May 11, 2020
UK Boris Johnson Coronavirus Briefing Transcript May 11
Boris Johnson gave a coronavirus press briefing on May 11. He announced a new England lockdown rules, which left some confused. Read the full speech transcript to the British people.
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Prime Minister Boris Johnson: (00:08)
Good evening. And thank you for joining us for this latest standing [inaudible 00:00:12] press conference. First of all, I want to update you on the latest data in our fight against Coronavirus. I can report through the government’s ongoing testing and monitoring program that as of today, 1,921,770 tests for Coronavirus have now been carried out in the UK, including 100,490 tests carried out yesterday. 220 3060 people have tested positive, that’s an increase of 3,877 cases since yesterday. 11,401 people are currently in the hospital with Coronavirus, down from 11,768, the previous day. Sadly of those who tested positive for Coronavirus across all settings, 32065 have not died. That’s an increase of 210 fatalities since yesterday. This figure includes deaths in all settings, not just in hospitals.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson: (01:33)
Before we begin questions from the public and from the media, I just want to remind people of a number of important things I said in my address to the nation last night. Can we have the first slide please? First, in order to monitor our progress, we are establishing a new COVID alert level system. The COVID alert level has five levels, each relating to the level of threat posed by the virus. The level will be primarily determined by the R value and the number of Coronavirus cases. In turn, that COVID alert level will determine the level of social distancing measures in place, and the lower the level, the fewer, the measures, the higher the level, the stricter the measures. Throughout the period of lockdown, which started on March the 23rd, we’ve been at level four, meaning a COVID-19 epidemic is in general circulation and transmission is high or rising exponentially. Thanks to the hard work sacrifices of the British people in this lockdown. We’ve helped to bring the R-level down, and number of infections down, and we’re not in a position to begin moving to level three in steps.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson: (03:08)
Next slide please. And we set out the first three steps we will take carefully to modify the measures, gradually ease the lock down and begin to allow people to return to their way of life, but crucially, while avoiding what would be a disastrous second peak that overwhelms the NHS. After each step, we will closely monitor the impact of that step on the R and the number of infections, and all the available data, and we’ll only take the next step when we are satisfied that it is safe to do so.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson: (03:55)
So step one from this week, those who cannot work from home should now speak to their employer about going back to work. You can now spend time outdoors and exercise as often as you like, you can meet one person outside of your household, outside, outdoors, provided you stay two meters apart. The social distancing measures remain absolutely crucial to us keeping the infection rate and the number of cases down as low as we possibly can.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson: (04:34)
So step two from June the first at the earliest, we aim, as long as the data allows it, we aim for primary schools to reopen for some pupils in smaller class sizes, non essential retail to start to reopen when and where it’s safe to do so. Cultural and sporting events to take place behind closed doors without crowds. And then step three, no later than July the fourth, and again, only if the data says it is safe, we aim to allow more businesses and premises to open, including potentially those offering personal care such as leisure facilities, public places, and places of worship.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson: (05:26)
Many of these businesses will need to operate in new ways to ensure they’re safe. And we will work with these sectors on how to do this. So given we’ve taken the first step in carefully adjusting some of the measures today, and therefore our advice to people, what to do, we’ve also updated our messaging. We’re now asking people to stay alert, control the virus and save lives. And yes, staying alert for the vast majority of people still means staying at home as much as possible, but there are a range of other actions we’re advising people to take as we modify our measures.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson: (06:17)
People should stay alert by working from home if you can, limiting contact with other people, keeping distance if you go out, two meters apart where possible, washing your hands regularly, wearing a face covering when you’re in enclosed spaces and where it’s difficult to be socially distant, for example, in some shops or on public transport. And if you or anyone in your household has symptoms, repeat, you all need to self isolate. Because if everyone stays alert and follows the rules, we can control Coronavirus by keeping the R down and reducing the number of infections, and this is how we can continue to save lives and livelihoods, as we begin as a nation to recover from Coronavirus.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson: (07:17)
I’m now going to go to questions from the public and the media. And I don’t think either CSL or CMA are going to say anything. At this stage, we’re going to go straight to questions, by beginning with Scott, who has a question from Devon.
Can we see friends and family at the park, if we practice social distance rules? What if they’re already at the park when we get there, should we leave or can we stay and talk if we keep to the social distance rules? Thank you.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson: (07:54)
Well, thank you very much, Scott, what we’re saying, and I’ll ask Chris and Patrick to comment, what we’re saying is that you can go to the park to exercise on your own, certainly in an unlimited way, you can go with members of your own household, but if you want to meet somebody from outside your household, it’s got to be you and that other person just as a pair, and you should observe social distancing while you’re there, and so it should be basically a one on one thing, but with social distancing, as in keeping two meters apart and obeying the rules. But Chris?
