May 22, 2020
United Kingdom Coronavirus Briefing Transcript May 22
British officials gave a coronavirus press briefing on May 22. Priti Patel discusses quarantine measures to prevent a second COVID-19 wave.
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Priti Patel: (00:04)
Good afternoon, and welcome to the government’s daily briefing on Coronavirus. I’m pleased to be joined this afternoon by Paul Lincoln, the director general of Border Force, and by Sir Patrick Vallance, our Chief Scientific Advisor. Firstly, I’d like to update you on the latest daily figures. 3,231,921 tests for coronavirus have now been carried out in the UK, including 140,497 tests carried out yesterday. 254,195 people have tested positive, and that is an increase of 3,287 cases since yesterday. 9,307 people are currently in hospital with coronavirus. That is down 14% from 10,781 this time last week. And sadly, of those tested positive for Coronavirus across all settings, 36,393 people have now died. That is an increase of 351 fatalities since yesterday. All our thoughts, prayers, and deepest sympathies remain with all those who have lost their loved ones. At this time of national emergency, it is crucial that we continue remain alert, and save countless more lives.
Priti Patel: (01:34)
And that means doing everything in our power to control this terrible disease, taking the right action at the right time to prevent a second deadly wave. And that is why I’m announcing today the next step in our cross-government approach, and these include temporary public health restrictions at the border. And let me explain why we are bringing these forward. As other restrictions, of course, finally started to ease following two hard months of lockdown, the answer as to why we’re bringing these measures in now is simple. It is to protect that hard won progress and prevent a devastating resurgence in a second wave of the virus. We are following the science and introduce him public health measures that are supported by Sage. This will require international arrivals to self-isolate for 14 days. That is the incubation period of the virus. So that if people have become infected overseas, we can limit the spread of the virus at home.
Priti Patel: (02:35)
And as we are taking this action, we are taking it at a time when it will be the most effective. Passengers’ arrivals have been down by 99% compared to the previous year. Now we are past the peak of this virus, we must take steps to guard against imported cases triggering a resurgence of this deadly disease. And as a transmission rate across United Kingdom falls, and the number of travelers arriving in the UK begins to increase, imported cases could begin to pose a larger and increased threat. This is because they could become a high proportion of the overall number of infections in the UK, and therefore increase the spread of the disease. So with far fewer people being infected in this country, and with the public having worked so hard to bring our number down, any new arrivals entering the country with the disease during this next phase will have a much bigger impact, potentially causing a second wave.
Priti Patel: (03:35)
Now, this is of course a different story from when domestic transmission was at its peak, and when overseas travel was such an all time low. Led by the prime minister, the whole government has worked across all government departments, including with the devolved administration to develop these measures. And we do not take these steps nightly. This is extremely challenging, and these are difficult times for the entire nation as our freedoms have been sadly, but necessarily, curtailed. But we do not underestimate how hard these new restrictions will be for people up and down the country, and also those who’ve already sacrificed so much to help beat and drive down the spread of Coronavirus. And I know that families both at home and abroad are desperate to be reunited, but by taking these steps, we could save many more lives by making it possible for more family and more friends to safely be reunited in the future.
Priti Patel: (04:32)
We also recognize how hard these changes will be for our travel sector and leisure sectors, who are already struggling through these unprecedented times. So across government, we will continue to work with them and support what is an incredibly dynamic sector to find new ways to reopen international travel and tourism in a safe and responsible way. We will review these temporary public health measures every three weeks to ensure that they remain the right ones for our roadmap to recovery. And these measures will be introduced from the 8th of June, so that people arriving in the UK will be required to self-isolate for 14 days except for those on a short list of exemptions. Arrivals will be required to provide contact and address details to help trace them should we need to. And given the amazing public spirit and the level of compliance we have seen so far, we expect the vast majority of people to do the right thing and comply with these new requirements.
Priti Patel: (05:31)
We know that the vast majority of people will continue to act responsibly to control the spread of this virus and to stop a second wave, but we will not allow a small minority, a reckless minority, endanger us all. So there will be penalties for those who break these mandatory measures. Border Force will be on the frontline of implementing the changes with spot checks as people arrive in the UK. And Paul Lincoln, the director general of Border Force, will shortly speak to us and he’ll provide an update on the steps that people will need to take. And I’d also like to take this opportunity to thank our Border Force staff and our officers for the role that they will play, and for all that they are doing to protect our nation at this deeply challenging time. We are working across all four nations of the UK to make these public health measures work, but are now turned to the enforcement approach that is being taken here in England.
