ve made together. I’ve no doubt that that won’t happen. I have no doubt that won’t happen. I think the British public will continue to show the same resolve in fighting the virus as they have throughout this outbreak. We will get through this. If we stay alert, control the virus and in doing so, save lives. And with that, I’ll now hand over to Patrick. Thank you.
Can I have the first slide please?
This is the slide of new cases. As you can see, there is a steady downward detection of new cases through testing. As of today, 1,871 to date. It’s worth noting though, that as I’ve said before, this is picking up those who are tested and what we estimate from the office for national statistics household survey is the true number will be higher than this. It could be somewhere around 8,000 a day. This reinforces the point that we need to make sure we’re picking up more people through testing to get closer to that number. The second thing to say is that because the [inaudible 00:10:22] stays relatively close to one, that means that this is not coming down fast. We have relatively large numbers still not coming down fast, and I’ll reiterate what I said last Thursday, that gives relatively little room for maneuver. It means we have to tread very cautiously as we go forward. But new cases are coming down. Next slide, please.
As we’ve seen previously, that’s reflected in admissions to hospital, also decreasing, a slide for England there. Of course, the number of people on mechanical ventilators in beds in hospital coming down across the four nations. But as you will see some variability with some ups and downs along the way. But everything moving in the right direction slowly, but with a long tail. And as I said, the number of cases remains relatively high, not coming down fast and they are quite close to one. Next slide, please.
Number of people in hospitals, of course also coming down. Again, sharper in some places than other in terms of the decline and with a relatively long tail, this will carry on for a little while longer, but the cases are coming down and as you would expect. Next slide, please. The number of deaths follows that pattern with again, and this is good to see a decrease, which is going coming day on day, but this also has this long tail. It’s not coming down as fast as we’d like it to come down. It’s likely to carry on for a bit longer. It’s worth reflecting that the people most affected by this have been the elderly, but also those from black, Asian minority ethnic groups, as highlighted in the public health England report and those with other risk factors, including other diseases, diabetes and so on.
We need to keep vigilant. The numbers are in the right direction. Things aren’t getting better. They are coming down, but we have to stick with the rules of distancing. We all have to do it. When we all do it, then we have a chance of getting this down further, which is what we need to do, especially over the summer before we then reach another period in the winter. We’re entering the winter with the lowest numbers we can possibly get would be the best thing to do.
Boris Johnson: (12:52)
Thanks very much, Patrick. We’ll go straight now to questions from the public, then the questions from the media. First to Amy from Brighton.
Boris Johnson: (13:00)
… From Brighton.
Speaker 2: (13:03)
Spain recorded no new deaths over the last two days despite a wide range of freedom across the country over the last three weeks, and new cases continue to fold. However, there has been no evidence of a second wave. Given this evidence, why is there concern over a second wave in it UK and how closely are the UK government liaison with the Spanish government?
Boris Johnson: (13:30)
Really excellent question, and obviously we’re learning everything we can from governments around the world, but I think probably I should defer to Patrick and Chris for comment on epidemiology in Spain.
It’s a great question and it’s fantastic news that numbers are coming down across Europe and have come down to low levels in Spain. It’s also the case that if you look in other countries, they are beginning to see outbreaks as measures are relaxed. That’s true. We’ve seen outbreaks reported in South Korea, there have been outbreaks reported in parts of Germany as measures have relaxed. And so what’s happened is that the first peak has been suppressed, and as the measures are released, there’s a danger that that comes back. There’s also a risk that there’s a second peak that comes as a wave goes across the world, so we’re not out of this yet. It is good news that as measures are being relaxed, people are generally seeing numbers continue to go down, and that is obviously what we would hope for here, that as the steps that are being taken cautiously and we’re measuring, that we will continue to see numbers going down. Chris, I don’t know if you want to add anything to that?
Chris Whitty: (14:41)
Boris Johnson: (14:42)
Thanks very much. Thanks. And a very important thought there, that there could be a second wave across the world as though the pandemic has its own kinetic force in itself. It’s possible there could just be a second pulse of this disease.
That is possible.
Chris Whitty: (15:01)
In fact that’s quite common. So quite often with new epidemics, you get more than one wave before they’re completed doing their bad work.