Professor Chris Whitty: (08:42)
Just to reiterate what the Prime Minister has said, really what we’re trying to do is to take very small steps, which allow us to be sure that we’re not going to end up with an increase in transmission again, and these are the first steps which allow much more exercise and activities outdoors. And this is for two reasons, there were three reasons additionally. The first one is that it is very important for people to take exercise whenever they can. That’s very good for health generally, also good for mental health as well.
Professor Chris Whitty: (09:19)
The second is we recognize we’re going to have to do changes for a long period of time, and making things sustainable is extremely important. And the third reason is that the scientists on the Sage Group looked at this and are confident that the risks of transmission outdoors are much lower than the risks of transmission indoors, but they are not zero, so we therefore want to take these modest steps one stage at a time, and that’s why the ministers and the government have decided to make this small change, it’s an important change, but does not lead to people meeting with multiple people outside their household at once.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson: (10:00)
Yes. So Chris, just to get to exactly what Scott was asking, I think what he was saying was, “Can we go and meet lots of members of our family in the park if each member is individually spaced two meters apart?” And our answer to that at the moment, is that pushing it too far?
Professor Chris Whitty: (10:18)
Prime Minister Boris Johnson: (10:19)
So you can meet other people in the park, but it should be one other person from another household, and observing social distancing. Patrick, is there anything you want to add?
Sir Patrick Vallance: (10:28)
That’s exactly right. And it’s important that we take these very small steps, because that’s the way we’re going to know what the effect is, and we can monitor it, we can see what effect that’s having on the R and on the numbers. And only by knowing that that’s a small difference, can we then move to the next step? So doing this step-by-step monitoring carefully, measuring is a crucial part of how we take this forward.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson: (10:53)
And it’s vital to repeat what we were saying earlier with the COVID alert level system. If we think that the alert level is in danger of going up again, then that’s going to mean that we cannot proceed with the steps that we’ve outlined in our roadmap. We’ll be forced to be frank with everybody and hold off, and we won’t be able to deliver steps two and three at the pace that currently set out to do. Let’s go to Simon in Essex
Where schools have remained accessible to children of key workers, are they now expected to allow children to return where their parents are from industries that are being actively encouraged to return to work such as construction, manufacturing, et cetera? If not, how’d you propose these people return to work if there’s no childcare available?
Prime Minister Boris Johnson: (11:53)
Well, thanks very much Simon. And first of all, I want to pay tribute to the teachers and the schools who have been going throughout this crisis, looking after at least some kids of, some vulnerable children’s or vulnerable pupils, and some kids, some pupils of essential workers. What we’re saying now is that if we continue in the same way, then we’re hoping to begin to open primary schools at the earliest by June the first. And so reception year one and year six will come back in for primary school. We’ll hope by the end of July for all primary school pupils to have at least one month of education.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson: (12:42)
And we hope that we’ll be able to, as I say, to get those children back into school. And yes, what we do want is people who, from now, people who cannot work from home, whose jobs do require them to go to work, to talk to their employers about doing that. And again, I would just remind you that throughout the crisis, construction, lots of businesses actually have kept going, and they’ve done so in a way that is safe and secure for their workers, whether in construction or manufacturing, lots of offices have kept going, but as we go forward now, as we encourage people who can’t work from home to think of going to work, to get in touch with their employers about going to work, the key thing is that those places of employment should be safe. And there’s guidance that we’re publishing today and tomorrow about how to make places of work COVID secure, how do we transport COVID secure. And it’s only on that basis, Simon, that we’ll be encouraging people to go back to work when they can’t work from home and .
Prime Minister Boris Johnson: (14:03)
People to go back to work when they can’t work from home. And your point about not having access to childcare is a crucial one. Obviously, if people don’t have access to childcare and they’ve got a child who isn’t back in school for one reason or another yet. Can’t get them back until the 1st of June or even then they don’t fall into the years we’re getting back immediately. Then I think it’s only fair to regard that as an obvious barrier to their ability to go back to work. And I’m sure that employers will agree with that. So stay at home if you can. But go to work now if you have no alternative. Anything to add to that? Thank you very much. Simon, we got to Pooja in Solihull.
Good afternoon. Yesterday you left the nation with more questions than answers. When locked down initially started you were very specific about what needed to shut down and when. Why have you been so vague with who can start back at work? And which businesses can reopen this week? When will the British public receive further clarity on this?