Priti Patel: (06:25)
We will conduct at spot checks by mid-June to ensure that people are self-isolating. And those some overseas who refuse to comply could be refused entry. Public Health England will set up an assurance service to contact people at random to ensure that they understand the requirements, and to also ensure that they are self-isolating. And our outstanding police will continue to do as they’ve done diligently across the country to engage, explain, and encourage people to follow the rules. We will empower them to use enforcement as a last resort. So anyone breaking their 14-day quarantine could face a penalty of 1000 pounds, and that will be a fixed penalty notice. And ultimately, that could also go into potential prosecution and an unlimited fine for failure to comply with these sanctions. We will keep these penalties under review, and we’ll be unafraid to increase them if that is required.
Priti Patel: (07:25)
But have no doubt, we are taking these measures at the right time because we’re serious about saving lives and controlling the virus. And we will be guided by the science, and the public health of the public and the country will always come first, which is why we are implementing these restrictions at the border now. Our absolute priority remains to stop the spread of this infection, to save lives, and to stop and prevent a second dangerous wave of this virus. That also means supporting our NHS and making short term sacrifices together to stop coronavirus, taking more lives. I’m now going to hand over to Paul Lincoln from border force who will update us. He’ll provide an operational update, but also talk about the measures and how they will be implemented. Thank you. Paul.
Paul Lincoln: (08:11)
Thank you, Home Secretary. Before we consider the health measures of the border, let me start by paying tribute to Border Force officers and staff, saying how proud I am for the professionalism and dedication which has been shown during this pandemic. In some areas, the context of our work has changed. This most prominent area, of course, is in air passenger arrivals. Whereas the home secretary has said, at times, there’ve been down 99% compared with the previous year. But elsewhere, the work has continued relentlessly. So despite the threats and challenges posed by Coronavirus, Border Force staff have been working tirelessly day in, day out in ports and airports, hand in glove with operational partners, such as the national crime agency and counterterrorism policing. And this is to keep the country safe and facilitate the repatriation of UK nationals from abroad. Throughout this crisis, they’ve remained on the front line, and they have needed to. Organized crime groups and those who wish to do the country harm take every opportunity that every crisis provides, and we’re seeing some born to attempts, to exploit vulnerable people as a result of Coronavirus.
Paul Lincoln: (09:20)
So as an organization, we have turned to face the threat. Last month alone, Border Force seized more than 700 kilograms of cocaine and heroin destined for our streets, some of which were concealed inside shipments of face masks. In the last few days alone, we see significant amounts of contraband, including an AK47 assault rifle, ammunition, nearly half a million pounds of illicit cash, and 20 tons of smuggled tobacco. We’ve also intercepted thousands of counterfeit COVID-19 tests, continuing our battle against those who were proliferating from this pandemic. And between the 21st of March and the 15th of May, our officer’s referred 84 consignments of face masks to trading standards as otherwise counterfeit or otherwise below standard. We’re also continuing to work against illegal migration. And in 2019-20, Border Force stopped over 30,000 illegal entry attempts or juxtapose controls overseas.
Paul Lincoln: (10:20)
But as well as tackling these criminal threats and working to keep illicit shipments out, the pandemic has highlighted the importance of working to expedite the entry of those items into this country that the country critically needs. Border force has facilitated the importation of medical equipment and PPE for the NHS, for care homes, and the police, as well as 220,000 laptops and tablets, which the department for education are distributing to disadvantaged children to ensure that they can fully access remote education and support. It’s also been important that we could help British citizens to come home. And as part of that, we were supporting the foreign and Commonwealth office with 469 repatriation flights, which brought home nearly 80,000 people.
Paul Lincoln: (11:06)
Turning to the new measures that the home secretary just announced, however, there are five key points which I want to make. First is that we are ramping up communications to make sure that anyone traveling into the UK is aware of the changes and the self-isolation measures which we put in place. Second, we’ll be asking people to provide their contact details, travel plans, and details of the accommodation where they will be self-isolating using an online form before travel, provided they are not in one of the exempted groups. The exempt two groups are primarily to meet the UK international obligations to provide for continued security of supply into the UK, and not to impede work such as national security or critical infrastructure. The full list will be published shortly on gov.uk, but the list of those not required to self-isolate includes those such as road haulage and freight workers to ensure the supply of goods is not impacted, and medical professionals who are traveling to help with the fight against coronavirus, foreign officials who come to the United Kingdom to work on essential border securities, such as the French police who operate in our controls.
