May 5, 2020
United Kingdom Coronavirus Briefing Transcript May 5
British officials gave a coronavirus briefing on May 5. Dominic Raab led the briefing and warned that reopening schools would create another surge.
Transcribe Your Own Content
Try Rev for free and save time transcribing, captioning, and subtitling.
Dominic Raab: (00:05)
Good afternoon, and welcome to today’s Downing Street press conference. I’m joined by Professor Angela McLean, chief scientific advisor at the MOD. First, let me give an update on the latest data that we have on coronavirus. And I can report that through the government’s ongoing monitoring and testing program that as of today, there have now been 1,383,842 tests for coronavirus across the UK, including 84,806 tests yesterday. We know that 194,990 people have tested positive, and that’s an increase of 4,406 cases since yesterday. And of those who have tested positive, 29,427 have very sadly died, and our hearts go out to everyone who has lost a loved one throughout the coronavirus challenge.
Dominic Raab: (01:01)
We continue to see evidence of a flattening of the peak of this virus. But as the figures that I’ve just read out show, it’s not over yet. So in the coming days, Sage will update ministers with their latest scientific advice. And as ever, we will make sure that we continue to be guided by their advice as we take the decisions on next steps in fighting this virus. Alongside the advice that we get from Sage, our five tests remain absolutely key.
Dominic Raab: (01:34)
First, we must continue to boost NHS capacity so that the NHS cannot be overwhelmed. Second, we need to see a sustained and consistent fall in the number of deaths. Thirdly, we must see further reductions in the rate of infection to manageable levels across all different settings and areas. Fourth, we must be confident that the NHS will be able to cope with future demands, including as a result of any changes that we make to existing measures or, indeed, any new measures that we might wish to take. And fifth and above all, we need to be confident that any adjustments to the current measures won’t risk a second peak of infections that could then overwhelm the NHS.
Dominic Raab: (02:18)
Later on this week, the PM will update the country on the measures and the decisions that we will need to take to protect the NHS, to safeguard the economy, and to avoid the risk of a second peak that will be damaging both for public health but also for jobs and the wider economy. And as we consider the decisions that we will take next to protect life but also to protect our way of life, it’s now clear that the second phase will be different. We will need to adjust to a new normal where we as a society adapt to safe, new ways to work, to travel, to interact, and to go about our daily lives.
Dominic Raab: (02:57)
We’ve never experienced anything like this first stage of COVID-19 in terms of the scale of the lives lost but also the lockdown that it has required. And as we go forward, we want to make sure that the next phase is more comfortable, is more sustainable, and prevents lasting damage to jobs and livelihoods. But we need to be under no illusions. The next stage won’t be easy. And if we’re going to protect life and preserve our way of life, as I just said, we must continue to be guided by the scientific advice we receive and make sure the next steps that we take are sure-footed and sustainable.
Dominic Raab: (03:39)
Now before I hand over to Angela to run through the data slides, I want to provide an update on one further feature that coronavirus, as a challenge, has thrown up for this country and, indeed, for the whole world. Whilst the vast majority of people and countries have come together and rallied to this international mission to defeat coronavirus, there will always be some who seek to exploit a crisis for their own criminal and hostile ends.
Dominic Raab: (04:10)
We know that cyber criminals and other malicious groups are targeting individuals, businesses, and other organizations by deploying COVID-19-related scams and phishing emails, and that includes groups that, in the cybersecurity world, are known as advanced persistent threat groups, sophisticated networks of hackers who try to breach computer systems. And we have clear evidence now that these criminal gangs are actively targeting national and international organizations, which are responding to the COVID-19 pandemic, which I have to say makes them particularly dangerous and venal at this time.
