May 6, 2020

United Kingdom Coronavirus Briefing Transcript May 6

Great Britain Press Conference May 6
RevBlogTranscriptsCOVID-19 Briefing & Press Conference TranscriptsUnited Kingdom Coronavirus Briefing Transcript May 6

British officials gave a coronavirus press briefing on May 6. The UK’s Secretary of State, Robert Jenrick, led the press conference. He said the death toll from COVID-19 has surpassed 30,000 people in Great Britain. Read the full transcript of the speech here.


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Robert Jenrick: (00:09)
Good afternoon and welcome to the coronavirus press conference from Downing Street. I’m joined this afternoon by Professor Yvonne Doyle, the medical director of Public Health England and Dr. Nikki Kanani, the deputy medical director for NHS England, who has a particular focus on primary care. Today’s data shows that 1,448,010 tests for coronavirus have now been carried out across Great Britain, including 69,463 tests carried out yesterday. 201,101 people have tested positive, that’s an increase of 6,111 cases since yesterday. 13,615 people are currently in hospital with coronavirus in Great Britain, down from 13,922 yesterday. Sadly, of those hospitalized with the virus, 30,076 have now died. That’s an increase of 649 fatalities since yesterday. Behind those numbers are heartbreaking losses for the loved ones of all those who’ve died. Once again, our thoughts and our prayers are with their friends and their families.

Robert Jenrick: (01:46)
Professor Doyle will provide an update on the latest data on coronavirus. But first as community secretary, I’d like to take this opportunity to give an update on the work being done locally during the pandemic to keep people safe, to provide support for people’s jobs and their businesses and to prepare for the reopening and the recovery of our local economies. That’s why it’s appropriate that this afternoon we’re joined by regional journalists who are doing so much to keep people informed about how the national effort is being coordinated in our own communities. A free country needs a free press and the national, the regional and the local newspapers of our country are under significant financial pressure. I’d like to echo the words of the culture secretary recently, in encouraging everyone who can to buy a newspaper. As I said before, the battle against coronavirus will be won in every city, in every town and every village across the country.

Robert Jenrick: (02:59)
This is truly a national effort and it’s a national effort taking place at a local level. My department, the Ministry of Housing Communities and Local Government has played a vital role in bringing people together to tackle the virus. We’ve provided local authorities with over £3.2 billion during this pandemic so that they can continue to support the communities that need it through this most challenging time, and respond to the immediate pressures they are facing due to coronavirus, whilst also protecting and preserving vital public services. At the start of March, I established a task force to support local resilience forums known as LRFs, standing them up at a local level across the country to prepare each and every community for a range of different scenarios. There are 38 LRFs in England which are made up of emergency services, a range of government agencies, health bodies, and local authorities. They’re headed by some of the most senior and experienced local leaders of the emergency services, of councils, the NHS and others, who together are leading their communities through the crisis with the full support of central government.

Robert Jenrick: (04:21)
Recognizing the unprecedented challenge that we faced, I took the decision to embed within them some of the finest military planners in the world from our armed forces, and I’m very grateful for their hard work in recent weeks. This combined expertise and leadership is ensuring a comprehensive, coordinated and consistent response across the country. Responding to the urgent need for personal protective equipment to reach the front line of the care sector, we’ve mobilized LRFs to help distribute PPE and thus far they’ve delivered over 67 million items in England alone since early April. Together with local councils, they’re also assisting us in supporting some of the most vulnerable individuals in their communities and to date they’ve helped us to ensure that one million boxes of food and essential supplies have now been delivered to those people identified by the NHS as extremely clinically vulnerable to coronavirus, the shielded. With more than 290,000 boxes being distributed every week, this has been a huge team effort and I’d like to take this opportunity to thank everyone involved for the role that they’ve played and will play in the weeks ahead.

Robert Jenrick: (05:49)
We’re also working very closely with mayors to make sure that we have a coordinated approach to tackling coronavirus at a local level. The government has been determined to ensure that the vital work of keeping people safe in their homes also continues. So with the support of the mayors of London, of the Liverpool City Region, of Greater Manchester, of Sheffield, of the West Midlands and others, we were able to announce the building safety pledge. These mayors have come together because they have a number of the high rise buildings with highly flammable cladding in their respective regions. The pledge that we agreed sends a very clear message that vital building safety work must continue despite the coronavirus pandemic. We’ve been joined by 25 local authorities, including 18 in London, who’ve also given their fulsome support. As work on many of these critical sites was paused early on, it’s now slowly starting to resume as a result of this initiative. I would urge any building owner or contractor to do so as soon as practical, where it’s safe, to begin work once again.

Robert Jenrick: (07:12)
Now, coronavirus will not stop our mission to level up, to unite and to unleash the potential of this country. The prime minister will set out on Sunday our approach to the second phase of this pandemic. As we look ahead to supporting businesses as they’re able to reopen, my department will lead our work on how our local economies can adapt, evolve, recover and grow. I will continue to support mayors and local government leaders who will play a critical role in this work. Every local economy now needs a plan to restart and recover. We will be informing these plans with our own detailed work in areas such as how workplaces, from factories to construction sites to offices, can be adapted, how outdoor spaces, leisure and businesses, from parks to high streets to markets, can be managed and how public transport networks, from the tube to trams to buses, can operate, in each case guided by scientific and medical advice. We want to ensure appropriate and safe social distancing, providing the public with the confidence to return to work and to return to public spaces and public transport knowing that it’s always safe to do so.