Paul Lincoln: (12:11)
And in the recognition of the unique nature of the Common Travel Area, as well as unique position of Northern Ireland, all journeys from within the Common Travel Area will also be exempt. Obtaining people’s contract details on the travel plans for public health England, and for the devolved administrations, will support the test, track, and trace and equivalent devolved administration programs. The more rapidly we can identify and contact those at risk of infection, the more effectively we can reduce the spread of the virus. Third, at the border, there will be spot chats conducted by border force officers. Any obvious errors will trigger a requirement for the passenger to complete another form or potentially be refused entry into the UK. Fourth, passengers will then be required to go to their place of self-isolation. And finally, as the home secretary mentioned, there is the question of enforcement with the potential …
Paul Lincoln: (13:03)
… penalties for noncompliance of a hundred pounds for the fixed penalty, for failing to complete the form and a thousand pounds for breaching the terms itself, isolation. And in extreme circumstances, border force officers do reserve the right to refuse entry to any non-British or non-residents who do not follow these regulations. Given the high levels of compliance to date, we expect the vast majority of people will take this seriously and do the right thing. We will however, take enforcement action against a small minority of people who may disregard these actions and therefore further endanger people’s lives.
Paul Lincoln: (13:41)
The advice is quite clear, if you have the virus, or if you’re displaying symptoms, or if you’ve been in contact with somebody with the virus, you should not travel. To do so otherwise it’s potentially putting people’s lives at risks. We recognize, as the Home Secretary has said, that bringing these measures into force, there are sectors, such as the travel industry who may have concerns, and we’ll be working with them on the detailed implementation in the coming days. And we will also keep the measures regularly under review.
Paul Lincoln: (14:11)
We all look forward to a time when travel is fully back up and running. And when it is, border force stand ready to provide a warm welcome to the UK. In the meantime, it is essential that we use the levers at our disposal to ensure that the safety of our communities while still facilitating the critical trade into this country.
Priti Patel: (14:32)
Thank you, Paul. Patrick.
Sir Patrick Vallance: (14:34)
Yes. Can I have the first line, please? I want to start with some numbers. And on the right hand side of this slide is the R, and to remind you that is the number that determines or is driven from the number of individuals infected by one infected person on average. And so uncontrolled, this epidemic has an R of three, means three people on average are infected by one person and the epidemic grows very rapidly. If it’s one, then one person is infected by one person and it’s flat. We’re currently at an R across the UK of between 0.7 and one, below one in every area of the UK, we think, but potentially quite close to one. So the epidemic is either flat or declining at the moment in the UK, and in most areas it’s declining as I will show you.
Sir Patrick Vallance: (15:28)
As the epidemic becomes smaller, there are two numbers to concentrate on. One is the R and the other is the total number of infections and the number of new infections. On the left hand side of this slide are the numbers that come from the Office for National Statistics Survey, where they’ve been to 14,500 individuals and taken swabs to see who’s infected and also to see over time who becomes infected, and that’s in over 7,000 households. What that study tells us is that in the two weeks from May the 4th to May the 17th, that 0.25%, so roughly two or three out of 1,000 people are infected and have COVID. That comes to a number of about 137,000 across the country. It could be a bigger or [inaudible 00:16:22] or smaller, these have got wide confidence intervals, but that’s the sort of number.
Sir Patrick Vallance: (16:26)
The second important number is the number of new infections. So this is people every week who getting a new infection, and here the number looks like about 61,000 people per week at the moment, which turns out to be roughly one in a 1,000 or so people every week are getting an infection.
Sir Patrick Vallance: (16:46)
So that’s the sort of order we are. The epidemic is shrinking and the numbers will come down, but these are the numbers we need to keep an eye on because the lower we can get these numbers, the more possible it is to release measures and also to operate the test, trace, and contain system that’s being put in place.
Sir Patrick Vallance: (17:05)
Next slide, please, just to show you what this means, and I’ve said repeatedly that this slide is difficult because the number of cases tested here and the number of people who are positive isn’t a reflection of the total number I’ve just shown you in the previous slide, the total number. But what you can see in this slide is the number of tests being done per day have gone up a lot in the pink columns. The number of people confirmed as a result of that is going down in the green. And this is from 21st of March where we saw the peak to the top and now it’s coming down. So it’s consistent with the idea, the number of infections in the community are coming down day by day, but quite slowly, for the reasons I’ve said.
Sir Patrick Vallance: (17:47)
Next slide, please. As you would expect, the number of people infected is going down. So are the number of people admitted to hospital every day. And here you can see right the way across Wales, England, Scotland, Northern Ireland, the number of people in hospital coming down and the number of people on mechanical ventilators importantly are coming down. So we’ve got numbers of people on ventilators reducing, the intensive care patients, and the number of admissions, here the graph shown for England, coming down over time each day reducing. This is an important indication that the epidemic is shrinking.
Sir Patrick Vallance: (18:25)
Next slide, please. People in-hospital with the disease are also reducing, and here you can clearly see the peak. When you look at these graphs, going from the 20th of March through to the 21st of May, most obvious in London, where you can see a peak occurring around the beginning of April and then coming down now day by day. And you can see it’s a bit flatter in other places. So it’s not decreasing at exactly the same rate across the country, but wherever you look, it is decreasing. There’s clearly some work to be done to make sure it’s decreasing everywhere. And these last few numbers are going to be hard to get down, but we’ve got to keep trying to push them down. The lower the numbers, the better.