Boris Johnson: (15:09)
So all the more reason to keep going with the measures that we have. Can we go to Tony from Manchester. Tony from Manchester asks, “Myself and my husband are going back to work. Our children are not in the age groups to go back. What help is there for parents with no childcare options?” And all I can say, Tony, I really do understand how you feel. It must be very frustrating that you’re not in the group that are able to send their children back first. As everybody knows, it’s early years reception, year one, and year six. But we hope to get more primary school children back. As you know, year 10 and year 12 are going to get some contact with their teachers. The best we can do right now for you, Tony, is to keep supporting you through the [inaudible 00:16:09] scheme through the coronavirus job retention scheme, through all the ways that we’ve been trying to help families.
Boris Johnson: (16:17)
When it comes to specific childcare options, and what may be available, I think you really need to look at our coronavirus website and see what we’re doing to support specifically with childcare. But what we are doing is doing a huge amount to support families in terms of their income and their basically inability to go back to work. And as I said several times, obviously employers have to be reasonable, and if someone can’t get childcare, then that is clearly a reason for them not to be able to go back to work. But we want to do everything we can to help you with childcare if we can. Anyway, we’ll try and get more schools back in due course, but it is, I’m afraid, all conditional in making progress in fighting that virus. Let’s go to questions from journalists. Tom Burridge from the BBC.
Tom Burridge: (17:21)
Thank you very much Prime Minister. Should anyone be booking a holiday anywhere in Europe right now? What’s your assessment? Are holidays abroad this summer going to happen, and what do you say to someone who’s paid the deposit on their holiday and now has to decide whether they pay the full amount or cancel. And two questions to the scientists, please. Can you honestly look the British public in the eye and tell them that if a quarantine like this had have been put in place weeks ago, it would not have helped save lives? And also, did Sage recommend introducing these measures right now?
Boris Johnson: (18:04)
Right. Tom, first of all, I’m not going to give advice on individual’s travel arrangements, but you know what the foreign office guidance is. The guidance is everybody at the moment should avoid non-essential travel. Everybody should avoid non-essential travel. We’ve got to knock this virus on the head. In terms of the quarantine rules that we’re bringing in, the reason for doing that, as I said just now, is we want to stop the possibility of a reinfection from abroad. That’s a vital consideration as we get the disease done.
The Sage advice from the experts in this area is that the measures like this are most effective when the incidence, the number of cases in this country is very low, and they’re most effective when they’re applied to countries with higher rates. That’s the advice that was given from Sage, and that’s the advice that would have been true a few weeks ago, when obviously the levels were not very low here and the transmission within the community was the highest source of infection. So the recommendation that came from the science was that this measure of control is most effective for those times. Chris, what do you want to add?
Boris Johnson: (19:26)
Thanks very much, Tom. Let’s go to Beth Rigby of Sky News.
Beth Rigby: (19:29)
Thank you Prime Minister. Tens of thousands of people have gathered in central London, many outside number 10 Downing Street deeply upset and disturbed by the brutal killing of George Floyd. They don’t have the chance to speak to the President of the United States, but you do. What is your message to President Trump on their behalf? And a question to the scientists, please. I’ve got the coronavirus alert system right here, and it says a level four, transmission is high, and social distancing continues. And it says when we move to level three, there’s a gradual easing of restrictions. So I’m a bit confused. We’re at level four in terms of the alert level, but the relaxation of restrictions is already starting. Is that not a cause for concern?
Boris Johnson: (20:23)
Well first of all Beth, let me answer your question about George Floyd, and we mourn George Floyd, and I was appalled and sickened to see what happened to him. And my message to President Trump, to everybody in the United States from UK is that I don’t think racism or race, and it’s an opinion I’m sure is shared by the overwhelming majority of people around the world. Racism, racists, violence has no place in our society. And you mentioned the demonstrations, Beth. All I would say is I do think people have a right to protest, to make their feelings known about injustices such as what happened to George Floyd. I would urge people to protest peacefully and in accordance with the rules on social distancing. Everybody’s lives matter. Black lives matter, but we must fight this virus as well.
Chris Whitty: (21:21)
Shall I take the second one [inaudible 00:21:22]?