Dominic Raab: (04:49)
So we’re working with the targets of those attacks, with the potential targets, and with others to make sure that they’re aware of the cyber threat and that they can take the steps necessary to protect themselves or, at the very least, mitigate the harm that could be wrought against them. So with that in mind, today the UK’s National Cybersecurity Center and the US Cyber Security and Infrastructure Security Agency have published a joint warning about these groups. And we’ve offered some advice on the cyber criminals and other actors who are seeking to exploit COVID-19 through malicious cyber activity. Our teams have identified campaigns targeting health care bodies, pharmaceutical companies, research organizations, and also various different arms of local government. Now there are various objectives and motivations that lie behind these attacks, from fraud, on the one hand, to espionage. But they tend to be designed to steal bulk personal data, intellectual property, and wider information that supports those aims. And they’re often linked with other state actors. And we expect this kind of predatory criminal behavior to continue and to evolve over the coming weeks and months ahead, and we’re taking a range of measures to tackle that threat. So as we’ve done today, we’ll share advice on the nature of those threats to enable businesses, citizens, and our international partners to better defend themselves against the full range of cyber attack from hostile states to criminal gangs.
Dominic Raab: (06:27)
Preventative action is often the very best way to deny attackers the opportunities that they’re looking for. The National Cyber Security Center offers a range of practical advice to safeguard against cyber attacks, from things like the use of online passwords to guidance on what are the trusted sources of online information related to COVID-19, like the gov.uk site or Public Health England.
Dominic Raab: (06:54)
Now as well as providing practical advice, the UK will continue to counter those who conduct cyber attacks. And we’re working very closely with our international partners to respond to the threats but also to deter the gangs and the arms of state who lie behind them. We’re absolutely determined to defeat coronavirus and also to defeat those trying to exploit the situation for their own nefarious ends. And with that, I’ll pass over to Professor McLean to give us the latest update on the data.
Angela McLean: (07:27)
Thank you. If I could have the first slide, please. So the first slide reminds us, what are the five tests for adjusting lockdown? And number one is that we should always ensure that the NHS has enough capacity, that it’s able to provide critical care and specialist treatment right across the UK. The second is that we should see a sustained and consistent fall in daily deaths from coronavirus. And the third is that there must be reliable data to show that the rate of infection is decreasing to manageable levels right across the board. Fourth is that operational challenges, including testing and PPE, must be in-hand with supply able to meet future demand. And fifth is that we should be confident that any adjustments that are made to current measures will not risk a second peak of infections that overwhelms the NHS.
Angela McLean: (08:29)
If I could have the next slide, please. So this is a slide about transport use and how it’s changed in Great Britain since the … Let’s have a look. Since February. So those percentages are relative to normal use during February. And the vertical dotted line is the date when lockdown started. And what you see is that for public transport, there has been a very marked and very persistent fall, and that’s for bus, for tube, for national rail, and also, in gray further back, for buses in London.
Angela McLean: (09:08)
For motor vehicles, so that’s the top, dark blue line, what you see is a pattern that looks a bit like commuting because it’s low every weekend, and we do worry about that creeping up. I think all of us remember that what we’ve done together, which is to stay home, has worked to protect the NHS and save lives. And as one of the people who looks at this data and thinks about how it fits into how we think about the future, it does trouble me that the dark blue line is creeping up again. Next slide please.
Angela McLean: (09:43)
This is the number of tests that have occurred every day in the UK since 6th of April up until the most recent data, which are from yesterday. And what you see is that very dramatic rise that happened during April, so that now we do have a lot of tests available that allow us to design the kinds of testing strategies that we’re going to need in the future. Next slide please.
Angela McLean: (10:09)
This is one of the ways we have of counting how many people in the UK are infected. So in two colors here are people who have tested positive. In dark blue are people who are tested by the NHS, and in orange are people whose tests were performed by universities, research institutes, and private companies. So most of the people in the dark blue pillars there are either patients or NHS staff, whereas most of the people in the orange pillars are other key workers. And this data is extremely interesting, but it is quite susceptible to the fact that the number of tests has been increasing, and who’s allowed to have a test has also been changing. So actually, I find the next slide a lot more informative. So what this is is the number of new inpatients-
Angela McLean: (11:03)
… in hospitals in England every day with COVID. So this is every day since the 20th of March. Either in dark blue, an inpatient who was in hospital and got back a COVID positive test, or in gold there somebody who arrived at hospital having already tested positive. So this is always the same kind of people and these people were always the top priority to get a test. So in some sense this is a much more pure data stream from the one I showed you before. And in fact to my mind at least makes much more sense. So what you see is that number rising from the 20th of March until it peaks on the 2nd of April. Now 2nd of April is about the date we would have expected it to peak. Because that’s about 10 days after the 23rd of March when lockdown came in.
