May 25, 2020

United Kingdom Boris Johnson Coronavirus Briefing Transcript May 25

Boris Johnson UK Coronavirus Briefing May 25
RevBlogTranscriptsBoris Johnson TranscriptsUnited Kingdom Boris Johnson Coronavirus Briefing Transcript May 25

British officials gave a coronavirus press briefing on May 25. Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced a plan to reopen retail in Great Britain amid coronavirus.


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Boris Johnson: (00:04)
Good evening, and welcome to the Number 10 coronavirus press conference. Before I turn to this evening’s announcements, I want to update you on the latest data.

Boris Johnson: (00:15)
3,532,634 tests for coronavirus have now been carried out in the UK, including 73,726 tests carried out yesterday. 261,184 people have tested positive, and that’s an increase of 1,625 cases since yesterday. 8,834 people are in hospital with COVID-19 in the UK, and that’s done 12% from 10,092 this time, last week. Sadly of those who tested positive for coronavirus across all settings, 36,914 have now died, that’s an increase of 121 fatalities since yesterday. This new figure includes deaths in all settings, not just in hospitals. Once again, my deepest condolences go out to all those who have lost their loved ones before that time. We must and we will not forget them.

Boris Johnson: (01:29)
Two weeks ago, I set out our roadmap for the next phase in our fight against COVID-19. It’s a cautious plan informed by the evidence about what is safe and it’s conditional upon our continual progress against the virus, and we are making progress. Thanks to this country’s collective efforts, the key indicators are heading in the right direction. The daily number of deaths is done. The number of new cases is done. Our survey evidence suggests the infection rate is falling and the R has not risen above one.

Boris Johnson: (02:07)
Just over two weeks ago, we moved to step one of our plan, encouraging those who are unable to work from home to go back to work with new guidelines setting out how workplaces can be made COVID-secure. At the same time, we allowed people to spend more time outdoors and to meet one member of another household outside provided they remain two meters apart. I also said we would be able to move to step two of our plan no earlier than Monday, the 1st of June, a week today.

Boris Johnson: (02:43)
We will set out our formal assessment of the five tests that we set for adjusting the lockdown later this week as part of the three weekly review we are legally required to undertake by Thursday. But because of the progress we are making, I can with confidence put the British people on notice of the changes we intend to introduce as we move into step two. I think it’s important to give that notice so that people have sufficient time to adjust and get ready before those changes come into effect.

Boris Johnson: (03:18)
Yesterday, I set out our intention to begin reopening nurseries and particular years in primary schools, reception year one, year six from the 1st of June, followed by some contact for those secondary school pupils with exams next year from the 15th of June. Some contact for years, 10 and 12 from the 15th of June. With that, with that teachers. This announcement has given schools, teachers, and parents clarity about our intentions, enabling them to prepare in earnest. The department for education is not engaging with teaching unions, councils and school leaders to help schools get ready.

Boris Johnson: (04:07)
Today, I want to give the retail sector notice of our intentions to reopen shops so they too can get ready. I can announce that it is our intention to allow outdoor markets to reopen from June the 1st, subject to all premises being made COVID-secure as well as car showrooms, which often had significant outdoor space and where it is generally easier to apply social distancing. We know that the transmission of the virus is lower outdoors and that it is easier to follow COVID-secure guidelines in open spaces. That means we can also allow outdoor markets to reopen in a safe way that does not risk causing a second wave of the virus.

Boris Johnson: (04:59)
Then from the 15th of June, we intend to allow all other non-essential retail, ranging from department stores to small independent shops, to reopen. Again, this change will be contingent upon progress against the five tests and will only be permitted for those retail premises which are COVID-secure.

Boris Johnson: (05:24)
Today, we are publishing new guidance for the retail sector, detailing the measures they should take to meet the necessary social distancing and hygiene standards. Shops now have the time to implement this guidance before they reopen. This will ensure there can be no doubt about what steps they should take. While the vast majority of businesses will want to do everything possible to protect their staff and customers, I should add that we will, of course, have the powers we need to enforce compliance, where that is required. I want people to be confident that they can shop safely provided they follow the social distancing rules for all premises. The food retail sector has already responded fantastically well, enabling supermarkets to be kept open in a safe way. We will learn lessons from that experience as we allow other retail to open.