Robert Jenrick: (08:43)
We’re considering how we can create more room in town centers for pedestrians, how we can make it easier to cycle or walk to work. We’ll work with towns and places whose economies have been hardest hit, intensively as the recovery begins. Our commitment to infrastructure investment remains undimmed. For example, over two thirds of HS2 sites are open. We want infrastructure and construction work to begin again, wherever it’s safe to do so. It’s clear to everyone that the pandemic is putting huge pressure on economies the world over and there’s no denying the challenges that lie ahead in our own country. But we cannot and will not let this pandemic halt our work to improve connectivity, to provide vital social and cultural infrastructure and to boost economic growth across the regions. That is how we’ll begin to rebuild and to recover from this national emergency. We’re working to ensure the right support is available to local businesses. Last week, High Street businesses began to receive the £22 billion package designed to mitigate some of the effects of coronavirus, with grants of up to £25,000 being paid into bank accounts of those businesses. And of course, our 100 towns benefiting from the £3.6 billion Towns Fund will continue to receive our support and we’ll be working at pace with them in the months ahead.

Robert Jenrick: (10:25)
Local authorities have now paid out over £8.6 billion in grants to around 700,000 businesses. As local government secretary, I’d like to congratulate those councils who’ve worked extremely hard, sometimes around the clock, to get those grants out to the businesses that desperately need them. I’d like to congratulate Chichester, Ealing and Hyndburn councils who are the three highest performing councils so far in England. Businesses are also receiving discounts of almost £10 billion on their rates bills in response to COVID-19, with the hardest hit by the pandemic, such as shops, cafes, and pubs, paying no business rates whatsoever this financial year. Together with existing reliefs, this means that 1.1 million rate payers are no longer paying business rates this year.

Robert Jenrick: (11:21)
This week, the chancellor and I announced an additional 5% uplift, up to £617 million available to local councils to fund small businesses that rent space in shared offices, industrial units and innovation centers as well as market traders B&Bs that pay council tax rather than business rates, and also to support small charities. Local councils will now have more flexibility to make pragmatic decisions to keep those businesses going so they can bounce back once they’re able to do so. Moving forward, our mission is to ensure everything we can is done to help people to get back to work safely, to reunite friends and family, and to reintroduce the things that make life worth living in a safe way, as soon as it’s safe to do so.

Robert Jenrick: (12:15)
Finally, on Friday we will be celebrating as a country the 75th anniversary of VE day. My department, like others, had been helping to plan some of the public celebrations, but we know that, sadly, we’ll now need to mark this important occasion from home instead. Cabinet colleagues have been speaking with veterans organized by the Royal British Legion. I had the pleasure early this week of speaking to Lesley, a 98-year-old World War II veteran on the phone. Lesley was full of warmth and wisdom, telling me how he spent VE day in Sienna having fought his way through North Africa and Italy, and how he would be spending Friday more sedately celebrating at home. He said to me that as we rebuilt and we recovered then, he’s certain that we will do so again this year. I’ll now hand over to Dr. Kanani in the first instance, and then to Professor Doyle. Thank you.

Dr. Nikki Kanani: (13:21)
Thank you, Secretary of State. I wanted to just reflect on your points about community and thank communities for following government advice at a incredibly difficult time. I’m a GP and before I was a GP I grew up in a community pharmacy and my colleagues have been facing probably the most challenging time they’ve ever had to. Right across the NHS, people are working under significant stress and strain and our communities have helped to look after them and to look out for them through staying at home and following government advice and becoming volunteer responders and looking out for their own communities. I want to thank you for that. It’s really challenging-

Dr. Nikki Kanani: (14:03)
… isn’t it? I have a family member who sheltering and homeschooling children and it feels difficult. We all want reassurance and we miss the familiarity of the things that we always used to do.

Dr. Nikki Kanani: (14:17)
But I wanted to reassure people who are listening and watching today that your primary care services are still there for you. I want to pay tribute to our GP practices and our general practice teams, our dentists, our optometrists, the unsung heroes, the community pharmacists on the high street who have continued to work day after day and make sure that they’re there for you.

Dr. Nikki Kanani: (14:40)
This bank holiday, they’ll be open as well and it might feel a little bit different. You might have more telephone calls or online consultations. You might see somebody dressed in PPE, as I was yesterday in my surgery. But you must know that your NHS is still here for you, so please come and contact us if you need advice or support over the coming weeks and months. Thank you.

Robert Jenrick: (15:04)
Thank you, Nikki. I think we all want to reiterate your comments and the thanks to GPS and everybody working in primary care across the country. I turn over to Yvonne, who’s going to present today’s slides.

Yvonne Doyle: (15:14)
Thank you, Secretary of State. So just to remind us all of the five tests for adjusting the lockdown here, we can see that they relate to capacity and to mortality, to death. And also that we are actually controlling the epidemic itself and the transmission of the epidemic.

