May 7, 2020
United Kingdom Coronavirus Briefing Transcript May 7
British officials gave a coronavirus press briefing on May 7. Dominic Raab led the briefing and said the virus not beaten, but the UK can think about next phase. Read the full speech transcript here.
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Dominic Raab: (14:08)
Good afternoon and welcome to today’s Downing Street press conference. I’m very pleased to be joined by Sir Ian Diamond, the UK’s National Statistician from the ONS and also by Dr. Jenny Harries, Deputy Chief Medical Officer. The latest data from our Cobra coronavirus data file shows that as of today, there have now been 1, 534,533 tests for coronavirus across the UK. That includes 86,583 tests carried out yesterday, 206,715 people have tested positive. That’s an increase of 5,614 cases since yesterday. Those who’ve tested positive, very sadly, 30,615 people have now died and my deepest condolences go out to anyone who’s lost a loved one throughout this pandemic.
Dominic Raab: (15:05)
Three weeks ago, before the Easter bank holiday weekend, I set out five tests for the UK to move on to the next phase in this pandemic. Then, just as now, there were calls to ease up on the restrictions, but as the science made clear, we couldn’t responsibly do that. In fact, the advice from the group of scientific experts, SAGE, who advise the government, made it very clear that there weren’t any changes at all that we could confidently take without risking a second peak in this virus. That’s why we asked the public to keep going. We weren’t done yet. We said stick to the plan and the British public kept going. People stuck to the rules. That meant working from home, it meant worries about money, it meant adjusting to homeschooling, time apart from family and friends and just not doing many of the things that we all enjoy in life.
Dominic Raab: (15:58)
At the same time, there’s been a lot of people who, despite their own personal sacrifices have gone the extra mile. They volunteer to support the elderly and the vulnerable in their community, what who have been shielded themselves away from the virus. And each Thursday, of course, we now come together to applaud the NHS staff and the carers, the people who just kept going to keep our country going. And because of that monumental effort, we’ve now passed the peak of the virus. The NHS hasn’t been overwhelmed, we haven’t seen hospital wards overwhelmed with patients, people left without hospital beds, people left without the ventilators that can mean the difference between life and death.
Dominic Raab: (16:39)
Now I know the tragic death toll in this country and around the world has been sobering for all of us. And there have been real challenges in this country with PPE, with care homes. But in this first stage of the fight against COVID-19 through this national team effort, we’ve prevented the number of deaths rising to even higher levels and we’ve ensured, critically that the NHS had the capacity to cope. Today, cabinet was updated on SAGE’s advice on the progress that we’ve made to date. And as a result of the social distancing measures that we put in place, the R level, which signifies the rate of infection, is now between 0.5 and 0.9. The overall number of new cases has been steadily falling and the rate of deaths is also steadily falling.
Dominic Raab: (17:28)
Now just to be clear about what all of this means in practice, the virus is not beaten yet. It remains deadly and infectious and we’re working very hard right across government and with local government to bring it down in areas of concern like in care homes. And I’m confident we can do it and we will do it. But because we held firm three weeks ago, we are now in a position to start to think about the next phase in this pandemic. So this weekend the Prime Minister will set up the next steps, which we can responsibly take over the following weeks, guided by the scientific advice and mindful, as we’ve said right from the word go of taking the right decisions at the right time.
Dominic Raab: (18:13)
Now we can start setting out how we will live and work whilst maintaining the necessary social distancing rules. We can also be clear about those measures which are still necessary to prevent a second peak. The Prime Minister has been directing ministers and our teams of officials right across government to carefully develop a roadmap for the next phase. It contains appropriate measures to be taken at appropriate milestones, subject to very clear conditions. And there will be detailed guidance to help inform, advise and reassure the public, businesses and other organizations. To get this right, we’ve set milestones. Some changes can confidently be introduced more quickly than others and some of those other ones will take longer to introduce.
Dominic Raab: (19:04)
And it’s important to say this, at each point along the way, when we take these decisions, they’ll be based on the five tests and the scientific advice that we receive. And as I set out in the fifth of our five tests, when I spoke here at this lectern on the 16th of April, the point at which we make even the smallest of changes to the current guidance will be a point of maximum risk. If people abandon the social distancing, if we forget the sacrifices that were made to get us through the peak, to get us to this point, the virus will grow again at an exponential rate. That would lead to a second peak, which would threatened the NHS, it would trigger another lockdown, which would prolong the economic pain. And we’re determined to keep it temporary, to keep it as short as possible.
Dominic Raab: (19:51)
So we’ve kept the current measures in place for this long precisely so that we can bounce back with vigor and energy as soon as possible, as soon as it is responsible to start looking at the second phase. And because of that, our next steps will be surefooted and sustainable. Any changes that we make will be carefully monitored. If people don’t follow the rules or if we see that the R level goes back up, we will tighten the restrictions again. We will always retain the option to do so. That way we can safeguard public health and we can also safeguard the economy in a sustainable way.