Angela McLean: (11:58)
And then from the 2nd of April it falls away pretty rapidly. So what this is, is the inflow into the hospital system of people who are COVID positive. And we watch this number with great care every day. If I could have the next slide. So that was the inflow into the hospital system. This is the total number of people in hospital with COVID on any given day. So that’s the really the balance between people who came in and people who left. And so that has a rather smoother pattern and a much slower fall. And what you see is that that peaked around about the 10th or so of April in London. That the peak in London was much higher than everywhere else. Perhaps very slightly earlier. And the fall in the number of people in hospital in London has been faster than everywhere else. So much so now actually, but in the last couple of days the number of people in London, sorry, in hospital in London now exceeds numbers in hospital in the Northwest.
Angela McLean: (13:08)
Next slide please. This keeps track of the proportion of critical care beds that are occupied by patients with COVID-19. And what you see is that that also has fallen from its peak in early April, now down to less than a third of all the critical care beds being occupied by COVID-19 patients. It’s been decreasing for most of the UK over the last two weeks, and it’s beginning to come down to what we might define as more manageable levels. Next slide please.
Angela McLean: (13:50)
These are recorded deaths from COVID-19. In blue bars are the actual numbers reported each day. So today being the 5th of May, we got Monday’s figures in. And you can see there’s a very regular pattern that numbers at the weekend are always lower than the days subsequently. So that jump from the 4th of May to the 5th of May is something that we would expect. Because this data has such a strong pattern across different days of the week, it makes sense to look at a seven day rolling average, and that’s what the orange line is. And what you can see from that orange line is that the number of COVID recorded deaths is falling and has been falling steadily since the middle of April. Next slide please.
Angela McLean: (14:43)
This records registered deaths from COVID-19 by the place where that death occurred. And that we’ve got it for five different weeks. And the most recent week for which we have this data is the week of the 24th of April. The gray bars are deaths in hospital, the dark gray bars are deaths in care homes, pale blue is deaths in one’s own home, and dark blue is other places. And what you see is that whilst deaths in hospital have been falling, deaths in care homes in the week to the 24th of April worst arising, to the extent that in that week deaths in care homes we’re about half as many as all the deaths in hospitals.
Angela McLean: (15:33)
I think what that shows us is that there is a real issue that we need to get to grips with about what is happening in care homes. The final slide for today is a comparison of numbers of deaths for different countries. The UK which is COVID deaths in all settings is the gray line in the middle there. And what you see is that deaths in the UK is still continuing to climb and is higher than we would wish. I think is all I can say. And with that I’ll [inaudible 00:16:08] end the data slides for today.
Dominic Raab: (16:12)
Angela, thank you very much. We’ll now take some questions starting with questions from members of the public. Do we have Brandon from Gloucestershire?
My name is Brandon McInerney and I volunteer in the local community in Gloucester, Gloucestershire. My question is, as we come through the tough times of COVID, how can we embed our reflective learning so as to ensure we address inequalities across community and neighborhoods, and continue to invest and empower local communities to thrive. Thank you.
Dominic Raab: (16:56)
Well Brandon thank you very much. And I want to pay tribute to everyone in Gloucestershire from the key workers like the NHS staff to people working in care homes to all those doing those critical jobs whether it’s in supermarkets or running deliveries, which have kept the lifeblood of our communities going. I think you’re absolutely right to say that particularly after a pretty unique pandemic, something that certainly I’ve never seen before in my lifetime, we will all want to learn lessons in this country and across the world. And I think one of the things that we found with coronavirus is that it hasn’t discriminated. We’ve got the Prime Minister who’s been laid low with it. We’ve got people all across the country. No one has been impervious to this virus. And I think it’s also taught us to appreciate those key workers that I mentioned. Not just those in the NHS and care homes who are obviously doing an amazing job. But also those keeping our supermarkets running, keeping deliveries flowing and up and down the country.