Yvonne Doyle: (15:33)
So looking at the first graph here please, the next slide, we can see again that this is about transport. It’s a regular slide. It shows that overall, transport use is down a good bit, by 50%, but less so for motor vehicles, and that has been slowly increasing over recent weeks. This is up to the 4th of May and it’s for the UK.

Yvonne Doyle: (15:55)
Could I have the next slide, please? The important message in all that of course is that we must still respect that this virus does transmit and to stay at home and not to interact too much, because people are still very vulnerable to getting this virus.

Yvonne Doyle: (16:14)
Now we can see here the daily tests and these have increased over time and this is up to the 6th of May. But I will move on, really, to the next slide, which is of interest, which is the new cases. Here we have more new cases and this may be a matter of concern, but of course it’s also a matter of testing more so that we are doing more testing and therefore we will find more cases. This is what we want to do. We want to find the positive cases so that we can break transmission.

Yvonne Doyle: (16:45)
So onto the next one, please. This is about people in hospital. I know of great interest to you listening and the news here is generally very good. You can see where London had its early epidemic and it has declined. The cases in hospital have declined more slowly perhaps, of other regions. We see here where the Northwest has more cases in hospital than London, but overall we have about 13,000 cases, which is a decrease and it’s good news.

Yvonne Doyle: (17:17)
Then if we can just look at the most critically ill patients, and this is about critical care beds use throughout the UK. And this is again good news. It’s for the four countries of the UK. And we can see here where we actually have less than a third of critical care beds being occupied by people with the coronavirus. So good news there; it is declining.

Yvonne Doyle: (17:40)
Then we look at the recorded deaths, less good news here in terms of these are very tragic. It is very, very sad. But the trend is good because it is slowly coming down, and this is a seven day rolling average for the UK. As has been said, we have 649 yesterday and that was a decline, a slow decline.

Yvonne Doyle: (18:05)
And then, finally, two slides about the international deaths. The first one is just the crude numbers and this, of course, depends on the size of the country. We have over 67,000 deaths in the United States, but, of course, a big country. We can see the UK and the European countries, they’re further down.

Yvonne Doyle: (18:27)
But if we look at the last slide, which is about the rates per million population, then we have taken account of the size of the country, and we can see a different pattern where the UK and European countries are more closely together.

Yvonne Doyle: (18:43)
I want to say that this really is presented just to show you different ways of looking at death. There are many different ways of looking at death. It is far too early to say how this will eventually result, for how countries have fared in this epidemic. We need to give this some time. Most of those who are used to looking at these things would say probably a year, but we thought you would be interested to see. So thank, you Secretary of State.

Robert Jenrick: (19:11)
Well, thank you very much, Yvonne. Before we turn to questions from the regional press, we have two from members of the public and the first one is from Edward in Harrogate.

Edward: (19:21)
Given the excess in critical care beds across the NHS and Nightingale Hospitals, my question is why has the UK suffered a greater number of deaths when compared to countries such as Italy who had their healthcare systems completely overrun by COVID-19?

Robert Jenrick: (19:39)
Well, thank you, Edward, for that question: Why has the UK suffered a higher number of deaths compared to Italy, for example, whose healthcare system was overrun by COVID-19? Well, I think as the prime minister has said on a number of occasions now, it is difficult to make international comparisons with certainty today.

Robert Jenrick: (19:58)
There will be a time for that and we have already established the way in which we will measure that in due course, which is a measure of excess deaths. But that is a hard calculation to do with accuracy today. Of course we want to learn whatever lessons we can do whilst we’re still responding to the virus, but I think the time for accurate international comparisons will come in the future.

Robert Jenrick: (20:21)
It is more positive, of course, that when we saw those very disturbing scenes earlier in the year in Italy of their very good health service being overwhelmed and were concerned about the potential impact upon the NHS, that we haven’t seen those scenes in the UK. We have had sufficient ICU capacity. We have had sufficient ventilator capacity.

Robert Jenrick: (20:43)
Of course, we’ve been able to build capacity for example with the Nightingale Hospitals, some of which have not been used at all so far during the course of the virus. And if Yvonne, you want to add more about the international perspective.

Yvonne Doyle: (20:57)
Thank you, Secretary of State. So credit to the NHS for not being overwhelmed. But international comparisons as I have mentioned, countries, Edward, measure in very different ways. They measure this virus number of deaths in different ways and that is absolutely fine so long as that is consistent in each country.

Yvonne Doyle: (21:19)
It makes international comparisons very difficult, though, because we are not comparing like with like. It’s worth continuing to stress this, because over time probably the right measures have been outlined by a number of our experts, including our chief medical officer, which would be excess mortality, excess deaths overall in a period of time and then we will know truly how we have been impacted. But also this is a comparable measure internationally, so we would then be able to understand how we have been impacted internationally as well.

Robert Jenrick: (21:55)
Thank you very much. Well, our second question is from Emma from Swansea. Emma’s question is: Religion is a huge part of life for many in the UK. Seeing sport prioritized in discussions over other parts of life has been hard to see. How will the government protect the rights of religious communities to practice their faith in community as the lockdown is eased?