Boris Johnson: (06:21)
These are careful but deliberate steps on the road to rebuilding our country, and we can only take these steps thanks to what we have so far achieved together. We will only be successful. You’ll only be successful if we all remember the basics, so wash your hands, keep social distance and isolate if you have symptoms and get a test.

Boris Johnson: (06:50)
I’m now going to hand David to Yvonne Doyle, Medical Director of Public Health England to take us through today’s slides. Yvonne?

Yvonne Doyle: (06:57)
Thank you, Prime Minister.

Yvonne Doyle: (06:58)
We have several slides here, and the first one is about what’s going on in the population. You can see here in the yellow circle that 0.25% of the population is the average proportion of the community that had the infection in a particular week, which was the 4th to the 17th of May. Now this work is produced through estimates, but also through a household sampling survey undertaken by the Office for National Statistics. That tells us also that 137,000 people in the community in that week were likely to have the infection. This is some time ago. In any week, recently, 61,000 might have been infected. There is a range in that, but that is a fairly stable figure.

Yvonne Doyle: (07:50)
That leads us to look at the so-called reproduction of the virus between people. You can see how that works there. If the reproduction is three, then for every person, three others on three more-

Yvonne Doyle: (08:03)
Is three. Then for every person, three others, and three more, and three more. And that becomes very quick and fast in the community. However, if the reproduction is one, of course, much less so. If it’s below one, even less than that. Somebody meets several people before any transmission occurs. And this is good news. And at the moment, the estimate is that the reproduction is between 0.7 and one. Could I have the next slide please? So this shows us the testing, which is always of interest. And the testing at the moment shows, as the Prime Minister has said, that three and a half million tests have been done in total. And on a daily basis, recently, the tests have been around 73,000, 74,000. And correlating with that, we have the confirmed cases here. And the confirmed cases on the 25th of May were just over 1600. And in total, that leaves us with 261,000, over 261,000 tests in that period from the 21st of March to the 25th of May. But you can see the trend here is downwards. This is a seven day rolling average because weekends, we do have fewer tests confirmed and fewer tests taken. Thank you. Could I have the next slide?

Yvonne Doyle: (09:25)
So the hospital day to continue to give us good news. And this is very important because this shows us really how many very ill people there could be in the community who need admission. And the number of admissions estimated with the disease on the 23rd of May was 595. That’s daily. And that’s down considerably, and that’s good news. But also, those who are most unwell in ITU and on mechanical ventilators, that’s a decline of 15% from the 17th of May. So we now have 12% of people on mechanical ventilation. And you can see here the four countries showing broadly the same trend. In smaller numbers, that does vary, but you can see with England, it’s a fairly firm downward trend. So this is good news for the population. Could I have the next slide please?

Yvonne Doyle: (10:20)
And then we’re looking at this by region. And there are regional variations. And we can see here where London has a very distinctive curve, epidemic curve. And that is because London was first, really, to experience this epidemic in early to mid March, and the other regions perhaps followed on and the devolved administrations. So that’s mainly why you’re seeing different patterns in the various regions. But the trend is mainly downwards. The numbers are small in certain regions, such as smaller in the southwest, of course, in Wales. So there is more perhaps oscillation flatness there, but you can see in the areas which have had large numbers of cases, there is a definite downward trend. Could I have the next slide please?

Yvonne Doyle: (11:11)
And sadly, here are the deaths. 121 deaths occurred on the 25th of May. This trend is also downwards. It’s very welcome that the trend is downwards. It remains a very tragic event which really touches all of us every day. However, I do want to point out that it does vary at weekends as well. And bank holidays may show particular downward trends, but we need to be prepared that we’re not quite through this yet. But altogether, 36,900 people have died from COVID disease who’ve had a positive test. And I think that is the last slide.

Boris Johnson: (11:56)
Thanks very much, Yvonne. Let’s go to our questions, both from the public and from the media. We’ll go first to Stuart from Selby.

Stuart: (12:03)
Good afternoon.

Boris Johnson: (12:05)
Good afternoon.

Stuart: (12:06)
If UK travelers’ returning from abroad, they’re going to be told they must self isolate for 14 days. What actual capacity will exist for health officials to perform spot checks? And will the government, being showing those people self isolating, receive food and medical essentials during this time? Thank you.