Dominic Raab: (17:57)
And as you will probably remember from the general election, the Prime Minister’s big overarching goal is to level up right across the country. And I think this crisis has been a timely reminder how important that agenda and that political agenda is going to be. But first things first, we’ve got to get through this crisis, recover bounce back if we can the economy, make sure those small businesses and the employees are [inaudible 00:18:24] and we provide them with a bridge through the current set of challenges. And make sure I think we come together as one country is, I think we’ve seen in this national mission to tackle the current virus and try and keep that spirit alive and as we go forward. But I think there are lessons to be learned and there are opportunities to learn those lessons in a really positive way when we come through the immediate crisis.
Angela McLean: (18:44)
Dominic Raab: (18:47)
Angela please if you’ve got.
Angela McLean: (18:48)
I think you raised an incredibly important point Bran. Infectious diseases always do and always will target the disadvantaged. And I think one of the things that we fear as we hopefully bring the incidents of infections of the number of people who are infected every day, right down to very low levels is that, infection will disappear into parts of our communities that are really, really hard to reach. And I think it’s incumbent on all of us including our scientists to find ways that we could make sure that we can track the ongoing spread of infection amongst every part of our society.
Dominic Raab: (19:27)
Yeah, thanks Angela. I think next up is Jane from West Yorkshire. I think we’ve got, Jane from West Yorkshire asks, I’ll read this out because we’ve had this one messaged in to us, “In respect of the track and tracer, is this something that will work worldwide once travel can begin again and if not, why was this not embarked upon as a global initiative?” I think the reality is we want the app to be focused on the UK and we want the technology to be tailored to make sure we can deal with the specific challenges that we’ve got in this country. We’ve worked with the experts, we’ve gotten the National Cyber Security Center to make sure we’ve got the greatest protections on things like privacy.
Dominic Raab: (20:09)
And we’ve got very high standards, both of professionalism both of privacy as we embark on what will be an unprecedented IT project. And not everyone and not all countries around the world will have the same standards. Whether their tech standards or whether their privacy standards. So I think it’s right to say we should learn internationally about the tech innovation that’s going on. But we want to make sure we’ve got something tailored to UK needs and we’re applying very highest UK standards. Angela, I don’t think this is any [crosstalk 00:20:37].
Angela McLean: (20:38)
[crosstalk 00:20:38] I think [inaudible 00:20:38].
Dominic Raab: (20:40)
All right. Thank you Jane for that question. We’ll go on to ask David Shipman from the BBC onto the media. David.
Thank you very much indeed. Yes a question about the death tolls. Looking at the official figures that you’ve just announced and comparing them with figures announced this evening by Italy, it does not seem that the UK has had more deaths from COVID-19 than any other country in Europe. If it does turn out that we are the country that’s hardest hit in Europe, what’s your reaction to that?
Dominic Raab: (21:13)
Well, thanks David. You’re asking me to speculate there. All I’d just say is first of all, 29,427 are lives lost is a massive tragedy. Something in this country on this scale, in this way that we’ve never seen before. And as I said before my heart goes out to anyone that’s lost a loved one. And in terms of the comparison that you’re suggesting, as the scientist have all said, I can remember Patrick Vallance and Chris Whitty talking about this. I don’t think we’ll get a real verdict on how well countries have done until the pandemic is over. And in particularly, until we’ve got comprehensive international data on all cause mortality. But I think there’s two points that I’d make about the way the UK has approached things. There are different ways of counting deaths as we know. We’ve had that debate in this country. We now publish data that includes…
Dominic Raab: (22:03)
…debate in this country. We now publish data that includes all deaths in all settings and not all countries do that so I’m not sure that the international comparison works unless you reliably know that all countries are measuring in the same way. And it also depends on how good, frankly, countries are in gathering their statistics. And our own Office of National Statistics is widely acknowledged to be a world leader. And one of the reasons we’ve embraced that is cause we want transparency because we are confident and we believe that it’s only if we get the full transparency that we’ll be in the best place to tackle this virus. So I think it is important, but I don’t think you can make the international comparisons you’re suggesting at this stage. Not, at least I doubt you can make them reliably. Angela.