Sir Patrick Vallance: (19:07)
Next slide, please. And as you would hope and expect that as those numbers come down, infections, people admitted to hospital, people in-hospital, people on ventilator beds, so the number of deaths reduce as well. And this shows the number of deaths from the Department of Health and Social Care … numbers. They’re a little bit higher if you look at the Office for National Statistics numbers because these are only COVID confirmed, and the ONS numbers contain suspected as well. But what you can see here is a clear, again, a peak that occurred with a reduction now in the number of deaths.
Sir Patrick Vallance: (19:42)
And I just want to pause here to say this peak is an artificial peak. It’s a peak that we managed to suppress by the things that you have all done, we have all done to adhere to social distancing. The risk is that if we move too fast and do things in the wrong way, we get a second peak that would look exactly the same. And that’s what we’ve got to avoid.
Sir Patrick Vallance: (20:09)
Last slide, please. So as a reminder, as some of the rules around this are relaxed, it’s important that we do maintain the social distancing and we do maintain the rules around distance between people and our interactions. And it’s really quite encouraging to see that still we’ve got good information, good knowledge that actually people are adhering to this on the whole, and of course, it’s also the case that people are able to do more because the relaxation of rules and that’s important as well for other health reasons.
Sir Patrick Vallance: (20:44)
So everything pointed in the right direction. R between 0.7 and one, numbers coming down, but we need to keep on with it and we need to make sure that we don’t relax at the wrong time and end up with a recurrence and a growth again of this epidemic. Thank you.
Priti Patel: (21:01)
Patrick, thanks very much. Thank you. That’s very, very clear. I’m now going to move on to questions. And the first question is from Emma from Wealden.
What guidance and advice do you have for couples who have weddings booked, worth thousands of pounds, in August and September? What number will you put on a small gathering?
Priti Patel: (21:22)
So for those that didn’t quite hear that question, the question was what guidance and advice do you have for couples who’ve booked weddings. Now I’m going to speak about … I’ve got friends who’ve also booked weddings and had to cancel weddings. I think we all know people who’ve been in exactly the same situation. I think we’ve just heard from Patrick, who’s spoken about making sure that we take the right measures in particular to control the virus, but at the same time now we know that everything that we do in terms of not just working to control the virus, but making sure we take individual responsibility is absolutely crucial.
Priti Patel: (21:56)
But I think Patrick, perhaps on this point of gatherings, if you would like to just expand further about the best advice, because obviously we’re not encouraging gatherings at all. We do want to make sure that we can get into the position where people can obviously get back to holding weddings and living as normal as we possibly would like them to.
Sir Patrick Vallance: (22:16)
Well, the science advice on transmission is obviously related to the number of contacts you have and the closeness of that contact, and the duration of contact. And particularly we’ve been aiming to try and break transmission between households and across households and other areas because that’s what’s kept this under control. So as any decisions are made about relaxing those sorts of guidelines, and one of the things that’s happened is a bit of realization in terms of outdoors, where we know transmission is much less likely, but any decisions to relax would need to be based on a risk based assessment. And so the science can provide some guidance, but it can’t choose the number. That obviously has to be a policy decision in terms of how government would like to take that forward.
Priti Patel: (23:01)
Thank you, Patrick. Can we have the next question, please. This is from Geovanna from Cambridge, who asks, “When will dentists open and how will patients be safely treated? People are living in pain and delaying even a small problem can become a painful emergency.” Patrick, do you want to …
Sir Patrick Vallance: (23:20)
Yes, this is really a health question and not a direct science one, but it is an important one. And it’s clear that some professions are more likely to be close to people for long periods, and you may get some sort of aerosolization of some of the sputum and so on. So there are risks in certain professions, and dentistry is clearly one of those where that might be the case.
Sir Patrick Vallance: (23:45)
This is being looked at, I know, by the chief medical officer in terms of what could be done to reduce that. And of course, dentists are healthcare professionals who are used to working in environments where there’s an infection risk. So I know that this is being looked at very carefully, and I know that the CNO and others are thinking about what the guidance should be that would allow this to happen. And I absolutely recognize that this is a key thing that people want to see open for all the reasons that have been put by Geovanna.
Priti Patel: (24:15)
Thank you, Patrick. Can we now move on to direct questions from the media. First question is from Tom Burridge, BBC. Good afternoon, Tom.
Tom Burridge: (24:25)
Good afternoon, Home Secretary. I’ve got one question for you please, on the quarantine, and then another question from a colleague about schools if I may. Home Secretary, now that this measure is coming in, is it fair to assume now that most summer holidays abroad will not happen this year? And the second question is while the risk to children are judged to be relatively low if schools reopen, to what extent might they be more serious for families and for the wider community?