Prime Minister Boris Johnson: (15:26)
Well, thank you very much, Pooja. And I think that the frank answer to your excellent question is that, and I think that I think everybody gets, is we’ve had to make a big, big change in our lives over the last couple of months. And everybody’s got the clarity of the message. What we said is basically stay at home. And the British public heard that message loud and clear. And in the U.K. people who stayed at home overwhelmingly. And that’s been a good thing in terms of delivering our ability to combat the disease and to get the R, the rate of transmission done. But it’s a very obviously very simple message. It’s it couldn’t be starker. Say at home.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson: (16:12)
Now it’s when you come to take small steps back to normality, as we all know, that clearly the message becomes a finer more, more complicated. And I hope Pooja that when you listen to what we’re saying tonight you do get what we’re saying. We’re saying that if you can’t work from home you should talk to your employer about getting back to work. We’ve mentioned various sectors, construction, manufacturing, and other scientific research and others where people can’t work from home. And we’re insisting that it’s got to be safe at work and safe to get there.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson: (16:56)
And then we’re also making some changes this week about exercise. Other than that Pooja things are pretty much as they have been. And they will be until we start to make further progress driving down that R and getting to steps two and three that I outlined earlier. But as Patrick says, all this is totally conditional. All that future progress is conditional on our collective effort to continue to beat the disease and drive down the R. Anything Chris?
Chris Whitty: (17:35)
Well, I think just to add that the… When the regulations were first introduced, essentially they were firms and companies were divided into things that were essential. Should keep operating. So things like pharmacies. Things like supermarkets. Things that definitely should not very explicitly. And then some between where it was dependent on whether they could be made safe for work. And that remains the case today.
Chris Whitty: (18:01)
But what is changing is the sense of emphasis. But those three groups remain the same groups. Essential things which are open. Things that should stay shut. And then things where if they can be adapted, there may be possibilities to open things up.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson: (18:18)
That’s exactly, exactly right. And Pooja, I want to stress that I don’t think any of us expect that tomorrow or the rest of this week, there’s going to be a sudden big flood of people back to work. But I think a lot of people will now start to think whether they fall into that category. Whether maybe they could think about going back to work. Whether it’s time to ring up their employer to check about the arrangements and so on. So we’re taking baby steps if you like. And we think that’s the right way to do it. Where we have some leeway.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson: (18:52)
Now the British public have worked, we’ve all worked together to drive the R down. We’ve made huge progress in combating the disease. So, now is the moment it makes sense for us all as a country, now is the moment to make tweaks. To use that progress and to allow us to go back to where we can, where’s that feasible. And to do it [inaudible 00:19:24] we can do it in a safe way. We’re going to go now to members of the media. And first we have Laura Kuenssberg of the BBC.
Laura Kuenssberg: (19:37)
Thank you very much, Prime Minister. As we just heard from Pooja, a lot of people felt your speech last night raised as many questions as it gave answers. There are Prime Minister different instructions for people in different parts of the U.K. You can see your colleagues if you go to work. But grandparents can’t look after their children. Many employers say they’re just not ready to have people back to work yet. So what do you say to millions of people watching right now who may well be a bit perplexed by what you’re actually trying to see? And what they are meant to do? And if I could ask Professor Whitty and Sir Patrick Vallance if they approved the change from a stay at home to stay alert message? Thank you.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson: (20:16)
Well, Laura, I think Pooja really rather brilliantly anticipated your question if I may say so. And the answer is that, and I totally… I get where you’re coming from. Yes, of course, the message that we were giving out initially was incredibly clear and incredibly stark. And the U.K. population actually obeyed it more thoroughly, perhaps than many other populations around the world. We really did stay at home.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson: (20:48)
And as I say, we’ve not made so much progress in combating the disease and pushing the R that we need to make progress if we possibly can in relaxing some of the measures very, very cautiously. And the way we’re going to do it in this initial phase is to reemphasize what we said before. Which was that if you can’t work from home, then you should now think about going to work provided you do it, or provided your workplace is a COVID-19 secure. And provided you can travel safely to work as well.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson: (21:35)
And obviously when it comes to transport, we’re very keen that there isn’t a huge crush on public transport. It simply won’t have the capacity because we’ve got to maintain social distancing measures on public transport that will greatly reduce the capacity of everybody has to be two meters apart on our public transit. That doesn’t mean public transport can’t operate. We want to be running more, more capacity, more tubes, more trains if we possibly can. But it does mean that people really should think about alternatives about either going by car or walking or by bicycle. Using alternative means to get to work. Sir Patrick?
Sir Patrick Vallance: (22:21)
Yes. Science has had input to the whole plan. And we’ve been particularly concentrated on the three phases to make sure that those three phases are properly grouped. And also, and I’ve said this already, the conditionality is crucially important. It’s very, very important that this is done slowly and it’s done carefully. And we don’t rush to measures that could push the R above one. And therefore it’s also important that there’s a measurement system in place. And that measurement system can allow us to track what is happening with the numbers. Numbers of infection and the R. And that’s why the alert system that’s in place, that’s going to be put in place in order to measure is a crucial part of it. To be able to know where we are.