Angela McLean: (22:43)
I would just reiterate, I think we have decided that our measure of how things have gone will be age adjusted all cause mortality because that will capture all kinds of impacts of COBID, not just the COVID deaths. And clearly it’ll be important to do what we can to make international comparisons. Everybody knows that making international comparisons in such statistics can be difficult and it may be that that will take some time to sort out, and this isn’t over yet.
Dominic Raab: (23:17)
Dave, do you want to come back on any of that?
On another topic if I may.
Dominic Raab: (23:22)
Last week, the prime minister suggested there may be situations where there could be benefits from the public wearing masks. Does that mean that UK government policy on this has changed, and if it hasn’t changed, might the public be forgiven for being a bit confused?
Dominic Raab: (23:38)
Well, of course you’re always trying to tempt us to get as one or two steps ahead of the game. The reality is, we’re considering the sage advice. That advice has been nuanced, if I can set like that. The evidence is rather finely balanced, but we’ll make sure that we consider it very carefully. One of the things we don’t want to do is give people inaccurate advice or create false confidence or comfort in masks. And also, there’s a key difference between masks, for example, the self-made masks that some people around the world have been encouraged to use and the clinical masks that we need for the NHS. And we do not want to detract from the supplies of masks and other PPE, frankly, going to the frontline and the NHS or care home workers, but the wider advice we’ll consider and shortly be saying more on. Angela, is there anything you’d add?
Angela McLean: (24:26)
Nothing to add.
Dominic Raab: (24:28)
Thanks David. Robert Peston at ITV.
Good afternoon. I absolutely accept that it’s too early to draw firm conclusions about whether our death rate will be the highest in Europe. But Angela, you just said when pointing to your own chart of international comparisons, the death toll is higher than we would wish. On the basis of that, we have recently instituted a new system of mask testing and we’re recruiting lots of people to do tracking, tracing and quarantining. Would you hope, when this new infrastructure is in place, that that death line will track down to nearer Germany and Korea, which have much lower death rates? Because after all, as Chris Whitty said on Friday, we’re going to be living with coronavirus possibly forever and the lethality of coronavirus is going to take us months, if not years to get it down.
Dominic Raab: (25:32)
Well, Rob, let me, let me have a first stab and then I’ll hand over to Angela. I mean, the first thing to say is that the big thing that has helped us flatten the peak is the public’s adherence to the social distancing guidance that we’ve laid out. Not only has that helped reduce the number of deaths there would otherwise have been, they could have been higher, but it’s also helped us preserve NHS capacity, which means that we’ve been able to deal with COVID-19 patients, but also other patients. I think the key is going to be with tests, tracking and tracing is going to be the extent to which it gives us the flexibility to transition into a second phase safely in a sure-footed way and sustainably. And I think that’s the key to the tests, tracking and tracing. Angela.
Angela McLean: (26:17)
So that last graph that I was showing you is actually cumulative deaths, so there is no way it can go down. The very best that it can do is go flat, because once there are no deaths, it becomes completely flat. And of course, I want it to become flat for the UK as quickly as possible. And the only way other countries could catch up would be if they had more deaths. And I’m certainly not going to wish that on anybody. So I think the sooner all of these can settle down to flat lines, the better.
Dominic Raab: (26:52)
Rob, do you want to come back with any more?
Yep. But just on that, just do you think mass testing, tracking, tracing is going to be the big initiative that gets that curve to flatten in the way that we all want?
Angela McLean: (27:08)
Yeah. I mean, I think we’re all of us working really hard to figure out if we can do contact tracing in a way that will really start to find all of the infections out there in the community, find people who have symptoms, get them tested, find good, quick, reliable ways to find the people they’ve been in contact with, and ask them to go into quarantine. That is the strategy that has worked in South Korea, and South Korea is really the place in the world that we can look to and say this worked. It’s a large country like we are. They did have quite a big outbreak actually that they brought under control with contact tracing. So I think they are a fine example to us and we should try to emulate what they’ve achieved.