Priti Patel: (24:55)
Thank you, Tom. Well, I think in answer to your first question, of course the advice is not about booking holidays right now. We’re bringing in these measures for very clear reasons, as I have already outlined this afternoon, and Paul Lincoln, who’s also explained how we’re going to bring those measures in.
Priti Patel: (25:12)
The other point to note as well is of course advice from government and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office is you’re not to travel and please follow the advice that they are putting on their website, which is nothing but essential travel. So this is absolutely not about booking holidays. We have to be clear about we want to afford a second wave and that is absolutely vital.
Priti Patel: (25:34)
And I think in terms of your second question about schools and safety around children, reopening schools, I think it’s really important to recognize right now, many of our schools are actually open and many of those schools are doing fantastic work, obviously providing schooling for children of key workers, but also equally as important vulnerable children. There are many, many vulnerable children, hundreds of thousands of vulnerable children, who are safer in school in many, many cases.
Priti Patel: (26:03)
But, of course, you’ve asked the question about infection control and families. And that is, of course, something that has to be looked at very much in a local setting at a localized level, but also following the advice from governments and the scientific advice, the advice that we’ve heard from Patrick and from other colleagues as well. And that is crucial. And of course, the department of education and other colleagues across government are working on this and looking at this right now. Patrick, did you want to add anything to that?
Sir Patrick Vallance: (26:31)
So the question, and you’re quite right to frame it as the risks for children are of this disease are much lower. We know that. They are very low risk, but not zero risk. And there have been some serious cases in children, of course, but very few compared to adults and older age groups. The broader risk in terms of opening schools is that as soon as you start to reintroduce any contact, then you put some pressure on the R, and you put pressure on numbers. And that’s true for anything that we’re going to do in terms of changes to contact. The judgment early on was that schools are relatively low part of that risk, although there are other consequentials that happen as a result of opening schools. I mean, in terms of people going to business and other contacts, which can add to that.
Sir Patrick Vallance: (27:18)
So there are various scenarios that can make risk lower or higher, things like safe environments are important. Things like class size, things like the amount of face-to-face contact. And these are things on which we’ve given science advice, on which policy can then be determined. But it’s worth absolutely reflecting that the overall risk, if you look at it, is not one that you pick out as a high risk area for R. Unlike, for example, the point that was just made around dentistry, for example, where it is. But it’s not zero. I mean, there clearly is a consequence of reintroducing any form of increased contact.
Priti Patel: (27:59)
Thank you, Tom. I’m now going to move onto Sam Coates from Sky News. Sam, good afternoon.
Sam Coates: (28:05)
Secretary of state, two questions about this summer. Now, 12 days ago the governments of France and Britain issued a joint statement, which said, no quarantine measures would apply to travelers coming from France at this stage. Today in what you’ve announced, there’s no exemption from France. Can you tell us what’s changed over the last 12 days? And also today, Downing Street revealed that they’re also looking at easing the measures you’re putting in place today, by looking at averages that seem to be being pushed by transport secretary Grant Chat. Be honest, are you as keen on that as him? And if so, when’s the earliest they could come in? And to Patrick Vallance, sage advice on education actually seems to make pretty depressing reading. If you’re asking the question, when schools are going to be back up and running completely back to the way that they were in January, do you think schools will be fully up and running in September, or should parents start to realize that that’s just not going to happen?
Priti Patel: (28:59)
Sam, thank you. Well first of all, on France, I can say to you directly and to the country as well, that over the last 12 days, myself and other colleagues in governments, in fact, I speak to my French counterpart frequently on a range of issues. And I’ve also been involved in many of these discussions. The fact of the matter is, is that we have been working closely with the French government and authorities. Both of us have also been involved in finalizing much of these arrangements. There are limited exemptions, and that’s in the list that will be published this afternoon. Which, when it comes to France, involves frontier workers and preserves the critical supply of goods, which is exactly what we have been discussing with our French counterparts 12 days ago, and have continued to do so. We’ll continue to engage closely with our French colleagues.
Priti Patel: (29:48)
We do that all the time across government, and that is the right thing to do, while also keeping this list and all measures, as I’ve already said in my statement earlier, under review. And you’ve asked again about travel, which I can fully appreciate and understand the nation wants to start getting back to live in a normal life in the best possible way, hoping to look forward to the summer and potentially travel, on holiday. I’ve already said, the fact of the matter is, we’re not advising when it comes to travel, and the foreign office advice is very clear, nothing but essential travel. And when it comes to averages, look, I think we should be absolutely open to all ideas. This is not for today, but this doesn’t mean we should rule this out in the future. And the fact of the matter is, I spoke in my statement in my remarks earlier on about the travel industry, the leisure sector, aviation. We’re at the forefront of a really dynamic aviation sector in our country.