Boris Johnson: (12:27)
Well, thank you. I’ll go to Yvonne for the ability of health officials to do spot checks in a minute. But Stuart, what we’re trying to do is to make sure that from June 8th, when the measures come into effect that we no longer have people coming into this country who can, as it were, re-infect the UK, after we’ve made this huge effort to reduce infections and get the R down. So that’s the reason for the quarantine system. We hope it will be bearable. We hope that people understand why it’s necessary. And we will take every steps to ensure that we make things as manageable as possible. I cannot tell you what provision we’ve yet made for people self isolating, whether they will receive food and provisions. I think possibly, it would be reasonable to assume as they come into the UK knowing the rules, that they will take steps to self isolate somewhere where they can make sure that they are provided for. But obviously, if they can’t, then local authorities are ready to make sure that they’re well looked after.

Boris Johnson: (13:45)
Yvonne, do you want to say anything about our ability to carry out spot checks?

Yvonne Doyle: (13:49)
Yes. Thank you, Prime Minister. So Stuart, we’ve been working hard over the recent months since we set up our contact tracing advisory service in March on a trial basis. And we’re now at working to connect that, and it will connect with the various places that people will need follow up and will need support and contact tracing. Now we’ve had some experience of this considerably in the contain phase between January and March, where our colleagues were very much connected with the ports and the border force. We were able to ascertain people who were not well when they were coming in and to follow those up. And that system will continue to be the case where people are unwell or we are concerned. Then we would certainly want to follow them up through our contact tracing service.

Yvonne Doyle: (14:37)
We are working with one of the airports to look at other ways that perhaps checks can be done through the airport. It has to be effective. It isn’t always possible to ascertain people who don’t have symptoms, who may be about to develop them. As far as supporting people when they’re actually isolating, we have got form in this in looking after people who are particularly vulnerable, those who are shielding and those who are not able to go out and get what they need. And that system really is one that needs to imbue into the follow up of people who are very vulnerable. So this system will be set up to connect maximally, and we will be testing that from June.

Boris Johnson: (15:21)
Thanks so much, Yvonne. We’ve got Claire from Harpenden. And Claire’s question is since the restrictions have been lifted, there are large groups gathering in local parks, ignoring all social distancing rules. When many of us are being so vigilant and staying alert, what can be done to discourage this blatant disregard for the rules? Well, Claire, again, I’m going to hand over to Yvonne to talk a little bit about transmission outdoors. But let me just say that it is absolutely vital that all of us continue to observe the rules on social distancing, on washing our hands, and making sure that if we have-

Boris Johnson: (16:03)
washing our hands, and making sure that if we have symptoms, that we self isolate, get a test as we go forward. And the only reason we’ve been able to make as much progress as we have, the only reason that I’m able to announce that we’re able finally to begin getting schools back, to begin getting retail back from the 1st of June is because this country has observed the social distancing rules. So Claire, what I would say is obviously you should feel free to speak to people yourself if you feel that they are not obeying the rules, but the police will step in if necessary and encourage people to obey the law.

Yvonne Doyle: (16:43)
Prime minister, just to say, Claire, thank you for the prompt here to say that what we’re doing going forward very much depends on a partnership between the population and the unlocking process that we’re trying to support to happen. This isn’t about going back to the way everybody lived before. It is a responsibility socially to distance, to not go out if unwell, to remember that this virus can reappear. And therefore, it is important that people maintain the basic hygiene and distancing rules that are there. And we’re dependent on this on a voluntary basis. We want people to understand that this is the way we will be living for some time.

Boris Johnson: (17:31)
Thank you very much, Yvonne. We go to the media. We go first to Laura Coonsburg of the BBC.

Laura Coonsburg: (17:36)
Thank you, prime minister. You promise people maximum transparency. You knew your chief advisor had gone against the spirit of the lockdown rules, whether it driving 30 miles to a local beauty spot to when he was in County Durham supposedly to test his eyesight, or not self isolating straight away when his wife had symptoms. In fact, he returned to work at Downing Street when she was falling ill. Dominic Cummings would not express any regrets about any of that this afternoon. Do you?

Boris Johnson: (18:03)
Well, first of all, let me just repeat what you heard earlier on today, which is that it’s absolutely true that I didn’t know about any of the arrangements in advance. What I think did happen was while I was ill and about to get a lot sicker, we had a brief conversation in which I think Dominic Cummings mentioned where he was. But I have to tell you, Laura, at that particular stage, I had a lot on my plate and really didn’t focus on the matter until these stories started to emerge in the last few days. So my answer to your question is, do I regret what has happened? And yes, of course, I do regret the confusion and the anger and the pain that people feel, because as Yvonne has just been saying, this is a country that’s been going through the most tremendous difficulties and suffering in the course of the last 10 weeks.

