Apr 20, 2020
United Kingdom Coronavirus Briefing Transcript April 20
British officials gave a coronavirus briefing transcript April 20. UK official Rishi Sunak explained the priority to avoid a second peak of infections when considering reopening. Read the full transcript of the press conference here.
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Rishi Sunak: (00:07)
Good evening from Downing Street where I’m joined by professor Angela McLean, Deputy Chief Scientific Advisor and Yvonne Doyle, Medical Director of Public Health England. Before I provide an update on the economic situation, let me start by addressing the issue upper most on people’s minds, personal protective equipment or PPE. This is an international challenge that many other countries are experiencing. Alongside the efforts of British businesses and our embassies around the world, we are working hard to get the PPE our frontline NHS and social care staff need. We have appointed Paul Deighton, formally chief executive of the London 2012 Olympics to lead on our domestic efforts to make an increase the supply of PPE. And we are receiving shipments of PPE regularly from suppliers in the UK and abroad. We’re working to resolve the Turkish shipment of PPE as soon as possible following some unexpected delays at the weekend. Today we have unloaded a shipment of 140,000 gowns from Myanmar and we are of course continuing to pursue every possible option for PPE procurement.
Rishi Sunak: (01:22)
Let me now turn to the economic situation. Exactly a month ago today, I stood at this lectern and said we would step in and help to pay people’s wages. We promised this support would be available by the end of April, today we deliver our promise. HMRC opened the coronavirus job retention scheme at eight o’clock this morning. As of four o’clock this afternoon over 140,000 firms have applied and the grants they’ll receive will help pay the wages of more than a million people. A million people who if they hadn’t been furloughed would have been at risk of losing their job. Firms applying today should receive their cash in six working days. HMRC will continue to provide updates on the number of people furloughed. And let me put on record my thanks to the thousands of staff at HMRC and HMT who have made this happen. People have come out of retirement, put aside their normal duties and worked around the clock from their kitchen tables and spare rooms to get this new system up and running.
Rishi Sunak: (02:37)
This remarkable story of public service reminds us how many different people are playing a role in this crisis and I’m very grateful to all of them for everything they have done. It’s important to be clear why we have introduced the CGRS and the other schemes we’ve put in place to support the self employed and businesses. We’ve never seen an economic crisis like this one. Times like this demand that we put aside ideology and orthodoxy. Times like this demand that a state turns to its most immediate purpose, the protection and support of its people. The goal of the new schemes we’ve developed is to maintain as many people as possible in their existing jobs, to support viable businesses to stay afloat and to protect the incomes of the self employed to allow them to trade again. To maintain, in other words, our economy’s productive capacity so that we can bridge through this crisis.
Rishi Sunak: (03:43)
That is what we have done and the office of budget responsibility said last week that the situation would have been much worse if it hadn’t been for our actions. But in everything we have done, even in our defense against the immediate crisis, we have also been sowing the seeds of our ultimate recovery. As we look ahead and start to plan for our recovery, it is critical we don’t just maintain companies and jobs that already exist, but that we also encourage the businesses, jobs and technologies of the future. Innovation and entrepreneurship have powered growth in our country for centuries and it is what will drive our growth as we recover from this crisis. To that end earlier today, I launched two initiatives to support the most innovative firms in the country worth 1.25 billion pounds. First, we are launching a new future fund worth 500 million pounds to make sure that high growth companies across the UK can continue to access the investment they need during this crisis.
Rishi Sunak: (04:51)
Launching in May the future fund will provide UK based early stage companies with convertible loans between 125,000 pounds and 5 million pounds. Our future fund will match investments made by private investors in early stage businesses on terms that protect the UK taxpayer. Second, alongside the new future fund, the business secretary Alok Sharma has worked closely with Innovate UK, our national innovation agency, to provide 750 million pounds of grant and loan funding for tens of thousands of highly innovative firms in every sector, every region and every nation of the UK. He like I believe strongly in the role of innovation and enterprise in recovering our economy. As I said last week, right now the most important thing we can do for the health of our economy is to protect the health of our people. We must continue to slow the spread of the virus to make sure fewer people need hospital treatment at any one time and protect the NHS’ ability to cope.