Priti Patel: (30:44)
Aviation is, in fact, the lifeblood when you think about it. Keeping people moving, but keeping goods moving as well. So we will look at all options. And I and the secretary of state for transport will work with sectors and the industry to look at how we can naturally get the sector moving again. But it’s important to emphasize that we have to do this in the right way, in a practical way, in a responsible way, and in a pragmatic way. But also, when the time is right, and I think actually we will now look forward to engaging them to develop a plan as to how we can do that. I think we should be looking to lead the world when it comes to reopen in aviation, but that’s going to take time, Sam. And I think you’ve also heard that from Patrick today. Patrick.
Sir Patrick Vallance: (31:24)
Well just to build on that, Chris Witty has said, and I completely agree with him, this is not a three month epidemic. This is a longterm thing that we need to deal with that will require some form of social distancing over a longer period until we get some form of treatment or vaccine, or other intervention which allows us to manage it in other ways. So this is a longterm thing. I’m not going to speculate on when decisions will be made by government on schools, that’s for government to decide. But I will say a few words about what the considerations are that are important. The lower we get the numbers of new infections each week, the greater the chance of being able to do things. The more effective systems like test trace and contain are, the more room you have to make other changes. The more we can modify environments to be useful to keep appropriate social distancing, the better things are.
Sir Patrick Vallance: (32:24)
So there are a number of ways in which decisions can be made based on good scientific principles that allow you to decide when to do things. And they’re dependent on those scientific principles and the time at which the data tells you that you’ve got the room to do them. And those are the sorts of things that I think will need to be looked at in order to make these decisions. And, of course, it’s really important to remember that within all of that, the basic hygiene things that we’ve talked about that we can sometimes forget, hand-washing, making sure that we don’t forget about that as a route of transmission become an important part of this. So I think those are the considerations. And then it’s obviously important that schools have to get back, for education for young people at some point. And the question is, how you factor those things in, in order to be able to make the decision at the right time in an era where began to have social distancing for some time.
Priti Patel: (33:16)
Sam, thanks very much. I’m now going to move on to Liz Bates from Channel Four. Liz, good afternoon. Liz you’re on mute.
Liz Bates: (33:28)
Priti Patel: (33:30)
Okay, go ahead.
Liz Bates: (33:30)
Priti Patel: (33:30)
Liz Bates: (33:32)
Yes, I have two questions on the quarantine, if you don’t mind. First of all, if people come into the UK and they don’t have somewhere to quarantine for two weeks, what happens to them? Where do they go? And secondly, if this is a measure that, as she said, is going to save lives, then why is it starting in June? Why are we not starting to save lives immediately?
Priti Patel: (33:57)
Liz, thank you for your questions. Well, I think first of all, on your last question. As I outlined in the statement, quite clearly, we said very clearly now that as the number of infections within the UK drops we have to now manage the risk of external transmission. So more people are now traveling. Obviously because other countries are bringing in their own measures in terms of opening up their own countries and society. And so this is now about managing the risk of transmissions being reintroduced from elsewhere, so that’s really vital. And that’s why we’re bringing the measures in now, we want to reduce the risk of imported cases being introduced to the UK and to prevent and stop a second wave of this dreadful virus.
Priti Patel: (34:38)
On your question on quarantine, quarantining and people having somewhere to stay, well I think it’s important to reflect and recognize right now, the number of people traveling to the UK are at an all time low, 99% down compared to this time last year. Paul Lincoln, director general for Border Force has already said in his statement too, that this will come in, I’ve said this on the 8th of June. We are effectively now working to communicate, obviously around the world, but through all the appropriate channels, what the processes are that people will need to do, the steps to complete a locator form, and also to provide data. And to get ready to, if they do want to come to the UK, they need to have that accommodation. That is vital, and that is very clear in terms of the proposal that we are outlining. Paul, [crosstalk 00:35:27] would you like to add to that?
Paul Lincoln: (35:27)
I can build on that if you’d like, home secretary. I mean, there’s the statement itself says that if you are unable to provide your own accommodation, then we will arrange, as government, accommodation for you, which will be at your expense. And we have a service which we can provide in very limited circumstances where people come in and they don’t have accommodation. You’ll be well aware that we already use immigration and other powers. And if people do not have suitable means, and they are not capable of paying for their own way in the country, if they are a foreign national then they are usually removed. So we have these processes in place already. This is a relatively routine thing to be able to take forward.
Priti Patel: (36:03)
Thank you, Paul. I’m now going to move on to Gordon Rayner from the Telegraph. Gordon, good afternoon.