Robert Jenrick: (22:21)
Well, that’s a very important question. Obviously, in any part of our lives, the government has been driven by a desire to protect life and has taken expert medical and scientific opinion. But we’re very aware that this has been a difficult period for different faith groups.

Robert Jenrick: (22:39)
You’ve seen, for example, the Jewish community having to hold their Seders at Passover by Zoom and without having their friends and family around them. You then saw the same at Easter, where churches were not able to come together and the Archbishop of Canterbury and Cardinal Nichols and others held their sermons and services over the internet, as in churches across the country. And then at the moment through Ramadan, friends and family not able to come together to break fast in the way that they traditionally would.

Robert Jenrick: (23:11)
We know this is very tough and none of us would want these restrictions to continue a day longer than they need to. But it is right that we stick to the medical advice at this time, however much it goes against our traditions and our religious beliefs in order to protect others as well as ourselves.

Robert Jenrick: (23:31)
We are in conversation with faith leaders across the country to consider how when the time is right, they will be able to recommence services in churches and mosques and synagogues across the country. But that moment is not now.

Robert Jenrick: (23:47)
We’re also been working with them on how we can ensure that funerals and other important events in people’s lives are conducted in an appropriate way. My department has issued guidance to enable people to hold funerals in public spaces.

Robert Jenrick: (24:04)
For example, like crematoriums with close members of their family around them, because none of us want to see scenes, which we did see unfortunately in a small number of occasions early on in the virus, of funerals being conducted with few if anyone present.

Robert Jenrick: (24:21)
That wasn’t right. We’ve issued guidance now so that shouldn’t happen again, and we’re working with faith leaders to see how where appropriate those funerals can be conducted in churches or other settings like that as well.

Robert Jenrick: (24:34)
I don’t know if Yvonne or Nikki, you want to add anything to that from your perspectives.

Dr. Nikki Kanani: (24:36)
Well, I think, as you said, it’s important that we work with our communities. We also know that we’ve seen a difference in how different communities have had COVID-19 infections as well. So there’s a lot that we can do to understand how our communities are responding and making sure that communities have what they need during the coming weeks and months.

Yvonne Doyle: (24:58)
And Secretary of State, could I just cite my thanks to the various religious leaders that have worked with Public Health England and with the NHS to handle very sensitive issues in a very helpful, proactive way. Understanding how very difficult this is for the communities in terms of handling the host, in terms of group gatherings and then, sadly, in terms of funerals and respectful handling of bodies, we have worked very constructively. And for that, I am very grateful.

Robert Jenrick: (25:35)
Absolutely. Thank you. Well, thank you, Emma for that question. Our first question from members of the press comes from Patrick Burns from BBC West Midlands. Good afternoon, Patrick.

Patrick West: (25:46)
Good afternoon, Secretary of State. I’m sure you don’t need me to remind you that at the beginning of all this, the prime minister pledged to local authority leaders that they would have a key role, the lead role, in bringing their local communities and vulnerable people through all this. “Resources will follow,” he said.

Patrick West: (26:04)
Well, six weeks on, it’s beginning to look as though even the extra help that you’ve been talking about just now may not actually be enough. If you think of Birmingham City Council alone, the extra costs they’ve incurred already as a result of this heading north of 260 million pounds and counting and they’re leader in wards.

Patrick West: (26:26)
There’s the really crucial services like adults’ social care and children’s services may be compromised in the near future if, as he puts it, the government doesn’t match its words with action.

Robert Jenrick: (26:41)
Well, thank you. Well, let me be very clear to local council leaders across the country, including in the West Midlands. We will stand behind them, ensure that they have the resources that they need to carry out the absolutely critical functions that they’re playing in our national response to coronavirus. That was the promise that I made to local council leaders, as did the prime minister early in the life of the emergency.

Robert Jenrick: (27:05)
We’ve already provided 3.2 billion pounds of additional resources to councils in just the last two months. We’ve provided almost 4 billion pounds of cashflow to councils, precisely so that they shouldn’t have to face the difficult choices that you’ve just described: between responding to the virus in their own communities and continuing to do very important public service functions like refuse collection, for example, looking after vulnerable children in their communities.

Robert Jenrick: (27:36)
In the West Midlands, local councils will receive 347 million pounds to deal with the pressures of coronavirus. That comes on top of a very generous settlement at the beginning of the financial year, which also increased their core spending power by over 300 million pounds.

Robert Jenrick: (27:55)
If further resources are required to meet the COVID-related costs that we’ve asked councils to bear, then obviously we’ll take that-

Robert Jenrick: (28:03)
… into consideration in the future. And I’ve been working very closely with local council leaders and the mayor in the West Midlands, Andy Street, who’s been doing a fantastic job at leading the community forward through a very difficult time. I don’t know there’s anything further you’d like to ask, Patrick, or move on to the next question.

Patrick West: (28:24)
I just like to really sort of suggest that the key issue here, Secretary of State, is making sure that the extra support gets through to all the authorities who need it. If you take Shropshire as an example, they say the money that they’ve received doesn’t yet cover all the extra costs that they have incurred. And within that area, if you talk to Shrewsbury Town Council, they’ve been saying on the BBC Radio Shropshire that not enough of the money is actually filtering down to the lower tier authorities like them, who, as they point out are, actually closest to the very communities that most need the help.