Rishi Sunak: (06:04)
Today, the government’s ongoing monitoring and testing program reports 501,379 tests for coronavirus have now been carried out including 19,316 tests carried out yesterday. 124,743 people have tested positive an increase of 4,676 cases since yesterday. 17,971 people are currently in hospital with coronavirus in the UK and sadly of those who have been hospitalized 16,509 have now died, an increase of 449 fatalities since yesterday. Our thoughts are with the families and friends of all those who have lost their lives. As we look forward towards the next stage in our battle against this disease, there are encouraging signs we hope that we are making progress. But before we consider it safe to adjust any of the current social distancing measures, we must be satisfied that we have met the five tests set out last week by the first secretary.
Rishi Sunak: (07:15)
Those tests mean that the NHS can continue to cope, that the daily death rate for sustainably and consistently that the rate of infection is decreasing, that the operational challenges have been met and most importantly that there is no risk of a second peak. So I want to thank each and every person across the UK who is following the government’s advice to stay at home, protect our NHS and ultimately save lives. Thank you. Let me now hand over to Angela before taking questions from the media.
Angela McLean: (07:50)
Thank you. The first piece of data that we have to look at this afternoon is about that issue of how people are staying at home. So what we see here is a record of how many people have been using different kinds of transport since the middle of March. And what that shows is how people have responded to this call that all of us do need to stay home. And in particular what you see is that for all kinds of public transport use now is down to less than 20% of what it was during February. Indeed rail and tube use are down by 95%. So for all those people who have stayed at home in order to protect the NHS and save lives, I think we can look at this graph and say pretty much everybody else is doing it as well. If I could have the next slide please.
Angela McLean: (08:42)
And that’s reflected in these data which are about new UK cases running from the 21st of March to the 20th of April. And what you see in blue there is what are called pillar one people, people who’ve been tested positive. So that’s mostly people in hospital. And then in the orange on top is swab testing for key workers and their households. And the relief that you get when you look at that picture is to see that there’s a stock rising and is now pretty much stable and flat. Next slide please.
Angela McLean: (09:21)
And that’s reflected in this data about people who are in hospital with COVID-19. Across the whole country, that also remains stable. But here in London this is now the seventh day in the row that those numbers have fallen. So that means that the balance between people who are going into hospital because they’ve fallen ill and people who are going home because they’re well again now is in the opposite direction so that there are fewer people each day in hospital with COVID. We’re looking forward to seeing that pattern replicated across other regions of the country. Next slide, please. Finally, we get to the slide comparing how many people have died in the UK-
… in comparison with other countries. We have two different ways of keeping track of that here. We have the most, the very up to date data, which goes right to yesterday and that’s UK, but only counts death that’s that occurred, sadly, for people who are in hospital, and there’s a deaths by the date of registration. Then further back on that slide, you can see data from the UK for all settings and that data takes longer to put together and present. So that’s why, on this slide, that data is only a shorter data run. With that, I will finish so that we can turn to questions.
Rishi Sunak: (10:43)
Brilliant. Thank you, Angela. Can we turn first to Hugh Pym from the BBC?
Hugh Pym: (10:49)
Yes. Thank you. I want you to pick up on the issue of PPE, which you mentioned. We’re hearing of continuing concerns amongst some health and care workers about PPE. Are you ashamed as a government that there are some NHS staff going into work who say they’re worried about their safety because they fear their hospitals might run out of PPE?