Gordon Rayner: (36:10)
Good afternoon, secretary of state. Thank you. The government is trying to build a global Britain initiative and attract investment into Britain at the moment to take advantage of Brexit, when we finally fully. Is there not a danger that in imposing this quarantine scheme at a time when the rest of the world is doing the opposite, you’re telling potential investors that Britain’s closed for business? And can I just ask the scientists to explain to people watching this, why we need to put people under house arrest for two weeks effectively, rather than saying to them to be tested perhaps for coronavirus? And could people who have tested positive for antibodies be exempted from the scheme?
Priti Patel: (36:51)
Gordon, thank you. I’ll start with your first question, which is absolutely a legitimate question. We are, of course, global Britain, and our aspiration as we leave the EU is to be a dynamic player in the world. Obviously more than open for business, but securing our way when it comes to trade and all sorts of investment opportunities going forward. The fact of the matter is I think we have to put this into context right now, as I’ve said already, international travel to the UK has declined dramatically by 99%. There are some very clear exemptions, that list is being published this afternoon. Critical workers, infrastructure workers, key categories are there. These measures will be kept under review. And I really do want to emphasize that, we are not shutting down completely. We are not closing our borders. And I think that people need to recognize that. What we are seeking to do is we are seeking to control the spread of the virus because we do not want a second wave of this virus.
Priti Patel: (37:51)
And if I may, if I hand over to Patrick, Gordon, there are some other points here to note as well. This will come in place on the 8th of June, and between now and then we’ll be working with various industries, but also we will continue to work across government with Public Health England, with the Department of Health and Social Care, to look at track and trace, testing. By the time this comes together we would love to have, and of course we want to have, a plethora of tools that can effectively support these measures of quarantining, but also post these measures. Help us to look at how we can, in this measured and responsible way, open society in the long course. So much, much, much longer term, but in the right way, obviously based upon the size, based on driving the R value down of the United Kingdom. But first and foremost, we must prevent a second wave of this disease. And that’s why we’re bringing these measures in from the 8th of June. Patrick.
Sir Patrick Vallance: (38:47)
Let me answer the testing questions, generally about testing. So the reason that a negative test is not very predictive is if you’ve just caught the disease, you incubate it for a few days-
Sir Patrick Vallance: (39:03)
… when you will test negative. You start to test positive, maybe it around five days, sometimes a bit longer, sometimes a bit sooner. You maybe shedding a lot of virus for a couple of days then, and for a few days afterwards. And then, you gradually recover and may not shed. So clearly, it depends on the time at which you caught the infection as to when you should expect a positive test. That means that just testing somebody and saying, “You’re negative,” doesn’t tell you whether somebody is just about to get it in a week’s time. That’s the reason for thinking about testing in that way.
Sir Patrick Vallance: (39:48)
Your second question about antibody testing, we’re much more positive that people getting infections do mount an antibody response. I think that’s really quite clear now. The vast majority of people do get an antibody response. We know that some of those antibody responses, at least, and maybe all of them, but we don’t know that for sure, but certainly some of them are so-called neutralizing antibodies. In other words, they would expect, you’d expect that to have an effect in terms of viral infection and transmission. What we don’t know is how long that lasts for. We don’t know how effective that is in terms of either preventing transmission or in preventing infection.
Sir Patrick Vallance: (40:32)
So, there’s still work to be done, this isn’t just in the UK, this is globally, to understand the significance of a positive antibody test. It’s likely that it confers some degree of protection, but we just don’t know. We don’t know whether it confers your, if you like, immunity against being able to harbor the virus and transmit it. So I think until we’ve got answers to those questions, and there’s work going on now that hopefully will give answers to those questions, I think to start talking about immunity passports and assuming that an antibody positivity gives you complete protection is really very premature.
Priti Patel: (41:13)
Thanks, Patrick. I’m going to move on now to Harrison Jones from Metro. Harrison, good afternoon.
Harrison Jones: (41:19)
Afternoon, Priti. Thank you. This week, the public have been blamed as huge crowds of people strung to social distance of beauty spots, notably beaches, but was that not actually inevitable given that the governments told people they could travel wherever they like and sunbathes? What’s your message to local authorities? We don’t necessarily have the infrastructure to safely support huge crowds. One more, if I may, yesterday, you described those working in the NHS and social care as heroes. Many of those heroes were born abroad and we clapped them every week, but what a better way of showing off thanks to those foreign key workers saving lives, including the prime ministers, they’re making them eligible for British citizenship.
Priti Patel: (42:02)
Harrison, thank you. First of all, with regards to your first comment about beauty spots, local authority, public behaviors, well, look, we’re heading into a bank holiday weekend and the weather is good. This is a beautiful time of the year, as we all know, and we all enjoy being outdoors. I think the fact of the matter is the British public have been incredible, absolutely incredible both in terms of their resilience, but also the way in which they have naturally continue to comply with social distancing, with government guidelines, follow the advice, follow the health advice, continued on the hygiene advice as well. That’s been vital as we’ve seen from the graphs that Patrick showed earlier on in terms of moving past the peak and now trying to reduce and control the spread of this virus. I think it’s absolutely vital and important that we continue to do that.