Sir Patrick Vallance: (23:07)
And it is obviously true that we must all be alert during this. In terms of hand-washing. In terms of social distancing. In terms of understanding what role we play. Because if we allow this to get out of control, if we allow the transmission to increase between households. Then we go back to where we were and more measures come in. So it’s crucially important that during this phase, we do not view this as suddenly a change where all things are, okay. It’s the steps that have been announced, which are okay. And then you move to the further ones.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson: (23:39)
Chris Whitty: (23:40)
Just broadly, we’ve been involved at all stages of the process throughout the whole process. Neither Sir Patrick nor I would consider ourselves to be [inaudible 00:23:49] experts. So we’re not going to get involved in actual details of actually [inaudible 00:23:53] strategies. But we are involved in the overall strategic things and we have been at every stage.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson: (23:57)
Thank you very much. And for those who think that, Laura, that the stay alert is not the right message. I think it is absolutely the right message for our country now. And I’m interested that just today in France they’ve gone for a slogan [French 00:10:24]. Which is, as I’m sure everybody knows is roughly the same, the same sort of thing as [inaudible 00:10:32]. And I think it’s the right way to go. Can we go to Beth Rigby, please of Skype?
Beth Rigby: (24:38)
Thank you, Prime Minister. We’ve learned a lot about this disease in the past few weeks. And you acknowledged today that we may never find a vaccine. That’s rather different to what you said on March the 19th when you said this would be finite. Isn’t it the case that this could be infinite should we be preparing for our changes to our lives? Not just in 2020, but permanently.
Beth Rigby: (25:07)
And, Sir Patrick if I may, you’ve now tested 1.4 million people for Coronavirus. Nearly quarter of a million people have tested positive. That’s about 15 percent of those tested. Do you now have some idea about what the level of infection is across the U.K.? Thank you.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson: (25:27)
Well, Beth, two very, very good questions. And of course I hope, hope, hope that we will achieve a virus. And actually I’m hearing some very encouraging things from what’s going on at Oxford. Sorry to achieve a vaccine. And develop a vaccine that can that can defeat the virus. And I’m hearing all sorts of positive noises. But, you’re perfectly right Beth, to point out that this is by no means guaranteed. I’m going to hand over to Patrick and Chris in a minute because they know a huge amount about vaccines. I believe I’m right in saying that even after 18 years we still don’t have a vaccine for SARS.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson: (26:13)
And what I can tell you and what I think I’m sure you’ve heard many times is that the U.K. Is in the forefront of concerting international activity to try to deliver a vaccine. If I look back at what’s happened in the last two months I think for a lot of the time you saw countries really going out on their own, doing things individually. We want as the U.K. to be bringing countries together as far as we can for this next phase. To be developing vaccines together, to be developing strategies together. And we’re putting a huge sums now into finding that vaccine. And we’ll work with partners across the world. But yes, Beth. If you ask me, I’m absolutely certain that we won’t be living with this for a long time to come? I can’t that it. It may be that we have to become ever more flexible, ever more agile, ever more… Ever smarter in the way that we tackle not just this infection. But potentially future infections as well. But I’d hand over to Patrick and Chris.
Sir Patrick Vallance: (27:20)
On the vaccine, I think you can never guarantee that you’re going to get a vaccine. It’s a tough thing to do. I will say there’s been great progress made though. There is a number of vaccine programs around the world which are progressing. There are a number in the clinic now. So far so good. And so I think the chances are a bit higher than they were that you get a vaccine.
Sir Patrick Vallance: (27:40)
But you never know until you’ve got one. In terms of other options though, there are therapeutics and drug development programs that are underway. I’d be surprised if we didn’t end up with something. That you’re going to end up with a therapeutic or a vaccine or potentially both. But you can’t guarantee that you’re going to get a vaccine. That would be my message. And I think it’s very encouraging the huge amount of effort that’s going in, in the U.K.
Sir Patrick Vallance: (28:03)
And I think it’s very encouraging, the huge amount of effort that’s going in in the UK and around the world on that. In terms of the question about the numbers of people, the ONS study, which is an ongoing study trying to measure the number of people in the population with infection, suggests at the moment that the number might be somewhere around 130,000 people. Quite wide intervals around that, it’s not a precise number. It could be lower, it could be 65,000 or 70,000. It could be higher up to 250,000, but 136,000 is the central estimate for that.
Sir Patrick Vallance: (28:37)
And then on top of that, if you look at some of the serology coming back, so the antibody tests, and these are now all a bit out of date, because the way they get tested is we’ve got some data from a couple of weeks ago and if you think about it, those people would have had an infection three weeks before that. So, you’re looking back in time. There, it looks like in London, it might be from that time, maybe 10% people positive for antibody, suggesting that’s the sort of range of infection. And across the country, different levels in different places, but on average, somewhere around 4%, something like that.
Sir Patrick Vallance: (29:13)
So those numbers will get updated as we get more information and the ONS study will continue to give information, but it suggests it’s that sort of magnitude at the moment, around 130,000 or so people may currently have infection. And because the R is less than one, that should be coming down and the halving time may be something like two weeks at the moment.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson: (29:35)
And before that, of course we had a doubling time of about four days [crosstalk 00:29:39]
Sir Patrick Vallance: (29:39)
We had a doubling time of between three and four days.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson: (29:40)
Three and four days, yes.