Boris Johnson: (21:22)
Chris Whitty: (21:23)
So there were two separate things, which I think people are getting conflated together. There’s the alert level, which is set independently, on the instruction minister’s independently, by the joint biosecurity center advising the four chief medical officers. And independently of that, and this is the thing that was linked to changes, were the five sets that ministers set that had to be met before changes could be made. And those included things like being sure that the NHS could everybody protected and seeing sustained downward movement in deaths. There were five of those. Alert levels were for a different purpose, and the point of the joint biosecurity center is very much to try and help us to map out in some detail across the UK over time, and it’s only just beginning, the hotspots and the areas of the UK where things are moving at a higher level than elsewhere.
Chris Whitty: (22:21)
To go back to Patrick’s earlier point that as we move into a lower incidence across the country, we’ll increasingly move from a situation where there is a lot of coronavirus everywhere in the country to a medium amount. We’re trending downwards and the alert levels were clear four, but with a directional travel down, that was the unanimous view of the four chief medical officers on the advice, the independent advice, of the joint biosecurity center, JBC. So trending down. But really, we’re going to move to a situation where we have a lower level, provided we all stick to the social distancing rules. It’s absolutely critical we do, and we take things very, very slowly for the reasons that Patrick said right at the beginning. You’ve really got to take this slowly. We will get to a point where there will be much lower level everywhere, but we will start to get flare ups and outbreaks in different parts of the country. And really what the JBC is primarily going to help us with is actually to identify early those areas of increased transmission, those hotspots, so we can go in and try and find out how we can nay get on top of those before they spread more widely. This is very much something we’ve learned from the first few most of this coronavirus, and this is one of the critical things we need to do.
Boris Johnson: (23:36)
Thanks. Thanks very much, Chris. Robert Peston from ITV.
Robert Peston: (23:45)
Good afternoon gentlemen. Question for the Prime Minister first. Your predecessor, Theresa May, yesterday said she was deeply concerned by the way that the quarantine is being imposed on travelers to the UK, or in her words, “Closing Britain off from the rest of the world.” And she wants you to take the lead in developing an international aviation health screening standard that would make it unnecessary to have those kinds of quarantines. Are you going to take your predecessor’s advice and lead talks on devising such a scheme to get aviation going again, traveling going again? And to the Chief Scientific Advisor and the Chief Medical Officer, just picking up actually on what Beth said. Professor, one of the things you said just now was the point of the threat levels was to basically advice, for example, on when we can have local lockdowns to tackle outbreaks at the local level. One of the things we know from Dido Harding, for example, who’s in charge of the whole test and trace process is we’re not going to have that data for another month, which makes many people concerned that the easing off of lockdown has happened a month too early. Could you just reassure or comment on that?
Boris Johnson: (25:15)
Yeah, first of all thanks, Robert, on your point about what we can do to make sure that insofar as possible that we allow people to fly safely. I mentioned earlier on the idea of safe corridor or safe travel between the UK and other countries with low or similar levels of ineffectivity, and we will certainly be developing that as we go forward. One of the difficulties about testing is, as you know, at airports, is the risk of false negatives. But on the other matter, Patrick.
I think it’s Chris.
Chris Whitty: (25:57)
I’m going to give, if I may, quite a long answer to that, because I think it’s a really critical question that people are asking. The thing-
Chris Whitty: (26:03)
I think it’s a really critical question that people are asking. The thing to understand is this is a disinfection with which we are going to have to live alongside for many months. Probably longer than that. We basically got to have a multilayered defense against it. At any given point, we can maybe raise some things and lower others, but we’re going to have to go incredibly cautiously as Sir Patrick said early on. I’m going to run through all the things that we have to do, because I think it’s important to understand each change in context.
Chris Whitty: (26:38)
There are a group of things we need to do to isolate those people who have the virus or might have the virus. One of the problems with this virus is that it can be transmitted by people before they get symptoms. The first and most important thing is people who do have symptoms, must self isolate straight away, and they must get the test, as the Prime Minister was saying.