Dominic Raab: (27:55)
And Rob, just I think we need to be really clear about the moment we’re at, and the relevance and the value of test tracking and tracing. Our real risk right now as we come through the peak, we start to see us come through the worst stage of this crisis, is that we move to ease up too early without having a sensible sure footage plan, and we see a second spike or a second wave. Test, tracking and tracing allows us, as well as getting the R rate down through the social distancing measures, which gives us extra flexibility, test, tracking and tracing allows us to manage that very carefully because any second reemergence of the virus, wherever it may be, we can control and measure and monitor very swiftly. I think that’s the crucial importance of it. Sam Coates from Sky.
Sam Coates: (28:41)
Andrew McLean, the Scottish government today released scientific research suggesting that if schools go back north of the border, then hospitals could be overwhelmed there within two months, and in the worst case scenario become more than seven times oversubscribed. Is that based on science that you recognize, and what might be the policy lessons that you could draw from that? And First Secretary of State, Boris Johnson has said that there will be some delays at the border when we leave the current Brexit implementation period. Today we also began treat talks with the US. Given the level of uncertainty facing the economy and business, is this additional burden the right thing to do at this time, or conversely, do you think that are actually benefits from doing Brexit tools at this time?
Dominic Raab: (29:24)
Well, look, I think there is a whole load of uncertainty. I’ve worked very closely with my European opposite numbers right across Europe, and actually it’s been a good example of frankly, in this challenge, we come together, we work on practical cooperation, whether it’s PPE, procurement or returning our nationals, and we have very close cooperation. It reminds us of the ties that do bind us together. I think on all sides, we want to avoid any further uncertainty. So actually, the smart thing for us to do is focus on the track that we’ve got. Are we making good progress? Are we making progress, I should say, in relation to the future relationship negotiations. We’re not there yet, but the right thing to do, I think for the UK but also for the EU, is to avoid any future uncertainty beyond the end of this year by agreeing, which ought to be a reasonably straightforward approach, negotiating the detail will never be entirely straightforward, but because it’s based on the standard precedents that the EU has adopted with other third countries, and that will be the surest way to make sure we can give our economies that boost by maintaining seamless and as frictionless trade as possible. And that is the way both the UK and European countries got an opportunity to bounce back after this. I think prolonging the uncertainty of the Brexit negotiation is unnecessary and will actually make that uncertainty worse. Angela, on the one for you.
Angela McLean: (30:51)
So I don’t know the study that you’re talking about, but I do know that we there are some profound uncertainties in the underlying data about how likely children are to catch COVID, and how infectious they would be if they caught it. And it’s really quite difficult to trace because they tend to not have symptoms really, or their symptoms are very mild if they do catch it. So there’s not very much data because there haven’t been many children with symptoms. And of course most schools have been in lockdown for a long time now. So it’s perfectly possible to produce projections for what’s going to happen based on reasonable interpretations of rather a thin evidence base that go either way. That being said, one of the things that everybody is very clear about is that whatever we change, we will make absolutely sure that we were monitoring the situation so that we don’t get explosive outbreaks whether they started in schools or in workplaces.
Angela McLean: (31:51)
So I don’t imagine any country in the UK having an outbreak that would overwhelm the health systems sevenfold. One of the things we can do, as well as making the absolute, most of all the data that we do have, is to watch very carefully in those countries that have reopened their schools and see what happens there. So that’s one of the several things we are doing in order to make a decision based on as much science as we can find about what is likely to happen.
Dominic Raab: (32:29)
Sam, would you like to come back on any of those points?
Sam Coates: (32:33)
It was just in the answer to my question for Secretary of State, you corrected yourself from good progress to just progress. Why is the end of year deadline quite so important given the massive scale of the pandemic crisis that we’re facing?