Sir Patrick Vallance: (29:42)
And then that again, emphasizes the importance. If you take the brakes off too fast in the wrong way, you accelerate fast out of this. And that’s what we’ve got to avoid.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson: (29:51)
Chris Whitty: (29:52)
I have just one additional thing to say, which is, if you look back a hundred years, infectious diseases were still very dominant. And if you went back further, the dominant thing in medicine. We humans have proved remarkably successful at tackling almost all major infections that we’ve had by some means or another. So,metimes vaccines, sometimes drugs, sometimes public health measures. I’m very confident we will find a solution to this latest threat but, and the but of this is, it will take time. Science takes time and, therefore, we have to take a careful sense at the moment, because we cannot guarantee when we’re going to find those solutions.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson: (30:32)
Thanks very much. Can we go to Alex in the… Thanks Beth, can we go to Alex in the Lake District?
Will there be a limit on how far people are allowed to travel for their exercise, as if not surely, people will just flock to some of the wester areas such as the Lake District, which is surely neither safe nor wise?
Prime Minister Boris Johnson: (30:58)
Alex, thank you very much. And a lot of people have been asking this. What we’re saying is that we want people to be able to use the outdoors, to be able to exercise in an unlimited way outdoors, but they’ve got to obey social distancing. So, there can’t be any question of people just going off for holidays, for staying in places like the Lake District. If they do go to exercise, it’s got to be done with social distancing. If they’re going to be more than one, it’s got to be members of your own household. And of course, as we said before, if you are going to meet anybody else in that open space, it’s got to be one-on-one, and again, exercising social distance. So, if it’s somebody not from your household, it’s got to be just you and that other person and not your household and that other person. I hope that’s clear. Patrick or Chris. [crosstalk 00:31:55] Okay. Thank you very much. Could we go to Megan in Nuneaton, please?
Have the restrictions for the vulnerable and those at high risk varied? Initially, the over seventies, the pregnant, and those with certain heart conditions were told to shield for 12 weeks, have those restrictions eased for them?
Prime Minister Boris Johnson: (32:17)
Well, Megan, thank you very much. The first thing I would say is actually, what we said to over seventies, who in my experience are often in rude, robust health, was they should take care, but we didn’t say that they should be shielded. So, yes, of course, there’s about a million people who are particularly vulnerable, have serious underlying health conditions, who we are trying to look after very carefully indeed that, I’m afraid, we must still protect them as I said last night, but I think over seventies need to understand they need to take care, but it’s not quite right to say that they’re shielded. All the rules of social distancing of course apply to them and apply particularly strongly to them, but otherwise they can go about their lives. Chris.
Chris Whitty: (33:12)
I mean, just to add to that, so dividing between these very high risk groups, these shielded, as prime minister said, and the vulnerable, which is a larger group, it is important that people continue to maintain either the shielding thing if they’re in the very, very high group, or take even more caution than the general public if they’re in the vulnerable group, because although the risk of the virus has gone down in the community, it is still significantly out there as Patrick was saying earlier on. And, therefore, this would not be the time, I think, to start revisiting those bits of advice.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson: (33:47)
Yeah. So, I think there’s just one I think bit of data that Patrick mentioned that is… I think I heard you say 4% of the population, it looked like about 4% of the population outside the capital had the virus.
Sir Patrick Vallance: (34:02)
Prime Minister Boris Johnson: (34:02)
When you think about how low that figure is, I think it tells all of us how strongly we need to maintain our discipline, our social distancing. There are large numbers of huge numbers of people in this country who could be infected by this. That’s why we’ve got to take a very, very cautious approach, the baby steps that we’re taking. Natasha from Richmond.
Good afternoon. Where does seeing family again fit into the roadmap out of lockdown, and how is it logical that I as a primary school teacher can mix with the many returning children, but seeing my relatives is still not allowed?
Prime Minister Boris Johnson: (34:44)
Well, Natasha, thank you very much and thank you for everything you’re doing as a teacher, and have done and will do throughout this period. I think I just have to go back to what we were saying at the beginning, that there are new flexibilities to ensure that people can see somebody who isn’t in their household, but you have to do it one-on-one outdoors and obeying social distancing. So, there is new scope to see one other member of your family, somewhere outdoors. And it may not sound like much, but given what we’ve all been saying, the senior, I hope you understand the constraints. We’re all under. We have to keep this disease at bay. We have to advance very gradually.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson: (35:33)
And Natasha, just to say on what you’re doing as a primary school teacher, and thank you for that, we will do everything we can to make sure that teachers, parents, children can have total confidence that we’re going to make those schools, your working environment, as safe as possible. And we’ll be publishing guidelines to make schools COVID secure. But Chris, is there anything you can say to answer that? Because Natasha does, on the face of it, have a legitimate question that she’s asking there.