Rishi Sunak: (11:14)
Thank you Hugh. Absolutely, everybody working incredibly hard on the front line deserves to have the equipment they need to be able to do their job safely and we’re working around the clock to make sure that we can deliver on that. Obviously, a billion pieces of PPE have been delivered, I think 12 million yesterday, and as you heard from me, we’re improving our sourcing internationally and domestically, to make sure we can get the PPE we need, but in what is a very challenging international context. But people on the frontline can rest assured that we are doing absolutely everything we can and straining everything we can to get the equipment that they need. I don’t know, Yvonne, if you want to add anything?
Yvonne Doyle: (11:51)
Thank you chancellor. So yes, Hugh, it is of concern and obviously we want people who are working on the front line with patients at high risk to have what they need. Over this weekend. I know, for instance, that 12 million pieces have been delivered to 141 trusts and as has been said, there’s incredible work going on internationally, in a very high burn rate situation. But also working to ensure that people use the guidance that is there in the most precautionary way to make the very best use, in a safe way, of what is available. So a difficult situation, undoubtedly, working very hard to make it better, and trying to get make sure we deliver to where it is most needed.
Rishi Sunak: (12:38)
Brilliant. Thank you. Does that, Hugh, answer the question?
Hugh Pym: (12:42)
Yeah. A quick follow up. On a business issue, chancellor, some small businesses say they’re finding difficulty accessing loans. Are you considering extending the scheme and raising the government guarantees?
Rishi Sunak: (12:56)
Thank you for the question. So I think on question of the guarantees, I’m not persuaded that moving to 100% guarantee is the right thing to do. I think if you take a step back and look at the sum total of everything we’ve done to support business, we’ve done a lot of direct cash support in the form of cash grants that are going to businesses, we’ve obviously cut business rates for a large number of businesses. So a million different businesses in each of those are benefiting. We’re paying statutory sick pay bills, and of course, we have a very generous furlough scheme to help businesses.
Rishi Sunak: (13:25)
Now some people have made some comparisons with what’s going on in other countries. I think when you look at the totality of what we’re doing, it’s more significant in scope and scale than most of those other countries and indeed where they have used loan guarantees that are different to ours, they’ve done it partly because they’re not doing some of the other things we’re doing. For example, the furlough scheme, or indeed the direct cash grants. But if people are asking the question, would that help speed up delivery of the loans? Then I’m very sympathetic to that and I also want to see that.
Rishi Sunak: (13:56)
I’m pleased to tell you now, the latest data I have, is that 12,000 loans have now gone out to small businesses. That’s more than double where it was a week ago, which was double where it was a week before. I think 35,000 or so applications have been made. The acceptance rates seems to be running 80 to 90%, so I think where the signs of progress there, which I’m watching very carefully, and also, working with the British Business Bank of banks to see if there are any other elements of the process that we can streamline, simplify, or strip out bureaucracy. There are a couple of operational tweaks that I won’t bore you with that we have made just recently that will also help. But rest assured I’m watching it very carefully to ensure that credit gets to the businesses that do need.
Rishi Sunak: (14:38)
Could we go next to Robert Peston from ITV.
Robert Peston: (14:42)
Good afternoon to you. The ONS seemed to indicate today with its data that your deaths in hospitals are under-reporting the totality of deaths from COVID-19 by as much as 40%. Do you think that is right? Do you think that we will, when we get to it at the end of this, see the death rate roughly 40% odd, higher than the numbers you’ve reported so far from hospitals?
Robert Peston: (15:16)
The governor of the Bank of England does think that 100% guarantees would massively, or significantly, increase the volume of loans to small businesses. Why do you disagree with him chancellor? And finally, the prime minister appears to be signaling from his convalescence that we will be living with something pretty close to the kind of lockdown we’ve got at the moment for many weeks and months. Can you confirm that?