Dominic Raab: (32:46)
Well, I know that if we talk about the positives of this, there’ll be someone somewhere on either side of the channel who will say, “Oh, well, no, it’s going terribly.” The reality is progress is being made and we’re confident we can get there. Look, we do face a challenge with coronavirus. There’ll be damage to the economy. We want to bounce back, but-
Dominic Raab: (33:03)
… actually one of the things we know that businesses would like some certainty of knowing that this has been concluded. I think the country wants some certainty. We were elected on that basis, and actually what this crisis ought to allow us to do, not least through the goodwill and the spirit of cooperation that we’ve had with our European partners, is to knuckle down, focus on what really matters, agree a pretty well precedented free trade agreement with our EU partners, which they’ve already agreed with other third countries, and allow both sides to move on in that spirit of cooperation and goodwill that I mentioned. So that’s what we’ll be focused on. Sam thank you very much.
Dominic Raab: (33:41)
Jason Groves from the Daily Mail. Jason.
Jason Groves: (33:45)
Thanks. Foreign Secretary, can I pick up on Sam’s question though about schools and ask what you think the prospects of them reopening are, given the profound uncertainties that Professor McLean talks about, and the fact that Scotland seems to be pretty clear they’re not going to be opening their schools anytime soon.
Jason Groves: (34:06)
And Professor McLean, can I ask you about one of the emerging risk factors, that of obesity? There seems to be a lot of interest in this subject. I wonder, could you tell us anything about how much evidence there is that it’s a risk factor, and whether people should think about going on a diet?
Dominic Raab: (34:25)
Jason, thanks very much. So on the issue of schools, first of all, I really feel for parents who’ve had the challenge of balancing a working from home with homeschooling. I feel for the teachers who have had to make that work as well. I think there’s been an exceptional effort to make that viable, and to make it work. It’s also schools being closed has an impact on the economy, because so many of those workers can’t go back to work as normal.
Dominic Raab: (34:52)
The crucial bit for us is the five tests, and the risk of a second spike in relation to any new changes that we would make. But that must of course include schools. So one of the things we’ve done is we’ve asked Sage to look at different options. I don’t think it’s binary. And I think the one thing I can say with confidence is at least to date, the evidence has been that we wouldn’t be able to open up all schools without a very real risk that the R-rate, so the transmission rate, would rise at such a level that we would risk a second spike. But we’ve asked Sage for the options on this. And we’ll, as ever be, continued to be guided by the scientific advice we get.
Angela McLean: (35:32)
And you wanted me to talk about obesity? So we have very fine evidence actually from rather beautiful studies gathered from inpatients in our hospitals with COVID-19. And those studies show that indeed, once you’re in hospital, being obese is an additional risk factor for being admitted to an ICU, or indeed for death.
Angela McLean: (35:53)
My understanding about the way to lose weight is that going on a diet isn’t the way to do it, and what you have to do is actually decide to completely change your lifestyle. You have to decide to do something that’s going to be enduring, not just going on a diet. And I understand that that’s a really difficult thing to do, but under all circumstances, pandemic or no pandemic, it’s better not to be obese.
Dominic Raab: (36:18)
Thanks Jason. Can we go on to Andy Diamond from The Mirror please?
Andy Diamond: (36:24)
Yes. Foreign Secretary, in France and Holland professional sports has been suspended until September at the earliest, but here the Premier League is making extremely detailed plans for a possible return in mid-June. Is this realistic? And is the government actively encouraging it as a measure that might somehow lift the spirits of the nation?
Dominic Raab: (36:49)
Well Andy, I think it would lift the spirits of the nation. I think people would like to see as get back, not just to work and get to a stage where safely our children go to school, but also enjoy some of those pastimes, sporting in particular. I know the government’s had constructive meetings with sports bodies to plan for athletes to resume training when it’s safe to do so. I can tell you that the culture secretary has also been working on a plan to get sports played behind closed doors, when we move to the second phase, so that’s something that I can tell you we’re looking at.
Dominic Raab: (37:25)
Of course we come back to the key point though, we can only do it when the medical and the scientific advice is that it can be done safely and sustainably. But certainly that’s something under active consideration. Andy anything else you’d like to ask?
Andy Diamond: (37:40)
Yes. When you say, “Safely,” will there always be an element of risk if Premier League footballers, or any footballers, any sportsman go back to playing? And secondly if we are, as you’ve now said, professional sports will be behind closed doors, will that be the case until a vaccine is found? Whether that be 12 months, 18 months, two years? Are we looking at professional sports behind closed doors until that moment?