Chris Whitty: (36:07)
So the first thing to say about schools is that in a sense, there are three separate risks that people are concerned about in terms of schools. One of them is risk to children. And although sadly, there are a very small number of children who do get severe disease. Actually, it is extremely small, the risk, the one good thing about this virus, and it is really only one good thing is very, very low in children, which is in contrast to many other infectious diseases. So, the risk to children is very, very low.
Chris Whitty: (36:38)
The second question is, is having the primary schools come back going to lead to a significant upswing or a change in the R? And this has been modeled very carefully by Sage, and Patrick might want to add to this, but the view is, if it’s done very carefully, if it’s done slowly, then it is very unlikely to do that, but it has to be done very, very carefully, and Patrick may wish to add to that comment, very, very slowly.
Chris Whitty: (37:07)
The third thing is that teachers and parents are understandably concerned about individual risk, and that’s very much what we’re consulting on at the moment with the profession. And it is very important that we have a proper debate around that to make sure people understand that we can do many things to reduce the risk. As with all of society, with an infectious disease, you can never reduce the risk completely to zero, and that’s not a realistic aspiration, but we can reduce the risk very significantly. The biggest thing though, to reduce the risk, is to get the virus down. That makes the risk low for everyone in the community.
Sir Patrick Vallance: (37:43)
Just to add a little bit to that, we said on the way in that actually schools are relatively small part of the overall spread. They’re not nothing, but they are relatively small part, therefore, now in terms of key workers and vulnerable children at school, that’s okay, that’s the bit that’s done now. We didn’t recommend from Sage that primaries came back now, there’s got to be a bit more time to see that there’s room to be able to do that in terms of the changes. And as the prime minister has laid out, that will be done in a very staged way. So, it’s not all primaries coming back. It’s some classes, it’s reduced class sizes that allows that to be monitored so that the effect can be seen. So, it’s not as simple as to say everything comes back now and the R’s okay. It needs to be done carefully step-by-step and measured.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson: (38:32)
Thanks very much. Patrick, can we go to… Thanks Natasha, can we go to John in Midlothian, please?
With so many conflicting statements between yourself and Scotland, who do I now listen to, as you are my prime minister and we are all United Kingdom?
Prime Minister Boris Johnson: (38:49)
Well, John, thank you very much. And let’s be absolutely clear that what I’ve said just now is that we have a situation in the UK where the disease, the epidemic is at different stages in different places. And it’s entirely right that different devolved administrations are taking slightly different approaches to deal with the epidemic in their nation. And we respect that and support that. When you look at the totality of the approach, I really think that actually the unity between us is far more significant than the differences. And I can tell you that every member of Cobra that was there yesterday, everybody from all four nations was absolutely determined to have a UK-wide solution to this and I’ve no doubt that we will achieve that.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson: (39:57)
But you’ve got to respect local issues, local flare-ups, local problems. And part of the solution is going to be, as we go forward, we will be responding, John, with local responses. So, if there’s a flare-up in a particular part of the country in a town or in a village, which we detect with our COVID alert system, then we will be firefighting, doing whack-a-mole to deal with that issue. Is it arising? So having a local, regional, national approach makes sense, but it also makes sense to have a strong UK approach as well. Thanks very much. Let’s go to Peter in Derry, London Derry.
If the devolved governments are having different strategies through that of yours, whether or not you pay control points at the borders for those entering those nations from England.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson: (41:01)
Well, thanks, Peter. The answer to that is no, the common travel area will remain. Obviously, between the UK and Ireland there’ll be no checks. Nothing is intended between Ireland and Northern Ireland and similarly, you wouldn’t expect anything between GB and Northern Ireland. I think possibly the most useful… What we really want people to do in this country is to look at our social distancing measures that we’re proposing, all four nations totally understand what their social distancing measures are and apply them with common sense. So, the two-meter rule, how you interact with people. These are ways in which we can push down this virus. And I think it’s the common sense of the British people that has been so crucial, or the whole of the UK, in getting the R down. Everybody understood roughly what to do…
Prime Minister Boris Johnson: (42:03)
In getting the arrow down. Everybody understood roughly what to do in the first phase and it’s by applying common sense that I think we’ll be successful in this second phase as well.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson: (42:15)
Thank you very much. We round off with two more questions from the media. Can we go to Tom Newton Dunn of the Sun? Tom.
Tom Newton Dunn: (42:25)
Thank you, prime minister. Millions would have seen your roadmap today and seeing what it meant for their jobs, people in nightclubs, aviation, the tourism sector, all these sectors that quite frankly are going to really struggle to ever get their jobs back. They’d be very worried by this. There’s talk already of a lost generation of young people who are going to be losing their jobs and really struggle ever to get into work if they’re leaving our education this summer. Can you share some of your future thinking because these people aren’t going to be helped by an extension of the furlough scheme? Is it time now to start talking about a jobs guarantee scheme or a national retraining scheme?