Rishi Sunak: (15:41)
Thanks Robert. Let me address the last two of those questions. I think what the governor of the Bank of England was saying was that it’s important to get credit flowing to companies. There are different ways to do that. As I reiterated in my answer to Hugh, there’s of course things we can do to make sure that the speed of the loan program is improved and that’s what we’ve put in place over the past week or two. There’s also just direct cash support that we’ve done for businesses. I think what he also said was, yeah, there’s obviously a fiscal cost to all of these things and it’s important to be mindful of that. I think the scale of the intervention we’ve done, fiscally, as I said, is more significant than almost any other developed country and I think we’ve done it in a targeted and effective way that will be most beneficial to businesses.
Rishi Sunak: (16:26)
To your second question, as I said, we’ve been very clear. At this stage of the crisis, we are absolutely focused on sticking to the guidance. The First Secretary set out five tests last week, for us to think about moving to the next stage, we are not there yet, and so it’s very clear that for now what we should focus on is following the guidance, staying at home to protect the NHS, and I think, anything else that people might be speculating on is wrong, we’re crystal clear on that message, and then perhaps on the data. Yvonne, would that be for you to handle? Thank you.
Yvonne Doyle: (16:59)
Thank you chancellor. So Robert, yes, undoubtedly the hospital data do not tell the whole story of total deaths, and this week, as for last week, we will have a comprehensive view of that later in the week from ONS. I don’t know if whether 40% is a correct figure. I couldn’t really say that, but I would expect more. We know now from looking at the pattern that nine out of 10 deaths do occur in hospital. What I do feel is that the burden of mortality outside of hospital isn’t evenly distributed throughout the country. It will mirror where, for instance, there may be more care homes or more hospices, so we will see an uneven pattern of that. But we will certainly know for sure later this week what the comprehensive number is.
Rishi Sunak: (17:44)
Great. Thank you Yvonne. Thank you. Robert. Could we turn next to Beth Rigby from Sky?
Beth Rigby: (17:49)
Thank you chancellor. A question first for Professor Dawn, if I may. Some of the bodies representing medics are deeply concerned that Public Health England have downgraded PPE guidelines on Friday, based on the availability of equipment rather than safety standards. Do you acknowledge that NHS staff are potentially risking their own safety to look after patients and just to the chancellor, you’ve put the furlough scheme in place until June, you now have some idea of take up. Can you give us an estimate of the cost and will you extend it further if necessary?
Rishi Sunak: (18:30)
Thanks Beth. I’d say we don’t have an estimate of take-up. Yeah, it’s just the first day that the scheme is opened and as I said, I expect those numbers to continue to increase over the coming days and I’ll provide regular updates on them. I think the OBR set out an estimate of costs last week, which I would refer you to, and we did extend it last week. Given where we are and given where we are in the crisis, and given where we are in the state of the economy, thought that was the right decision to provide some longterm certainty for businesses and security for their employees. I can’t tell you now what the future will look like. We keep these things under constant review and it will depend on the evolution of how we move through this crisis and move to the next phase.
Rishi Sunak: (19:12)
I think with your specific question on PPE, Yvonne will answer, though I would say, I think in all cases, we’ve taken advice and guidance that is in line with the WHO, the CDC, and Public Health England. But I’ll let Yvonne answer.
Yvonne Doyle: (19:25)
Thank you. Absolutely, chancellor. Thank you Beth. So the guidance remains exactly the same. What has happened over the weekend is to cover people really and give them some security in exceptional circumstances. Advice has been produced, jointly with the NHS, about how to be safe in circumstances where supplies may be at risk, and that is a very precautionary set of advice. It’s quite the opposite to putting people at risk because there aren’t enough supplies, it’s trying to ensure that people are well secured, unsafe when there may not be enough supplies, and it also stresses how important …
Yvonne Doyle: (20:03)
… it is not to take risks and when it is not right to do certain things in practice with the PPE. So, it’s very important that people understand what that is actually saying and it is advice that guidance has not been downgraded.
Rishi Sunak: (20:18)
Is that clear, Beth?