Priti Patel: (42:52)
It is inevitable, but obviously the public will be out and about a lot more. But of course, our message is clear for the public. Yes, enjoy being outdoors. We have encouraged people to go out, but we have put a very clear caveat around that. This is all conditional. You can enjoy being outdoors in the sun, providing you are following the advice and we continue to stop and contain the spread of the infection.
Priti Patel: (43:16)
The second point about local authorities is, of course, we are seeing this now become a discussion much more about different parts of the country and the localization of behaviors prove so controlling the spread of this disease too. Local authorities have an enormous role to plan. They are. I pay tribute to them in terms of the work that they are doing. They’ve had a great deal of government support also in terms of putting in practical measures, too, to continue to support people in the community and to control the spread of the virus. But, what I would say is obviously we’re going to stick with this okay. We’ve all made big sacrifices. We do not want to go back to where we started before and there is still much more work to do.
Priti Patel: (43:58)
In answer to your question, yes, about our NHS heroes and those who are quite frankly working day and night right now to save lives and to continue to do amazing work in the NHS. I’ve said from day one actually, the last time that I was here on this podium, that we keep all our immigration measures under review given these unprecedented times and challenges. I’m also going to say primarily because I did introduce the Immigration and Social Security Bill in the House of Commons this week as well, which is all about bringing in a points-based system. Our immigration system is incredibly complex. I think this crisis has demonstrated that has shown the extent of that complexity too. You’ve mentioned citizenship and changes that we could bring in. That would need legislation going forward, but as I said, we keep everything under review. I’m now going to go over to Rob Merritt from The Independent. Rob, good afternoon.
Rob Merritt: (44:54)
Good afternoon. Thank you, secretary. In recent days, you’ve made some announcements that are being widely welcomed to include hospital porters and cleaners within the bereavement scheme to waive the immigration surcharge for health and care workers. In each case, the government listened, the government changed its mind. So, will you now do the same to give automatic visa extensions to care workers and low paid NHS staff who are risking their lives at the epicenter of this crisis? Why should doctors and nurses get those automatic extensions but not their colleagues?
Priti Patel: (45:26)
Rob, thank you for your question. Again, as I’ve just said already, the work that we’re seeing across the NHS is just absolutely incredible. I’ve also just made the point as well that this is difficult in terms of we’ve seen the complexities around immigration. But right across the immigration system, through these unprecedented times and challenges, we are supporting frontline health workers, social care workers. Obviously, we’re finding ways in which we can support other care workers as well across the NHS. Our immigration system is incredibly complex. I’ve said that I’m looking at various schemes. We keep everything under review. In fact, this point was made earlier this year as well with the Law Commission’s own report on immigration rules where our system is complex. I want to simplify some of these rules. I really do. And so, we’re now looking at what changes we can bring in, very much in the same way as was announced yesterday around changes to the immigration health surcharge. I’m working across government with my colleagues, including the Department of Health, to look at what we can do in this particular space.
Priti Patel: (46:31)
Thank you, Rob. I’m now going to bring this press conference to a close. But before I do, I want to just pause to remember those who fell victim to something very different actually and people that fell victim to incredibly despicable acts of terrorism on this day. Three years ago on from the Manchester Arena atrocity and seven years after the horrific murder of Lee Rigby, we remember the innocent victims who were so viciously and so brutally struck down. My thoughts and all our thoughts across the nation are with everyone who lost their loved ones and suffered on this incredible difficult day. We will always remember them. Thank you.
That was the Home Secretary Priti Patel, bringing today’s daily news briefing to a close with a very somber note of remembrance of victims of a terror attack. Let’s take a quick look now at some of the key details that she outlined during that briefing. Home secretary outlined plans for two-week quarantine, which will be imposed on new arrivals to the UK, from the 8th of June, although this won’t apply to people coming from Ireland, medical staff tackling COVID-19 and also seasonal agricultural workers. People will be expected to travel to their final UK destination by car, where possible, and not use public transport. On arrival, they shouldn’t leave their residence for 14 days and they shouldn’t have people to visit except to provide essential support. They’ll also be encouraged to download the NHS COVID-19 app out the border.
Priti Patel said the measures are being introduced to try to prevent a second wave of infection, that enforcement will be taken against people who don’t comply with a thousand pound fines. The home secretary also confirmed that a further 351 people are known to have died from the virus in all settings, taking the UK total death toll to 36,393. She announced that a total 140,497 tests were carried out in the UK in the past 24 hours. Now-
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