Boris Johnson: (19:04)
And that’s why I really did want people to understand exactly what had happened. And that’s why, you mentioned openness and transparency, Laura, I thought it was important that, I tried yesterday to explain my version of what I had heard from Dominic Cummings. But obviously, I couldn’t go into it in all the detail that I know that you will want to hear, and I think that the public actually needed to hear. And so that’s why we had the statement and the very extensive questions that we did today. Thank you very much, Laura. Can we go to Robert Peston of ITV news?

Robert Peston: (19:50)
Good afternoon. And you heard yesterday the account that Dominic Cummings gave us today of his reasons for driving two 60 miles to Durham, and inevitably it leaves some questions unanswered. So his main reason he said for driving to Durham was because of protests outside his house. But of course in full lockdown, the risk of those protests is reduced perhaps to nil. So it seems like a slightly odd reason. I wondered if you’d asked him about that. And secondly, his excursion to Barnard Castle, 30 miles again, seemingly breaking the rules, was to test his eyesight, to see if he could drive back to London. But why didn’t his wife, Mary Wakefield, who was better than he was, drive back to London? Or why didn’t you just lay on or the government lay on a car given his importance?

Boris Johnson: (20:40)
Well, look, I mean, Robert, you’re a formidable journalist, and those are very good questions, but I have to tell you that to the best of my knowledge, Mr. Cummings has just subjected himself to your interrogation for quite a long time about these very detailed matters and does produce quite a substantial chunk of autobiography about what happened in the period from the 27th of March to the 14th of April. I really feel that it would be wrong of me to try to comment further on what he said. I think people will have to make their minds up. I think he spoke at a great length.

Boris Johnson: (21:17)
To me, he came across as somebody who cared very much about his family and who was doing the best for his family. I think, as he said himself, reasonable people may disagree about some of the decisions that he took, but I don’t think reasonable people can disagree about what was going through his head at the time and the motivations for those decisions. And as I say, my conclusion is that I think he acted reasonably, legally, and as I said yesterday, with integrity and with care for his family and for others. So I think those other questions you should direct with respect to Mr. Cummings, and you had quite a go at that today. Can we go to Beth Rigby from Sky News?

Beth Rigby: (22:05)
Yes. Thank you, prime minister. Many people who also really love their families made huge sacrifices that you asked them to make in this national effort. And for many people, Mr. Cummings’ account of why he appeared to break lockdown rules simply won’t be good enough. Your own scientific advisors have said by backing him, you’re undermining your government’s key public health message at a time of crisis. Are you compromising the government’s response to this pandemic because you can’t cope in number 10 without Mr. Cummings?

Boris Johnson: (22:42)
Thank you for that, Beth. I just want to, I mean, the most important thing in all of this is to repeat our message. And you’re absolutely right to dwell on that. And the only reason we can make progress as a country, the only reason that we’re able to get this disease under control, the only reason that we’ve got the numbers of deaths down or the numbers of infections down, and so that we’re actually in a position with our track and trace and isolate operation really to deal with it is because people have obeyed the guidelines. You had an extensive opportunity to talk earlier on, to hear earlier on about how a member of my staff tried to obey the guidelines.

Boris Johnson: (23:25)
And I heard your questions there and I thought they were good and accurate. I really can’t add anything to that. People will have to make up their own minds. What I will say is it’s absolutely vital, absolutely vital that people continue to observe the government’s public health message and continue to observe the guidelines. And I do think one thing that is in danger of getting lost in much of this, and people think it’s banal, but it so bears repeating, the single best thing you can do to stop transmission of this virus and to prevent self being infected by it is to wash your-

Boris Johnson: (24:03)
… To prevent yourself being infected by it is to wash your hands, and to wash your hands repeatedly. And that, I’m afraid, is one message that we are going to keep repeating throughout this crisis. Thank you very much, Beth.

Boris Johnson: (24:15)
Can we go to Lucy Fisher of The Times, please? Please.

Lucy Fisher: (24:21)
Prime Minister, is your backing for Dominic Cummings unconditional, or if it does become clear that he’s undermining compliance with public health messaging, are you prepared to revisit this decision?