Yeah. Just to follow up, professor [inaudible 00:00:26], just medics have told me that they feel that the guidelines are based on availability of equipment, not on safety standards and they feel nervous. Can you understand why some NHS workers might feel if they go to work and they haven’t got the equipment, they just can’t stay in that environment?
Yvonne Doyle: (20:42)
Of course, I understand people’s anxieties on the front line where they’re in a very uncertain situation, but I would stress again that the advice has been put out precisely to give them some information in those circumstances about what is the right and what is not the right thing to do. And it is built entirely on the guidance that exists and it is consistent with what the WHO/CDC say in exceptional circumstances should be done.
Rishi Sunak: (21:09)
Thank you, everyone. Thanks, Beth. Can we go next to Andy Bell from channel five?
Andy Bell: (21:11)
Yes. Thank you very much. And really just to follow up on that. So, if a worker in a care home for instance, or if a doctor or a nurse in the NHS says, “I am not prepared to go into my work because I’m not satisfied I have the correct PPE that is appropriate,” would you support their decision not to go in?
Yvonne Doyle: (21:35)
So, in these circumstances, it’s very difficult to give local advice in a local circumstance. But what we’re very clear with guidance is that the guidance tells you what is the right thing to do and what is safe. And that is very much then based on people’s judgment of that, it’s use, the risk assessment they’re in. So certainly, and people have to make their decisions based on whether they are in a risky situation or not. And it’s very difficult to legislate for all of that from a distance here, but just to say the guidance is very clear on what is safe and what is not safe to do.
Andy Bell: (22:11)
Thank you. [crosstalk 00:22:13].
Yvonne Doyle: (22:11)
Andy Bell: (22:13)
Follow up. Yeah, and can I also ask you, chancellor, as the representative of the government to answer the question as well. It’s not necessarily the local advice, it’s the principle. That if somebody feels they’ve been put in that position, is it okay for them to say that and would you support that?
Rishi Sunak: (22:29)
Well look, they of course should talk to their local managers who would be better placed to advise than I on exactly the local circumstances. What we have put in place is a hotline that anyone can call to alert us to any supply issues with PPE, which I think has been well publicized and everyone who’s on the frontline should be aware of that. But very much as I reiterated before, we are determined to do everything we can to support those NHS and social care workers on the frontline to make sure that they feel safe in doing the vital job that they are doing. And as I said, we are doing absolutely everything we can on the sourcing side to get them the equipment they need and they can rest assured that we will just work night and day to do exactly that. Thank you, Andy. Can we go next to Richard Partington, the Guardian?
Richard Partington: (23:15)
Hi there, good evening. Thank you very much. I’m going to ask about the economy here, chancellor. The former prime minister Tony Blair says he is terrified about the longterm economic consequences of the lockdown measures. Do you share that concern? And reports over the weekend suggested that treasury analysis shows there’ll be more permanent damage to the economy than the OBR might. Do you believe there will be a deep and U-shaped recession if lockdown goes on for longer than three weeks and what efforts would you like to see for the lockdown to be lifted and how long will that take?
Rishi Sunak: (23:52)
Thanks, Richard. Let me try and answer all three of those together. So, I think in terms of what do we need to see in order for the lockdown to be lifted, I think that’s been very clear. First, secretary of state set out five tasks. I reiterated those. The most important is the last one that we can’t have a risk of a second peak. That would not just be bad for health outcomes, that would also be very bad for the economy. So, I would urge people to consider that and we clearly have not passed those tests yet, which is why it’s important that we stick with the existing rules around social distancing. And to the other questions, all I say is the OBR themselves said we’re in a very uncertain place as to know exactly what will happen to here.