Tom Newton Dunn: (43:02)
And to the CMO and the CSA, you’ve done a very good job, it would appear, of ramming home the threat and the danger so far, of the virus with your statistics, but is it now time to start explaining to the public or punching new statistics that might alleviate some of the concern and fear? For example, the recovery rate. We’re one of the few countries in the world that don’t seem to publish the amount of people who are recovering on a day by day basis, would you start looking at that?
Prime Minister Boris Johnson: (43:33)
Tom, can I first of all say, that actually one of the things that people perhaps don’t make enough of is that this country has been absolutely unique in the world in the way that we’ve tried to keep people on modestly, people in hospitality, in retail, in tourism in the very sectors you mentioned Tom. We’ve kept them in funds through the furloughing scheme, through the coronavirus job retention scheme. It’s been absolutely crucial. There’s been nothing like it around the world. Six and a half million people have been supported and we believe in it.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson: (44:09)
One of the differences between this crisis and 2008, is we really do want to look after the working people in this country. Look after people who need our help. They’re our priority. And you’re totally right in what you say, we are going to have to think about the economy differently as we go forward, but I wouldn’t be quite as pessimistic as you, about some of these sectors. I do believe that they will recover.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson: (44:34)
As you know, we have an ambition to get at least some hospitality going by July 4. That will be a tough ask. It will be hard to achieve. And it depends on a great deal of conditionality that I’ve set out. But that’s the ambition, that’s the target, that we’re setting. So at least some of the jobs, the groups that you mentioned there, will start to come back. And then, over the medium term, I’ve absolutely no doubt that the UK economy is immensely resilient and will come back, but we’re going to have to think a lot more about… to get back to the question Beth Rigby asked, which is a very good one. If we can’t get a vaccine fast, we’re going to have to think a lot more about how we make our businesses, our lives COVID secure, whilst continuing with economic activity. But we’re a very ingenious bunch, the Brits. I’m sure we’ll find ways forward. And that’s what we intend to do.
Chris Whitty: (45:37)
On the second one, certainly I’ve tried and Patrick has tried, right from the beginning, to balance two things, the seriousness of this virus as an epidemic, and it clearly is a very serious epidemic, but equally the fact that actually the great majority of people will not die from this. And I’ll just repeat something I said right at the beginning, because I think it’s worth reinforcing. A significant proportion of people will not get this virus at all, at any point in the epidemic, which is going to go on for a long period of time.
Chris Whitty: (46:09)
Of those who do, some of them will get the virus without even knowing it. They will have the virus with no symptoms at all, asymptomatic carriage. And we know that happens. Of those that get symptoms, the great majority, probably 80% will have a mild or moderate disease, might be bad enough for them to have to go to bed for a few days, not bad enough for them to have to go to the doctor. An unfortunate minority, will have to go as far as hospital, but the majority of those will just need oxygen and will then leave hospital. And then a minority of those will end up having to go to severe and critical care and some of those sadly will die. But that’s a minority. It’s 1% or possibly even less than 1% overall. And even in the highest risk group, this is significantly less than 20%. The great majority of people, even the very highest groups, if they catch this virus will not die.
Chris Whitty: (47:03)
And I really wanted to make that point really clearly. And if you look at the curves, the second point, because of the work that the whole country has done, these are coming down, the deaths are coming down. The numbers of people in intensive care are coming down. Deaths in care homes are coming down. These are all very positive things. So absolutely want to reinforce that sense of perspective, but that doesn’t mean you can get away from the fact that if we did not do anything, if we left this virus to run, we would be back in a very serious situation that would threaten many lives and threaten the NHS.
Chris Whitty: (47:36)
So it’s getting those two messages, absolutely in balance. And I fully agree with you, you have to give both the messages, not just the one.
Sir Patrick Vallance: (47:44)
And yes, we need to get as much information out as we can. And so the more information we’ve got that we can get out, the better so people can understand where we are.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson: (47:51)
Thanks very much, Chris and Patrick and thank you, Tom. Do you want to come back?
Tom Newton Dunn: (48:01)
Yes, please. Just very quickly then. Is it time to then start publishing daily recovery rates? Do you know, for example, now, how many people in the country have recovered from the virus and are now perfectly healthy, again, such as the prime minister, for example?
Sir Patrick Vallance: (48:14)
We have data. Obviously, you don’t know everybody for the reasons Chris has said, because a large number of people have been asymptomatic or haven’t gone to the doctor, but we do have recovery rates. They are available. And I see absolutely no reason why they shouldn’t be made available.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson: (48:25)
Yes, we certainly have hospital recovery rates.