Dominic Raab: (38:10)
Thanks. I can’t look too far into the future because there are various different ways we could get control of the virus permanently, defeat it for good, a vaccine is certainly one of those. Therapeutics are another.
Dominic Raab: (38:23)
I think we’re all waiting to see how effective internationally test tracking and tracing can be, but I think that’s also an option. But whether it’s a combination of tests, tracking, tracing, and other social distancing measures within what’s possible within a sporting environment, we want to see whether behind closed doors what the options are for doing that. So I think it’s worth taking a close look at that, seeing whether it’s possible to do it safely, but as ever taken the scientific and the medical advice as to when and how to proceed.
Dominic Raab: (38:53)
Andy, thank you very much. I think finally we’ve got Will Hayward from the Western Mail and WalesOnline, Will.
Will Hayward: (39:01)
Thank you. My first question is for the Foreign Secretary. Watching these press conferences for the past six weeks has been very confusing for many people in Wales, as some of the language you use makes it very unclear if what is said applies to them because of devolution. Clearly Foreign Affairs, such as repatriating people from abroad does apply, however commonly mentioned issues around schools, local government, support for vulnerable people, healthcare, and even the rules of lockdown itself do not actually apply to people in Wales. Do you concede that the government could have been clearer up till now, and will you and your ministerial colleagues commit to making the distinction as to what issues apply just to England in the future?
Dominic Raab: (39:39)
Well Will, all I’d say in the PM’s absence, I’ve chair two of the Cobras I’ve been in a number of others. We’ve had, I’ve got to say good cooperation with all the developed ministrations, including with the first minister in Wales.
Dominic Raab: (39:52)
If you look in practice at the social distancing measures, and I’ve talked a bit earlier in this press conference about the level of compliance, it has been remarkably consistent across all of the nation. So we’ve actually been pretty much in lockstep all the way. I think the right thing to do is to try and proceed on a consistent basis, respecting the constitutional settlement of course, and that’s what we’ve done so far. And that’s one of the reasons we’ve been so effective.
Dominic Raab: (40:18)
So I think we can pull together and as one United Kingdom see ourselves sustainably through this crisis. Angela, is there anything you’d add to that?
Angela McLean: (40:33)
There’s not much I would add. I think we’ve succeeded so far together, and that that would seem a sensible way to go forward.
Dominic Raab: (40:35)
Great. Did you want to come back on any of that Will?
Will Hayward: (40:39)
Sorry. The point I was making was as much about the language in these press conferences for people in Wales, and who naturally might not be that well versed in every bit of minutia around devolution.
Will Hayward: (40:51)
My second question is actually follows on from that. The first minister of Wales has stated his desire for Wales and England to come out of lockdown together in order to keep the message simple. How is Wales able to input into the announcements about lockdown, that we are expecting this weekend and next week? And just to Professor McLean if I may, does Sage take into account Welsh data and the impact on Wales when offering advice to NHS England? And has there been any marked differences between Wales and England?
Dominic Raab: (41:19)
So just in terms of the formal structures, it’s really important that we do try and make sure that there’s early and consistent and continued cooperation and consultation. So we do that through the Welsh office, with Michael Gove in the cabinet office doing it. And of course we have those Cobra meetings that I discussed which bring all four nations of the United Kingdom together. And actually, we’re flexible, we’re pragmatic, we’re not insisting on form over substance. But actually if you look at the substance, and I come back to the record, the consistent record of compliance with the social distancing measures, we’ve done a pretty good job of working together.
Dominic Raab: (41:54)
So I think the key is that there’s the political will on all sides to continue that. And I hope, and I’m confident that there will be. Angela?
Angela McLean: (42:01)
So on the science, we worked very hard to include all four nations. Sometimes there are data streams that we only have for England at the moment, but we do try to make it clear to our colleagues why we think they are incredibly useful, and therefore why it would be fantastic if we could also have them from other countries. So both on [Spym 00:42:18] and also in Sage, yes we certainly do think about Wales, I promise you.
Dominic Raab: (42:22)
Will, thanks very much. That brings this press conference to a close. Thank you all very much.