Robert Jenrick: (28:59)
Well, there’s two points there. Firstly, in terms of ensuring that councils get the resources they need, we’re absolutely committed to doing that. Councils are receiving more money so far than they have reported to us as needing to meet the COVID related costs that they’re bearing. They are also, like other organizations across the country, seeing significant reductions in their income because we’re not parking in their car parks and using their leisure centers and so on. And that’s a particular challenge that we’re also focused on. But that’s a separate issue. In the latest 1.6 billion pounds that we provided to councils, we made sure that a significant amount of it did flow to lower tier councils, like district councils for example. And so your average district council in England will now receive, if they haven’t done so already in the coming days, a million pounds or more of additional grant to help them with COVID related expenditure and also to stabilize their finances.

Robert Jenrick: (29:58)
And we’ve asked big parish councils, like the ones that you’ve referred to in Shropshire like Shrewsbury or Bridgnorth or Ludlow, to speak with their principal councils, who will be receiving that million pounds or more of funding, and ensure that it flows down to them if they’re also under financial pressure at the moment. And I hope that that will help. Obviously, my department and I are here to speak with those councils and ensure they get through this with us together. Thank you, Patrick. I’ll come to the second question now, which is from James Vincent from BBC Yorkshire. Good afternoon, James.

James Vincent: (30:33)
Good afternoon. Thank you very much. I’m on BBC Look North tonight. We’ve gone out. We’re been speaking to Sarah, who’s a six-year-old from Tadcaster who needs a kidney transplant. Her operation was canceled when the coronavirus crisis hit. What works are the government and the NHS doing to make sure that those people that need vital care, vital operations away from coronavirus, are going to get that as soon as possible? And what’s the NHS and the government doing to make sure that any backlog is worked through in the best possible way?

Robert Jenrick: (31:02)
Thank you, James. And that’s a very important question, which I’m sure is on the mind of many people across the country. Can I perhaps come to Nikki in the first instance?

Dr. Nikki Kanani: (31:08)
[crosstalk 00:03:09], thank you for your question, and it’s something that we’re thinking about very actively as you can imagine. I think it was right that over the last few weeks and months, the NHS made a concerted effort to focus on services that were either urgent for an individual or were related to the COVID response. And we absolutely had to do that, so we had to step away from other procedures and routine reviews that we might have otherwise done. But now, and as Simon Stevens wrote last week, we’ve asked the whole system to start to think about how to get back to what we call normal services. And there will be some things that we want to keep. So during the pandemic, actually, services have revolutionized the way that they’ve worked, whether that’s by using digital technology or developing new ways of caring for patients. But in the case of the child that you mentioned, that that child will be prioritized and that operation will be scheduled so that we can get people back on track and that the really important things happen as soon as possible.

Robert Jenrick: (32:11)
Very good. Thank you. Do you have a followup question, James?

James Vincent: (32:13)
[crosstalk 00:32:13] to her quick followup on council finances. Are councils in Yorkshire saying that there’s a 200 million pound gap between what you’re providing and what they think they’ll be spending on the coronavirus crisis? On Monday, you told MPs that some of those calculations from councils were highly speculative. Are you suggesting that they’re perhaps getting their sums wrong?

Robert Jenrick: (32:35)
No, not at all. We’ve provided, as I said, 3.2 billion pounds to councils already plus 4 billion pounds of cashflow, so it’s a lot of money to be provided in just a two month period to councils. And we think that is sufficient to meet the immediate demands of the crisis. However, as we understand better the length at which locked down measures may have to be in place and the economic disruption that flows as a result of the crisis, which is difficult to judge today, we will work with councils to ensure that they have the funding that is required so they can navigate their way through this difficult period.

Robert Jenrick: (33:13)
So my message to councils is continue to do the important work that you’re doing, whether that’s on adult social care, getting rough sleepers off the streets, supporting the vulnerable, getting those business grants out to the community. And we’ll make sure that you have the funding that’s required, and we’ll work with you to better understand, in the weeks and months ahead, the true impact upon your finances of the disruption economically that we’re suffering and of their response to coronavirus. It’s too early to tell in some cases what those costs will be. But we will learn in the weeks and months to come, and we’ll work very closely with councils, including throughout Yorkshire. Thank you.

Robert Jenrick: (33:53)
The next question is from Tom Sheldrick, who is from ITV Tyne Tees. Tom.

Tom Sheldrick: (33:58)
Thank you. Good afternoon. Last week our analysis revealed that the Northeast has had a higher number of confirmed coronavirus cases per head than any other parts of England and the gap is continuing to widen. The virus is affecting some of the most deprived areas in our region particularly badly. The regional chair of the British Medical Association, Dr. George Ray, has called for the government to act on health inequalities, which he describes as a point of national shame. So what are you doing now to try to reduce the number of people in the Northeast being infected with coronavirus? And going forward, how will you address longterm issues, which mean that people in our region are less likely to be in good health and at greater risk from viruses like this?