Rishi Sunak: (24:32)
You would expect any responsible chancellor to make sure that we have plans in place for a range of different scenarios. That’s of course what we do and that’s what I’m doing. But what I would say is that the important thing now is to put in place interventions that will help bridge through this difficult period to make sure that recovery, when it comes, is as strong as it possibly can be. And an intervention most significantly, like the furloughing scheme, the job retention scheme today, that’s a million people who otherwise might well have been laid off but instead are still attached to their employer ready to go back to work when we get through this. Those are the kinds of things that we’re doing that I think will make a real difference and ensure that our recovery is as strong as it possibly can be. But as I said, this will be a challenging period. We’re not going to be able to save every single job or every single business, but I am confident that the measures we’ve put in place will allow us to come out of this and get back to normal as quickly as possible. Thank you. If we could go next to Torcuil Crighton from the Daily Record?
Torcuil Crighton: (25:37)
Thank you, chancellor. Chancellor, you’ve said your business and job supports package is amongst the best in the world, but you’re leaving behind thousands of workers who are self employed on a far from perfect job retention scheme. The Center for Economic and Business Research forecasts every household will be 515 pounds worse off every month for the next three months. Do you hear Labor’s calls for universal credit to be reformed so the payments are immediate, so the advanced loans are paid off. And SNP calls for a better deal for the self employed, because when you say you can’t help everyone it doesn’t sound fair. It sounds callous.
Rishi Sunak: (26:16)
Thank you, Torcuil. With regard to the self employed actually in other countries, not every single country has a scheme for self employed people because of the complexity of dealing with it. I think our scheme covers 95% of those people who are majority self employed and who we have information on. And I think when we put the scheme in place in conjunction with all the various trade associations representing self-employed, it was an accepted principle that of course we could only design a scheme to get money to people who we had tax records and information about. Otherwise, any scheme would be then open to enormous abuse and fraud, and that was a pretty accepted principle. We started with that base. We said we want to protect people who are mainly self-employed, that means people who make the majority of their income from self- employment, and of those we’ve protected 95%. That’s almost 4 million people who will at the beginning of June be able to apply and then receive payments in exactly the same way as those who were employed. 80% of their average self employment income over the past few years, up to a maximum of $2,500 a month. So, we’ve actually tried to treat them in the same way as possible and that will be up and running reasonably soon.
Rishi Sunak: (27:24)
With regard to universal credit, what I would say is you talk about the way it is possible for everybody to get payments on day one from the beginning. That system has been up in place for a while to make sure people can get that advanced payment and they don’t have to wait. That’s something the work and pension secretary has been very clear about and implementing, removing the requirement for people to physically attend a job center so they can do it easily and quickly on the phone. And also, we have injected about 7 billion pounds into the welfare system to strengthen not just universal credit, but employment support allowance, the local housing allowance to support renters. All of those aspects of the welfare system have been strengthened so that the safety net there will be stronger for people who need to rely on it. So, whether it’s the furlough scheme, the self-employment scheme or the interventions on the welfare side, I feel confident saying that we have taken extraordinary and unprecedented steps to provide as big a safety net for as many people as is practically possible. Hopefully, that deals with your three questions. Can we go next to Liam Thorpe from the Liverpool Echo?
Liam Thorpe: (28:32)
Good afternoon and thanks for having me. My first question is to professor MacLean. On the 11th of March, Liverpool hosted a champions league match with Athletico Madrid in which 3000 football [inaudible 00:28:45] from Madrid traveled across several major international transport hubs, despite there being a major outbreak of coronavirus in Madrid at the time that had left many people dead. On the same day, the deputy CMO Jenny Harries said that the advice was that large events like this would not have a big impact on the transmission of the virus, and obviously [inaudible 00:29:08] festival went ahead as well. We’ve since in Liverpool seen a real surge in deaths. We have 250 people died in hospital, many more in the community and the Madrid mayor has now come out and said that hosting that specific football match at that time was a real mistake. I was just wondering if considering the advice then changed and mass gatherings were then banned, if the government is now prepared to accept that that was a mistake and that that match and other events around the time should never have gone ahead?