Chris Whitty: (27:01)
Secondly, the people they are most likely to pass it on to, and who could therefore have the virus without symptoms, are their own household. Therefore, their household must isolate with them. That has been the case right from the beginning of this epidemic. The new thing that has been brought in, and it is definitely, as you imply, in the early stages of its development, but it is definitely there and it’s definitely working, but it’ll work a lot better over time is the new element of Test and Trace.
Chris Whitty: (27:29)
Because the third group of people who are likely to get this are people who’ve actually got a high amount or high chance of having the virus because they’ve come into close contact with someone with the virus, and the Test and Trace, NHS Test and Trace model is to allow us to identify the people that got cases, and then identify their contacts and ask them to self isolate, because they may have this without symptoms and pass it on. That’s the first group of things.
Chris Whitty: (27:56)
Then there’s a group of things we need to do in terms of reducing transmission at an individual level. These include washing hands, as the Prime Minister repeatedly, and rightly, says. Absolutely critical because you can pass it to yourself and to other people, if you’re coughing, to make sure that you actually have what’s called good cough etiquette, where you use a tissue and dispose of it properly. The two meter rule, which is about trying to ensure that if you do speak, cough, or make other things, which actually lead to droplets coming out and you’re infected without knowing it, that you don’t pass that on. Something, which again, we brought in relatively recently, the idea that if you cannot socially distance at two meters for a prolonged period, for sorry, moderately prolonged period, then you should use face cloths. That’s one of the things, which is a new thing.
Chris Whitty: (28:51)
Those are going to carry on, really, for as long as this, in fact, this epidemic continues. Then we’ve got the group of things which are around trying to break the link between households. Because that is where most of the social distancing come in, and those are the things that were absolutely essential. Trying to reduce people’s social contacts, including close friends and family, because actually very often, those are the people who you will catch this from. All the things which bring people together, the things we all enjoy, like clubs, pubs, clubs, and restaurants, and so on. These are things where we needed to close those down.
Chris Whitty: (29:26)
Shops were closed down as a way of ensuring that you came into contact with as few people who were from different households. Of course, the initial large, but not complete, closer of schools. Now, in this group of things, we’ve really made very, very small changes with the exception of the schools, which has been a small, additional group to the people who were already at schools, the children of essential workers. Almost all the other things are to do with people meeting outdoors and asked to be socially distant. That’s because the risk of people being outdoors is very considerably reduced, but these are really modest and slow steps.
Chris Whitty: (30:09)
The final two things that we have to do is shielding, making sure that the people who are at greatest risk are away from the greatest risk of meeting others with the virus. We’ve made a very small adjustment to that, which is, again, because for many people, this was incredibly difficult to maintain, to say, “Well, if you’re just with a member of your existing household, you can go outdoors or you can meet someone, but at a distance. Only one person outdoors only.” These changes in risk are really very small.
Chris Whitty: (30:41)
Then the final one, which it really is important to stress, because it is, in the long run, the way we’re going to get ourselves out of this, is research. Finding new drugs, finding new vaccines. Now, the reason I’ve listed all of those out is, what we’re making is small adjustments to some of these things, but this is a multilayered defense and all of us have parts to play in almost all of these. It’s absolutely critical. We all do this. We shouldn’t take the fact that small adjustments are being made now to imply that this is suddenly locked down over. What this is, is a slight reversal of some of the most onerous things on people, mainly outdoors at a socially safe distance, the two meter distance. I know that’s a long answer, but I think it is important to put things in context, rather than just to see them as one off events.
Boris Johnson: (31:28)
Thanks very much, Robert. Tom Newton Dunn, from The Sun.
Tom Newton Dunn: (31:35)
Thank you, Prime Minister. Question first to the CMA and the CSA, if they could possibly both answer this one. At testing capacity, we know track and trace is up and running. Could you say at what capacity it currently now is at? Is it 20%, 50%, 100%? We know it’s not 100% maybe. When do you expect it to be running at full capacity, full operating capacity? Before it gets to that stage, since Andrew McLean has been very clear that having a fully operating track and trace system is crucial to unlocking the lockdown, are you comfortable for more measures to be released? Such as the opening of shops, or pubs, or restaurants?