Boris Johnson: (24:32)
I’m of course… I can’t give any unconditional backing to anybody, but I do not believe that anybody in Number 10 has done anything to undermine our messaging. What we want to make absolutely clear to the public is that the only way to solve this problem is if we stay alert, follow the guidelines, control the virus, and save lives. And that has been immensely effective so far. We’re coming now to a more difficult change of gears. We’re going to be reopening some retail, then more retail in the course of the coming month. We’re asking schools gradually to reopen. It is absolutely vital in this period that we continue to observe social distancing, washing our hands, isolating ourselves if we have symptoms. And I know that the common sense of the British people will get us through it.

Boris Johnson: (25:37)
Could we go to Rowena Mason of The Guardian, please?

Rowena Mason: (25:42)
Prime Minister, are you expecting millions of people around the country to believe that Dominic Cummings needed to take a 60 mile round trip to a local beauty spot with his wife and child just to test his eyesight? And secondly, conservative MPs, at least 20 of them, senior clergy, scientists, medics, lawyers, and many, many constituents from across the political spectrum all believe that Mr. Cummings should quit for his actions. Are they all wrong?

Boris Johnson: (26:08)
Well, look, I can’t go back over what you’ve heard this afternoon, but on the point about eyesight, I might just say, I’m finding I have to wear spectacles for the first time in years because of, I think because of the effects of this thing. So I’m inclined to think there’s some… I think that’s very, very plausible that there’s that eyesight can be a problem associated with coronavirus. On your point about credibility, and I think people asking for resignations, I understand why people may wish to see resignations. But I think that people will make up their minds about what Mr. Cummings had to say. I note that The Guardian, I think on Saturday had a headline which was, “Police Spoke To Cummings About Lockdown.” And as far as I know, that is simply not the case. I think it’s important for us all to stick to the facts as far as we possibly can, Rowena.

Boris Johnson: (27:24)
Can we go to Sam Lister of The Express?

Sam Lister: (27:28)
Thank you, Prime Minister. Dominic Cummings said that mistakes have been made in the humbling of the coronavirus crisis, but it was for the government to explain. I’m sure he must’ve discussed those with you. I wonder if you can tell us what they are? And also, in your announcement today, many people will be really pleased that shops are reopening. Would you encourage people who are financially able to get out and spend to revive the economy?

Boris Johnson: (27:57)
Well, Sam, I think the short answer is yes. I think insofar as people can get out and enjoy themselves in the open air as we will begin from the 1st of June, as they can make use of open air shopping car showrooms. And I’m certainly not going to discourage them from spending at all. I think that it’s early days, but we’re very much hoping that there will be a bounce back over the course of the next few months. So I think the short answer to your question is, yes, absolutely. So-

Sam Lister: (28:36)
[inaudible 00:04:37]?

Boris Johnson: (28:37)
Sorry, forgive me. Your first question?

Sam Lister: (28:40)
On the mistakes made during the coronavirus crisis.

Boris Johnson: (28:42)
Oh, yes. Thank you, Sam. I saw the domino effect, to mistakes. I think the reality is that this is a country and a government that has been like every other country and government around the world, and trying to cope with an absolutely unprecedented virus, a plague that has had economic, social, behavioral, psychological, and health consequences unlike anything we’ve seen in the last 70 years. And it’s obliged us as a country to impose restrictions, to ask people to do things in a way that didn’t even happen during the Second World War. It’s been a quite extraordinary time for this country. And for any government to say that it hasn’t learned and the thing as it goes along doesn’t think that there are important ways in which we would want to prepare better for the next time. Of course that’d be absolute folly to say that.

Boris Johnson: (29:45)
But what I would say, Sam, is that when I look at what this country has achieved, in getting the virus under control, in protecting the NHS, stopping that from being overwhelmed, making sure every patient had a ventilated bed, and that was the real threat that we saw at the beginning, wrapping our arms around every worker in this country with the furlough scheme, again, something completely unlike anything other countries have done, and achieved at record speed by HMRC and our Civil Service. I really think when I look at what local authorities, what national government, what the Civil Service, what the NHS have achieved over the last ten weeks, I think we have great cause to be very, very proud of the way those public servants have responded. There will still be challenges ahead, absolutely no doubt about it, but we will continue to learn and improve where we can every step of the way and in a spirit of complete humility.

Boris Johnson: (30:50)
Anyway, thank you very much, Sam. And thank you all very much for listening this evening. Thank you.

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