Chris Whitty: (48:28)
In a sense what we have, and this is where I wouldn’t want people to over read them. They’re perfectly open data, actually. It’s perfectly possible to get hold of them if people want. We have data on the people who got as far as hospital, how many of those left hospital, but of course they’re at the very severe end of the spectrum. All the ones I was talking about before that point, they make a full recovery. They don’t enter the statistics. Now they increasingly will enter the statistics, now that we have a better testing capacity. That means that we’re picking out more of the milder cases in the community. But I think if people look at those, to go back to your point, what I wouldn’t want is for people then to say, “Oh, well, the mortality rate is higher than I expected.” That’s because the recovery rates we have, are for people who were severe enough to get to hospital. And even so, that is a majority. So it is important that each sentence is read in that context.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson: (49:20)
Thanks very much, Tom. I’m sure that the hospital recovery rates are readily available. We should certainly supply those. Thanks very much. Last question, it’s from Heather Stewart of the Guardian, Heather.
Heather Stewart: (49:33)
Hi. Low skilled, low paid workers have been four times more likely to die from this disease than professionals. And many more of those low skilled workers are in industries where they’ll be actively encouraged to return to work from Wednesday. A lockdown is much tougher if you’re in a smaller accommodation without a garden, maybe you don’t have the nannies or the cleaners who are now being allowed to return to work, to help those who are working from home, the professionals who are working from home. Can you understand why some people feel the burden of this crisis is falling unfairly on the poor? And I just wanted one question, just quickly, you talked about the science there of children’s involvement in transmitting the disease. I just wondered whether we will see that. Will we be able to see that before the first batch of kids return to school, possibly, or not on the 1st of June?
Prime Minister Boris Johnson: (50:20)
Yes. Sorry, Heather, look, a very good question. We’ve got to look very carefully at the end of this at all the impacts this has had on society, which people have been particularly hard hit. And there’s no question that it is falling hardest on certain groups and you’re right to point that out. And we’re going to need to address that.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson: (50:45)
I might just make a couple of points about what we’re proposing this week and what we’re doing. I want to be clear that, yes, in saying that people who can’t work from home should now go to work, we are absolutely categorical their workplace, your workplace must be safe, must be COVID secure. Employers will not be allowed to get away with forcing people to work in conditions that are not COVID secure. Everybody must obey social distancing, and we’re going to have a lot more inspections by the health and safety executive. We’ll have random spot inspections to check that companies are doing the right thing.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson: (51:35)
And if people feel that they’re being made to work in conditions or they find themselves in conditions that they think are unsafe, then they should immediately report it and we will take action. That goes for all work. But I want to stress, we’re not expecting, this week, a huge change. We’re simply encouraging those in those sectors that we’ve outlined who can’t work from home, now, to talk to their employers and to go to work.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson: (52:12)
And on your point about the burden falling on working people, I remind you what this country has done virtually uniquely to support working people through the furloughing scheme, through the coronavirus job retention scheme. It is quite a remarkable thing that we’ve done, but it’s right. And we’re protecting people’s jobs. We’re protecting people’s lives and people’s livelihoods. And I think it’s entirely right that we’ve done it that way.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson: (52:44)
Chris Whitty: (52:45)
Patrick will want to add an additional point to what I’m about to say. There are basically three questions within what you’ve just said. There’s do children get severe disease? The answer is very rarely, not never. But those data are very secure. And I think it’s widely accepted, lots of studies from multiple countries.
Chris Whitty: (53:04)
Second question is, do children transmit the virus in significant numbers? And if so, does age make a difference? So is there a difference between younger children and older children? And that’s still uncertain, that’s still being looked at quite carefully in lots of different places.
Chris Whitty: (53:19)
Then the third question is, do schools actually contribute significantly to an increase? And yeah, they do contribute a certain amount, and this is what’s been modeled very carefully by SAGE. And this is the thing that Patrick might wish to talk about. But as I think you know, Patrick as chair of Sage and me as co-chair in this area, we’re both very committed to the idea of publication of all of these stats behind SAGE and that’s happening, never as fast as people want, but the fact is that is happening. And clearly that is an important part of the scientific endeavor. Patrick.
Sir Patrick Vallance: (53:57)
Yeah, very keen to get that and most of the data on this is in the public domain, using what other countries have done. And you can see the information on both the very low rates of severe disease, as Chris has said, but also in terms of do children become infected as much? They certainly don’t become infected more and there’s some evidence to suggest they might become infected less, not very secure at the moment. Do they transmit more? No. Might they transmit less? Possibly. That’s again, not entirely clear. And do they, at a young age, act as less of a transmission between households in terms of their behaviors and patterns of contacts? Yes, they do a bit. And so that’s the sort of evidence that we’re looking at and we’ll make all our papers open as we’ve pledged to do.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson: (54:47)
Thank you very much, Patrick. Thank you very much, Chris. Thank you, Heather. Thank you all for watching. Thank you.