Tom Newton Dunn: (32:15)
Question to the Prime Minister. Prime Minister, this is my last question to you, as The Sun’s political editor, it’s now clear that the nation will lose a whole load of jobs. Many millions of jobs may be lost by the autumn by Christmas. Many of those will be Sun readers, probably tens or even hundreds of thousands. Are you able to guarantee to these people, none of whom have lost their jobs through any fault of their own, either new jobs to all of them, or if not, help or training to all of them to better get new jobs again?
Boris Johnson: (32:49)
Yes. Sorry, but why don’t you answer the best way. I can’t at all.
Chris Whitty: (32:55)
On the testing capacity? In a sense, what we’ve done is play leapfrog, to some extent. The capacity goes up, then we run to catch up. There are very many more things we could do with testing with greater capacity. The key thing we need to do is do that systematically. We obviously started off with people who had a severe disease, went out by stages, key workers, testing them if they’ve had symptoms so they could go back to work in the NHS Social Care and other areas. We’ve now got to a situation where we can test people who have got symptoms in the general public, and that allows us to run the tests, NHS Test and Trace system, which was not possible when we had less testing capacity.
Chris Whitty: (33:35)
At the more capacity we have, the more different uses we can use for these testing for people who’ve got the virus now, and that allows us to do test screening, for example, in care homes, screening in hospitals and other things, which would allow us to find the hotspots that we’ve got in terms of infection and deal with them. You’re absolutely right. We are not yet at cruising altitude for this. The number of tests is going to carry on going up, and our ability to use the tests we’ve got is going to carry on going up.
Chris Whitty: (34:03)
This is going to carry on for quite some time before we get to the point, I think, that we’re all satisfied. We’ve got to the point we need, there’s the additional point, which I’m not going to go into the details of unless you really want to on a followup, of antibody testing, which is an additional capacity we now have. This can say reliably, whether someone has had the infection several weeks ago, but we don’t know whether it tells us anything useful about immunity or anything of that sort. That’s the other form of testing, and we’re increasing the ability to do both of those across the UK.
Speaker 3: (34:35)
Just to add to that, what Angela said is that an effective system in place is an important part of going forward, is an important part of being able to release measures, and as Chris has said, it’s being built up. I do want to stress it’s not the single answer. The idea that somehow having a Test and Trace system and containment, absolves ourselves of all the other things we need to do is incorrect. We need to make sure that we carry on with the distancing and some of the other measures in place in order to control this. The lower the number of cases in the country, the more effective and the higher burden of load, as it were, can be carried by Test and Trace and making sure people isolate, but on its own, it’s not the answer. It has to be part of the whole system.
Boris Johnson: (35:22)
Tom, on your incredibly important point about what’s going to happen as the months go by, and the effect of this recession starts to bite. Let’s be in no doubt, of course, I’m afraid tragically, there will be many, many job losses, and that is just inevitable because of the effect of this virus on the economy, and because of the shutdown that has taken place. All I can say is that in dealing with that, that fallout from coronavirus, we will be as activist and as interventionist as we have been throughout the lockdown.
Boris Johnson: (36:02)
There’s no other country in the world I think has done as much, or few others that have done as much as the UK in terms of putting our arms around workers with the furlough scheme, looking after companies that have run into difficulties, helping in any way that we can. We will be just as interventionists in the next phase, investing in the UK economy, investing in infrastructure, taking our country forward so that we bounce back as sharply and as decisively as we can. That’s going to be our pressure.
Boris Johnson: (36:31)
One thing I want to say is that for young people in particular, for whom the risk is, I think, highest of losing jobs and then being out of work for a long time, I think it’s going to be vital that we guarantee apprenticeships for young people. I think we must, must have a huge … we have to look off to people across the board, but young people in particular, I believe, should be guaranteed an apprenticeship. Thank you.
Speaker 4: (36:56)
Can I come back?
Boris Johnson: (36:58)
I didn’t let anybody else back, Tommy, I’ll be accused of favoritism, but everybody’s going to wish you well on your next job after your historic innings as political editor of The Sun. Steve Swinford of The Times.