Robert Jenrick: (34:42)
Thank you, Tom. Well, I’ll ask Yvonne to speak in a moment to the main part of your question. But on the broader issue of emerging data, suggesting the socioeconomic impact upon deaths with the virus, obviously that’s extremely concerning to us. We want to understand all of the contributing factors that make people more vulnerable to the virus, including those and including, for example, some of the ethnic groups like the BAME communities, and their exposure to the virus. We’re working with Public Health England, and on some of those issues, like for example the BAME issue, the chief medical officer’s commissioned specific research so we can better understand the issue and respond to it in due course. But Yvonne, I don’t know if you want to say more in particular about the Northeast and its position in the passage of the virus.

Yvonne Doyle: (35:33)
Yes. Thank you, Secretary of State. So, Tom, there are over 8,000 confirmed positive cases of coronavirus in the Northeast at the moment, and, as you see, some areas of great need, which of course we would have been involved with, both from our national through to local services in the public health system before this epidemic. What we really need to know now, first, is to understand what additional or excess impact this virus has had on those communities and how distributed that might be. So as well as doing work generally on disadvantaged in particular groups in the population, we would like to look at the geographies that have been most impacted by that. And that work is underway, and we will be able to describe that as we go forward over the coming weeks and months.

Yvonne Doyle: (36:26)
But also, I would want to reassure you that the business as usual work needs to continue in working locally to promote the good health of people and to ensure that we are protecting their health from issues other than COVID because one of the great dangerous here is that people forget that actually there are other harms in the population, some of which may be greater than the virus itself. So our local team’s working with local councils and particularly local public health departments. Directors of public health are very active. We’re in touch every week and sometimes several times a week to understand the dynamics of what is going on and to make sure that the good business as usual, as far as it can, can continue. And just one concern is, of course, that if our services have how to stop, for instance, immunization or smoking cessation that we actually move as soon as we can when it’s safe to reestablish the preventive services as well.

Robert Jenrick: (37:31)
Thank you. Tom, do you have a quick followup to that question, or are you content?

Tom Sheldrick: (37:35)
Yes, please. If I can ask you, Secretary of State, are you considering lifting lockdown restrictions later in regions like the Northeast where the number of coronavirus cases continues to grow while it’s perhaps stabilizing elsewhere?

Robert Jenrick: (37:47)
Well, the Prime Minister will set out on Sunday our approach to the next phase of the virus. So I don’t think that I can helpfully presage those remarks. Our strong preference, though, is that the whole country moves as one, but if, as we build up our infrastructure for testing and tracking and tracing, in time it’s required for us to make interventions in smaller sort of micro communities where you’re seeing the virus take hold again, then that will be something that we consider as other countries around the world have done when they’ve implemented effective track and trace systems. But that’s quite different to making major changes to lockdown measures in one part of the country versus another and our strong preference, as it was at the beginning of the lockdown measures, is for the whole country to move as one. I’ll go now to the next question, which is from Zena Hawley from the Derby Telegraph. Zena

Zena Hawley: (38:48)
Thank you, Mr. Jenrick. I wanted to say that Derby is a great city with a strong industrial base, but the announcement of 8,000 potential job losses at Rolls-Royce could have extreme consequences, obviously for the company, but also for the supply chain of the companies that obviously supply it. What can the government do to help Rolls-Royce, a company that’s always been there for Britain through times of extreme hardship, et cetera? And also, could ask more widely what role does the government expect cities like Derby to play as we emerge from the current crisis?

Robert Jenrick: (39:24)
Well, thank you very much, and I share your concern for the news of potential job losses at Rolls-Royce. I know how important Rolls-Royce is to Derby, to the Midlands and to the whole country. It’s one of our most important advanced manufacturing business, one with a very rich history, and I’m certain a business that will have a great future as well. It’s renowned all over the world. Aviation is an important sector to the economy, but it is a sector facing almost unprecedented issues as a result of coronavirus. We want to support the aviation sector in any way that we can do. The Chancellor has already announced an unprecedented set of measures to support businesses large and small. I know that Rolls-Royce is a business that has already taken advantage, for example, of the Job Retention Scheme, furloughing some of its employees from April.

Robert Jenrick: (40:24)
We’re going to work closely with the sector, and we’ve said before that we’re willing to consider situations where we would support individual firms, but obviously only when they’ve worked through the existing government schemes and other ways in which they might be able to raise finance commercially or through existing shareholders. If there’s more we can do for Rolls-Royce, we want to do so, and I know that the Business Secretary and the Chancellor are already in contact with Rolls-Royce and will do so again in the future.

Robert Jenrick: (40:57)
As regards Derby more generally, well, it’s one of our great cities, a city I know well representing a Nottinghamshire constituency nearby. I’m certain it has a strong future. I will be working closely with local leaders to ensure that their plans for rebuilding and recovering the local economy work in step with those that we’re producing nationally and the voice of the business community in Derby is heard in the decisions that we’re making here in Whitehall. And that’s the same for cities, for local government leaders and for mayors across the country. Thank you very much. Was there a further question you’d like to add, or are you content with that?

Zena Hawley: (41:34)
If I could, please.