Liam Thorpe: (29:33)
And quickly for the chancellor, if I may, Liverpool council like many town halls across the country seem to very much bear the brunt of the austerity agenda that followed the last financial crash. As I’m sure you will accept, councils across the country, particularly when it comes to social care, are really stepping up and leading the charge in communities in tackling the coronavirus. I was wondering if you could give a cast iron guarantee to counsel, to town halls, to local leaders that they will not be the ones to pay the ultimate price when it comes to the economic-
Liam Thorpe: (30:03)
… impact and that they will get a fair funding settlement that won’t put the people that they care for at more risk.
Rishi Sunak: (30:10)
Angela, did you want to start with the question?
Angela Maclean: (30:11)
I’m genuinely sad to hear that so many people in Liverpool have been unwell and so many have died. I think the question you raised really has to be put into the context of what was the general policy at the time, so if were at a bit of our recent history where we were living our lives as normal, in that circumstance, going to a football match is not a particularly large extra risk. However, once you get to a situation of our strange lives as we live them now, where we spend all our time basically at home, of course you wouldn’t add on an extra risk of lots and lots of people all going off to the same place at the same time.
Angela Maclean: (30:48)
I think it would be very interesting to see in the future when all the science has done, what relationship there is between the viruses that have circulated in Liverpool and the viruses that are circulated in Spain. That’s certainly an interesting hypothesis you raised there.
Rishi Sunak: (31:01)
Liam, yeah, I can address your other question. I used to be a local government minister, so I know firsthand the incredible work that councils up and down the country do, and they have risen to the challenge of tackling this emergency amazingly well. We absolutely want to support them during this period and get them the resources that they need. My colleague, the local government secretary just this weekend, announced 1.6 billion pounds in incremental funding for local authorities. That brings the total extra funding that we’ve provided during this crisis to over 3 billion pounds, to provide extra resources to them to help them get through, provide the extra services they are.
Rishi Sunak: (31:39)
And demonstrates I think our commitment to stand shoulder to shoulder with all those people on the front line, whether they’re our local government, public servants or indeed those in our NHS. So I said, hopefully, we’ve delivered on our commitment and we’ll continue to do so to support local government. Sorry, did you have a follow up, Liam?
Liam Thorpe: (32:01)
Just as the government representative here, looking back at the first question I asked there, considering that the guidance changed and mass gatherings were banned, do you think the government was too slow to cancel major sporting fixtures like football matches and the Cheltenham Festival and we may now be seeing the effect of that?
Rishi Sunak: (32:18)
I mean, I echo what Angela said. At every stage in this crisis, we have been guided by the scientific advice and have been making the right decisions at the right time. And it’s important, if you listen to Angela and her colleagues that that’s what we do. There’s often a wrong time to put certain measures in place thinking about sustainability and everything else. And at all parts of this, we’ve been guided by that science, we’ve been guided by making the right decisions at the right time, and I stand by that. But more generally, of course as Michael Gove said yesterday, this is an unprecedented situation that we’re all dealing with.
Rishi Sunak: (32:55)
I’m sure there are all things that we will learn from this as I’ve been very about, but in terms of the guidance that we put in place, I believe it was the right guidance at the right time based on the scientific advice that we were provided with. And then Michael Stothard from Sifted.
Michael S.: (33:14)
I’ve got two economic questions about the startup fund and then one for Angela Maclean if you’ll permit me. First question for the chancellor, this Futures Fund will likely mean that the UK government will for pretty much the first time own equity stakes in a large number of UK startups. It’s seemingly a move towards a more French and German approach where the state has regularly taken XD stakes to help startups. So my question is, do you believe this new equity owning approach is strictly temporary due to the crisis or does this signal a broader shift in government policy towards startups with taking equity, a new tool that’s now really in play for the government?