Steve Swinford: (37:14)
Prime Minister, China’s role in this pandemic has been heavily criticized, and you personally raised concerns on our pages this morning about the impact of security laws in Hong Kong. Do you think we can ever return to business as normal with China, and are you, as it’s being reported, now looking to move Huawei from Britain’s 5G network entirely from 2023? Sir Patrick, just a brief questions, come back from what Tom was saying earlier, I think it’s just to say previously provided advice, or the impact of quarantine measures. Did Sage provide specific advice on implementing those measures on June the eighth as it’s being planned, and whether that would do? We actually make a significant difference to the spread of coronavirus, and if it didn’t, do you personally have a view on that?
Boris Johnson: (37:57)
Well, first of all, on Hong Kong, I’ve said what I’ve said, which is you’re absolutely right, Steve. I do think that what is happening now is potentially going to be an infringement of the Sino-UK, Sino-British agreement of 1987. It protects political and civic freedoms in Hong Kong. That looks as though it could be very, very badly eroded by what is being proposed. What we’re saying is that we want to hold on to our hand, to hand friendship, and support, and loyalty to the people of Hong Kong. I think that’s the right thing to do on high risk vendors in our critical national infrastructure. Well, you know my views, I think we’ve got to make sure that we have solutions for the UK that protect UK security. That’s what this government is going to achieve. I want to stress one thing. I am a Sino file. I think China is an incredible country and an extraordinary civilization.
Boris Johnson: (39:03)
I think China is an incredible country and an extraordinary civilization. And I deeply disapprove of anti-Chinese xenophobia, attacks on people of Chinese appearance that we’ve seen in recent months. We must stamp out such xenophobia. And I see absolutely no contradiction between what I’ve said earlier about Hong Kong and about high risk vendors in critical national infrastructure, and wanting a good, friendly, clear-eyed working relationship with China. And that’s what this country will have.
Speaker 5: (39:45)
Again, I’ll reiterate the advice that the experts from SAGE gave, which is that the measures at the border are most effective when the incidents is very low in this country, and when applied to countries which have higher incidents. And the judgment of that time, of course, is not something for us, it’s something for politicians to make and they make the policy and they make the timing decisions. But that’s the advice that we gave in terms of the science of this.
Boris Johnson: (40:12)
Thanks. Thanks very much. Thank you. Can we go now to Josh Layton from the Coventry Evening Telegraph?
Josh Layton: (40:20)
Hello, Prime Minister. Coronavirus has already taken a bigger toll on the UK than anywhere else in Europe. What specific reassurances can you give workers in Coventry, especially in the car manufacturing sector, which you’ve been so keen to champion, that they won’t suffer the worst economic fallout as well? And to Professor Whitty and Sir Patrick, many parents in Coventry Warwickshire are telling us that they are refusing to send their children back to school at the moment. With everything we have heard this evening about the alert level and the prospect of local lockdowns, doesn’t this cautious approach prove them right?
Boris Johnson: (40:53)
Well, first of all, Josh, on your question about what we’re doing to support the Coventry and the West Midlands, a huge number of businesses have received grant payments, about 42 million I think in Coventry alone. We’re supporting businesses in industry enterprise in the West Midlands. And I think 85% of eligible businesses in Coventry and the West Midlands have received funding.
Boris Johnson: (41:18)
But you mentioned the car sector. One thing we really want to drive forward as we come out of the epidemic, as we bounce back, I want to see a lot more going into green technology, green batteries, green motor vehicles, low carbon motor vehicles of all kinds. And for instance, we’ve just put 108 million into the UK Battery Industrialisation Centre, which is due to open later this year. The West Midlands was the home of the original automotive revolution. That’s where it all began, the internal combustion engine. And already in the West Midlands, you’re seeing an incredible profusion of brilliant low carbon technology, low carbon vehicles. That’s what we want to champion. That’s the future.
Chris Whitty: (42:14)
I’m sorry, on parents, not wanting to send their children to school, which I think anyone can understand why parents are thinking about this very hard. I’m going to give an answer in the way you would give an answer as a doctor, which is to say, if you’re starting a drug, if you’re recommending an operation, when you’re doing anything of that sort, you say, “Look, there are some things that are benefits and there are some things that are risks. And you’ve got to understand these. And you’ve got to understand when is the right time where the risks and benefits have some form of balancing out.” And of course, and this is not my area of expertise, I’m making the general point, children not having their school education is a huge disadvantage to them potentially for the rest of their lives. Everyone would, I think, broadly accept that. Set against that are the downsides of going to school in an epidemic.