Robert Jenrick: (41:34)

Zena Hawley: (41:35)
I want to talk about education because that’s something that’s dear to my heart as the education correspondent at the Derby Telegraph. Schools and their plans for reopening. I’ve had discussions with local unions. I’ve had discussions with local experts in the education field. And there is a strong feeling that it’s going to be very, very difficult to achieve very easily, and I’m wondering whether or not there is going to be any move towards having PPE in schools at all?

Zena Hawley: (42:03)
So far, teachers have been going into school, they’ve been there for key workers’ children, they’ve carried on. And I know there’s been quite a bit of illness among teachers, but what can we do to protect our teachers and actually give confidence to parents, staff, and pupils that could be going back to school any time?

Robert Jenrick: (42:24)
Thank you. Well, I know that there will be concern from teachers, as [inaudible 00:42:28] parents and the education sector have been working closely with the trade unions and other representatives from education to plan a phased reopening of schools when the time is right. We have taken scientific advice with respect to the level of PPE that might be required in schools, and I’ll let Yvonne speak to that perhaps in a moment, who’s better placed than I will. But as I understand it, the advice is that staff in non-residential education settings don’t require PPE, but we will obviously keep that under close review. And we’ve also published guidance on social distancing within schools, which is already being applied in the schools that are open, obviously only with a small percentage of students currently in them, but which will inform the plans that are emerging for the reopening of schools when the time’s right. And if Yvonne’s, there’s anything you’d like to add?

Yvonne Doyle: (43:22)
So [inaudible 00:01:21], yes. Getting the confidence of parents and teachers will be critical actually, as to whether the children would come back to school even if it was agreed that they should. And what can be done there is part of a package. It’s very important that… You’re probably thinking about PPE like face masks. Now face masks, there’s been a lot of debate about that. They are probably helpful to protect others from yourself when you’re not well, particularly if you’re exuding droplets, coughing and sneezing and so on, but they have to be worn properly. And people always forget that face masks are not actually what is going to contain the virus, wholly. It is a whole package of issues like good hygiene, particularly hand hygiene, how you interact your hand with your face and so on.

Yvonne Doyle: (44:13)
And equally, how the school environment is kept clean, disinfected, how the children are spaced, and this will all take quite a lot of organization. So, this is why no one is rushing to do this prematurely. And we have looked at what other countries are doing on this so that we’re learning about how countries have gained the confidence of parents and teachers. Teachers are key workers, and if they’re unwell they can have testing, and they should do that and indeed should not work if they’re unwell. So, there is good guidance. We in Public Health England and others are working with the Department for Education intensely on this, and with indeed the trades unions and others in those conversations so that we try to get this right.

Robert Jenrick: (45:00)
Thank you, very helpful. Welcome to the next question now, which is from Keith Rossiter, and Keith is from Cornwall Live and the Western Morning News. Good afternoon Keith.

Keith Rossiter: (45:11)
Good afternoon secretary of state. Well, thanks for encouraging your viewers to go out and buy a copy of the newspaper. Cornwall relies heavily on tourism and the hospitality industry, and our hoteliers, publicans and resorts fear that they could lose a whole year if they don’t reopen by July. If that happens, what will the government do to support them?

Robert Jenrick: (45:40)
Thank you. Well, I think we all understand that many businesses across the country are suffering, but those in hospitality are particularly poorly equipped to cope with what’s happening at the moment. And an economy such as the Southwest, which is so heavily dependent on tourism, will be very significantly impacted. The package of measures that the chancellor has already brought forward are helping businesses in Cornwall. I think Southwest councils will receive over one and a half billion pounds of business support, and there’s 126,000 businesses within the Southwest who are eligible for those grants.

Robert Jenrick: (46:19)
I know that Cornwall council is one of the best in the country for getting those grants out to the businesses who really need them. They’ve already paid out 202 million pounds worth of grants to 17,789 firms, which is one of the highest in England, and I pay tribute to the officers at Cornwall Council for doing that. The prime minister has said today that if further interventions are required to support a sector like tourism or hospitality, we will obviously consider that and bring forward appropriate measures when they’re needed. We know that it’s going to be very difficult for them in the months to come, and we want to try to guide their path through this period so that they, like the rest of the economy, can bounce back when we’re able to reopen in due course. Keith, I don’t know if you have a second question.

Keith Rossiter: (47:16)
Yes I do. Thank you. Sir Patrick Vallance, earlier in the week, suggested or hinted that some regions could come out of lockdown sooner, and we saw from one of the slides earlier that the Southwest has the lowest number of cases. If we were released sooner, what support would there be for Devon and Cornwall police, who are already very overstretched, to prevent a large scale invasion of holiday makers?

Robert Jenrick: (47:53)
Well, I’ll pass it on to Yvonne to speak about the regional disparities in the path of the virus and how we might respond to that, including through tracking and tracing. In terms of local councils and the emergency services and ensuring that they have the support that’s required, as I said earlier, we’re providing additional funding to forces and the home secretary is speaking with national police chiefs to ensure that they have the right guidance and consistent messaging that they can use to enforce the lockdown rules where that’s required. And as we’ve seen so far, the vast majority of members of the public have chosen to do so and to adhere to the messaging. And most police forces have been able to support the lockdown measures through consent, which is the way we want to do things in this country. But in the isolated number of cases where that’s not been possible, obviously they’ve also had tools at their disposal to find and to enforce the lockdown. Yvonne.