Michael S.: (33:55)
The second just economic question, Sifted is a startup itself where new media by the Financial Times writing about startups. We know firsthand that a lot of startups run with very short cash runways. There’s obviously been some criticism of the British Business Bank in terms of delivering on some of the other funds. What assurances can you give to startups that this money will come quickly because six months may be too late for a lot of [inaudible 00:34:26] startups. And then finally sort of just for Angela Maclean on a totally different topic, the deputy governor of the Bank of England today said it wasn’t clear if people would return to a normal life, even after restrictions are lifted.
Michael S.: (34:44)
People are clearly very scared. Do you have any behavioral modeling which could predict how people will respond when the lockdown is eventually relaxed?
Rishi Sunak: (34:56)
Thanks Michael. Angela, do want to go first and then I can conclude?
Angela Maclean: (35:01)
That’s a terrific question. We certainly spend a lot of time speaking to behavioral scientists, behavioral scientists on SAGE. We have a whole subgroup called SPY-B which is full of behavioral scientists and everything we do, we talk to them very carefully about what they expect to happen. And they’re very terrific, very careful scientists and I honestly think if they were here now, they would say these are unprecedented times. That makes it really quite difficult to predict how people will behave in the future. So I’m very happy to go in and ask them if they are thinking about… Mostly what they do is look for data that can help us think through how people will behave given how they behave in the past and how much people will go back to work, when and if it becomes available, I think it will be a very hard thing to predict given just what strange days we’re in.
Rishi Sunak: (36:01)
Thanks Angela. Michael, thanks for your questions. You’re absolutely right on the first one. This is not something that we’ve done before. So in that sense, it is innovative. I would say it’s a very specific response to the unprecedented circumstances that we find ourselves in, which is why I think it’s the right decision to take a slightly different approach. Historically, we have channeled government funding through British patient capital, as you would know, into actual funds to fill that gap, and that’s worked well for us. I would say, the UK is like a European startup success story in terms of the amount of venture capital raised, in terms of new companies created and the ones that scale up more than most of Europe put together.
Rishi Sunak: (36:39)
So historically, we haven’t needed to do something like this and in time, it may well be that we don’t need to have this intervention as things get back to normal. But of course, it’s something we’ll keep in review now that we have it and we’ll be able to see how it performs. But as I said, it is designed to support what I think is one of the most dynamic parts of our economy and will be vital for getting us out of this and getting growth back onto an upward trajectory, which is why I thought it was the right thing to do today. In terms of your second question on timing, six months, the scheme will be open until the end of September. It will actually be up and running in May.
Rishi Sunak: (37:15)
And the term sheet for the convertible loan product that we will match fond is available online at the gov.uk website. So for those people who think they might need to raise capital, I’d say, go and have a look at that term sheet if you think it might make sense for you, start putting your round together confident that this will be up and running in May and then we’ll be there ready to provide the capital that you require to drive your growth into the future, whether that’s you at Sifted or any of the other startups that might be benefiting from the scheme. And I think with that, we are at the end. So thank you very much. Thank you Angela and Yvonne and everyone. As always, please, thank you for your compliance with the social distancing guidelines.
Rishi Sunak: (38:02)
Please do follow the rules. There is, as the First Secretary said, light at the end of the tunnel, but we are not there yet so we must remember to stay at home, protect the NHS and save lives. Thank you.
Speaker 3: (38:14)
So the latest of the official daily news conferences at number 10 Downing Street, live the pictures for you from inside number 10. And Rishi Sunak, the chancellor with two of the most senior government advisors there on science and health. Light at the end of the tunnel, he said quoting Dominic Raab, but saying that to say the least, we’re not there yet. So let’s have a reminder of the main points from that briefing, which took around 40 minutes. The latest figures show that a further 449 people have died in hospitals in the UK, having tested positive for coronavirus and that brings the total number of deaths so far in the UK to 16, 509.
Speaker 3: (39:03)
And addressing one of the most pressing issues, the shortage of personal protective equipment for staff in the NHS and in the care sector, the chancellor said it was an international-