Chris Whitty: (43:04)
And I think that I’m going to list out four. The first of which is the risk to children. And I think that one of the things that is one of the few reassurances that we can give in this disease is that overall, it looks as if children are much less likely than adults to get severe disease and probably less likely to get clinical disease, meaning symptoms of any sort. And although there are tragically very small number of deaths in children and a slightly larger number of people who’ve had severe disease compared to adults, this is not a dangerous disease in the way that many other infections really pick out children. This disease does not. So this is not a disease which is primarily of risk to children.
Chris Whitty: (43:53)
The second thing is that parents of particularly primary school children are generally not in the age group which is at high risk of getting severe problems with coronavirus. Now of course, there are people who’ve got particular high risk medical conditions who are shielded at the moment. And in that situation, there’s a different set of concerns and there’s very specific guidance for those parents, but very small proportion of parents of primary school children are in the age group where there’s high mortality or severe problems. Clearly there is a very complicated balancing act for society in terms of the possibility of increasing the transmission, on the one hand, and depriving children of their education on the other. And this is a very hard balancing act, but this is where we’re trying to, as a society, walk between two risks, a risk to education and a risk to health. And the rates of transmission are now much lower than they were at the point when the schools were closed. And then the final thing that people obviously think about is grandparents and others who are potentially at risk. And obviously there is an issue there, which we need to think through in certain cases. And that’s about people taking sensible decisions. So I fully understand, as everyone fully understand, people wanting to think this through, but the point I want to go back to at the beginning is that the biggest concern for people is going to be the health of their children. And this is a disease which can affect children, but it’s very unlikely to compared to adults.
Boris Johnson: (45:32)
Thanks very much, Chris. Can we go to Marco Varvello of RAI now? Marc.
Marco Varvello: (45:38)
Thank you, Prime Minister. Actually, I must thank you on behalf of the Foreign Press Association as well, which advocated for a while access to these daily briefings and here we are. Thank you very much, Prime Minister. My question’s not about the quarantine, because it’s not just a matter of some or all, it is hundreds of thousands of European workers left the country because of the lockdown, because a shop or shopping center, restaurant, pizzeria, they’re all closed. So no work anymore. Now they are ready to come back. And so I just wonder, they are not all lucky workers in an NHS, but actually they’re quite essential. If you think of any alternative, different way from the quarantine health certificate or anything else. The second question, because you mentioned the Home Secretary mentioned as well, air bridges and travel corridors. Does it mean that the British government has got already ongoing bilateral negotiation with the single European countries, and in case which ones?
Boris Johnson: (46:43)
Okay, well, Marco, thank you very much. On the air corridors, I don’t want to go into the negotiations that we’re having, but clearly we’re discussing with our partners around the whole of Europe about what could be done continuously, just as we’ve been negotiating the whole time about movements across borders. And it’s one of the most difficult things to get right. And what I’d say to our Italian friends, Italians who’ve been living and working in the UK, who now want to come back, I say, come back. [foreign language 00:08:27]. Come back to London or to the UK, but you’ve got to quarantine. And I don’t believe that that is … everybody’s been in lockdown for a long time. I know it’s an imposition, but we’ve really got to defeat this virus, but we want you back.
Marco Varvello: (47:51)
Thank you very much.
Boris Johnson: (47:52)
Thank you. Thank you. Thank you very much. Well, listen, I’m going to wrap up by making … I want to repeat the key point of this press conference. We are seeing continuous falls in the disease, in deaths, in incidents. And that’s why we’ve been able to take the very cautious steps that we have. We want to take some more steps to unlock our society and try to get back to as normal as possible. Eventually I would like to do such things as reducing the two meter rule, for instance. But all those changes, all that future progress depends entirely on our ability to keep reducing the incidents and driving down that disease. And that depends on us following the basic rules, washing your hands, wash our hands, self-isolate if you have symptoms, take a test, and of course observe social distancing. Thank you all very much. We are beating this disease and we will beat it together if everybody works on it together. Thank you.