Yvonne Doyle: (48:57)
So, thank you [inaudible 00:48:58] secretary of state. So Keith, there are over 14,000 confirmed cases in Cornwall. Saying that, it’s a big county, so actually the epidemic seems to have had somewhat less impact in the Southwest, and we need to be absolutely sure that it stays that way. So, we’re watching it very carefully and hopefully it will. Now if and when restrictions ease on the way people are living lives at the moment, it would be very important that we don’t begin to see the reemergence of transmission.

Yvonne Doyle: (49:37)
And what secretary of state has been describing is this major program that we are actually trialing at the moment through the use of an app in the Isle of Wight but will be much broader than that. It will be really a population based program to ensure that people who are unwell, particularly with the symptoms of this virus, are isolated pretty quickly and tested quickly and that their contacts, particularly their immediate contacts, the ones that matter are also informed and can take action. And that will absolutely be key to gradually releasing life back to a changed normal. And that program is being launched this month, and it’s very important that we’re confident that works well.

Robert Jenrick: (50:22)
Thank you. And thank you, Keith, for your questions. If I may now go to the last question, which is from Chris Young. And Chris is the local democracy reporter based at the Telegraph and Argus in Bradford. Good afternoon, Chris.

Chris Young: (50:38)
Good afternoon. The past few weeks there’s been many student nurses, paramedics, midwives called to the front line of the NHS to help with the current pandemic, and many of them in Bradford. Now due to changes made a couple of years ago by government, the current cohort, final year student nurses are having to pay their fees without the support of bursaries. And effectively, they’re having to risk their lives and use loans to pay to do that. Do you think it’s fair that these student nurses who are stepping up to help the NHS are having to get into that and risk the lives and then facing this mountain of debt afterwards? And would you support any campaign by the Telegraph and Argus and other local news organizations to have this scrapped, their tuition fees scrapped once this is all done?

Robert Jenrick: (51:33)
Well, thank you Chris and thank you for all the work that the Telegraph and Argus does in Bradford supporting the NHS, including those healthcare professionals who’ve chosen to come back to work in the service and who have done a fantastic job already, and many are still returning to work in the NHS and in social care. We’re very grateful for nursing and midwifery students who have chosen to go on to the frontline and help in our hospitals and care homes at this time. Those nurses and midwives who have opted in will receive the salary and the pension that is appropriate to their level. And I’m also told that the student loan company have confirmed that student loans will continue regardless of whether the individual is learning or whether, as in this case, they’ve chosen to opt in and help us in the NHS. But we’re all, I think just massively grateful for those people, for everything that they’re doing on the front line. I don’t know if Nicky, you want say anything more about the [crosstalk 00:52:39]

Dr. Nikki Kanani: (52:39)
Yes, absolutely. Thank you, secretary of state. I would just echo your thanks, first of all. We’ve seen an incredible number of not just our students coming to work at a really challenging time across all the professions, but a huge number of staff coming back. So people who’ve retired or who’ve left the NHS thinking that they want to come back and work with us and support our patients. So, I’m incredibly grateful to them. We hope that some of those people who’ve returned will want to stay with us as well. So, we’re looking now to create different ways of working so that those members of staff who’ve come back and joined us can stay working with us. And that could be different ways, so digitally, remotely, working with our local practices in the case of primary care. But we really do thank them, and we really value the time that they’ve given us at a very challenging time.

Robert Jenrick: (53:29)
Great. Thank you. Chris, is there a follow up you’d like to ask?

Chris Young: (53:33)
I had just one last question. It seems like a long time ago now, but early March the government announced in the budget, a lot of support for Yorkshire and Bradford devolution and a huge amount of funding. Obviously a lot has changed since then. A lot of this funding we’re seeing is vital to help areas like Bradford regenerate. With all its change, can there be any guarantee that all these projects, this funding devolution is still going to be there or are places like Bradford back to the drawing board after this?

Robert Jenrick: (54:08)
Well, thank you. That’s a very important question to end this afternoon’s press conference. This government was elected on a platform of leveling up and uniting the whole country, and we have absolutely no intention of stalling those plans. And in fact, unfortunately some of those places that we were already focused on, already working with, are exactly the sorts of communities and economies that are likely to be most hit by the economic disruption that’s going to come out of Coronavirus.

Robert Jenrick: (54:41)
And so it is extremely important that we return with gusto to that agenda, and that’s absolutely what we intend to do. We will continue to devolve power to local communities in Yorkshire. As you know, at the budget, we signed a fantastic new devolution deal for leads and its surrounding economy, and we want to do more for North Yorkshire, for the Humber, and [inaudible 00:55:08] for other parts of the North of England as well. We’ll return to our work on towns, ensuring that they get the funding that they need for technology, for education and skills and infrastructure. And that work will be more important than ever as we begin to rebuild and recover the economy and move forward with the life of the country. Thank you very much, Chris. Much appreciated. And that concludes this afternoon’s press conference. Thank you very much indeed for joining us from Downing Street today.

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