Dominic Raab: (20:27)
So having prepared carefully, based on the updated advice from SAGE, this weekend the Prime Minister will set out the roadmap for the next phase along with the conditions for reaching each milestone. That way we can provide the country with a better understanding of what lies ahead. We can offer reassurance that we will adjust the restrictions to the minimum necessary to prevent a second spike in the virus and we can give people the confidence that we’re doing it in a way that will protect life and preserve our way of life. And on that note, I’ll hand over to Jenny to present the data on the latest slides.
Dr. Jenny Harries: (21:01)
Thank you First Secretary. First slide please. Thank you. So this is just a very quick reminder of what we’re all working to achieve and the five tests that the First Secretary’s just mentioned for adjusting the lockdown. And the slides that I’ll go through now show how we’re progressing towards that. And the first thing here really is to reinforce the action that people have taken. Sorry, could you revert to the slide? Thank you.
Dr. Jenny Harries: (21:36)
Just to show how much people have been following those social distancing rules and really helping to bring the rate of infection down, but also to be protecting each other. So the number of people avoiding contact with vulnerable people of adults, 92% have avoided contact with vulnerable people in the last seven days. So really looking out for each other and in general, 82% have not left their home or only left their home for all the reasons that we know that you should. And that has reflected now in a much reduced R rate and the opportunities that we have going forward carefully to be adjusting the measures.
Dr. Jenny Harries: (22:22)
I think the other interesting thing, looking forward is 44% of adults in employment have now said they’ve been working from home at sometime in the last week, significantly changed from the 12% for the same time last year. And that helps the social distancing, but I think it also perhaps helps people recognize other opportunities for how they can work in the future. Next slide please. So here we see the daily tests, which have increased. So the tests yesterday or rather up to 9:00 this morning carried out were 86,500. There has been a little bit of a technical hitch in the lab over the weekend, but that’s now starting to rise again and we will see in the following slides how that translates through to a detection of disease. Next slide please.
Dr. Jenny Harries: (23:20)
And here we have on this slide, so the blue pillar there is the NHS swab testing. The rates of case detection are coming down. These are primarily within healthcare settings in hospitals, but the orange pillars on the top there represent the increased capacity and numbers of tests that are being carried out. And obviously we hope overall that our case numbers will come down, but in this intervening period while testing is increasing, then we expect those orange pillars to grow. So we will have increased case detection, but we want to watch the blue pillars coming down as they are now. Next slide please.
Dr. Jenny Harries: (24:05)
And this slide, which we’ve seen before, but I think with some trepidation at the top of those peaks, we can now see that just about all regions have come right back down to relatively low levels compared with the peak. Of course, I say relatively, that’s for the number of people in hospitals, that still represents a huge workload for NHS frontline staff. But it does show a decrease of 16% over the last week. Next slide please.
Dr. Jenny Harries: (24:42)
And again, reflected from that last slide is the use of critical care beds. At one time there was obviously concern that with the rising epidemic we would have sufficient capacity. There was a plan to manage that and now less than a third of critical care beds are occupied by COVID-19 patients. And that’s been decreasing right across the UK over the last two weeks. Next slide.
Dr. Jenny Harries: (25:10)
And here we have the seven day rolling average. Now obviously sitting behind this are recorded deaths, none of which we would wish to be there. But on the positive side of that is the fact that we can see the rise in the epidemic peak and the subsequent later deaths. There were 539 deaths in all settings following in the last period, but the seven day rolling average now is a midweek one, which is the most robust figure. We can see the variation over the weekend periods in that slide and this is the lowest I think that has been… We’ve seen since the end of March. Again, really importantly that all the social distancing measures, all the things that we’ve been doing, we need to keep doing to maintain that gradual decline in the line. Next slide please.
Dr. Jenny Harries: (26:04)
And then finally, just a quick comparison. It’s important that we compare data internationally and this is global desk comparison, but as we’ve mentioned frequently, there are variations in how different countries measure those deaths and these are numbers rather than rates. Thank you.
Dominic Raab: (26:23)
Jenny, thank you very much. I think we’ve got a string of questions and first of all, Thomas from London.
Is it safe to lift any lockdown measures, considering that our track and trace system is not yet operational and that our comparatively slow decline in daily deaths means that we have little margin for error?
Dominic Raab: (26:40)
How safe is it to lift any lockdown measures? Well Thomas, thank you very much for that question. I think you’ve nailed it. We’ve got the latest data from SAGE. We have come through the peak but it is a very delicate, and as I said before, a very dangerous moment. So we do need to proceed with caution. The Prime Minister is going to set out a roadmap and that will not just include the kinds of things that we’re looking at doing, but the criteria to make sure that we make surefooted steps. And we can monitor very carefully any changes incrementally we make to make sure that we don’t see the virus get back its grip on this country and see the R rate as it’s been explained here this afternoon go back up.
Dominic Raab: (27:21)
So yes, there is an opportunity to move to the second phase and start looking towards that, but it has to be done very carefully, subject to strict conditions, with strict monitoring to make sure that we do it in a controlled and sustainable way. Thank you for your question.
Dominic Raab: (27:38)
I think we’ve got one from Brandon from Warrington now. Brandon asks, how does the government intend to control ongoing outbreaks in prisons, particularly in terms of balancing the rights of prisoners against the health and safety of prison staff and their families, which is being put at significant risk? I have to say, I think the prison system and all of those prison officers have done an incredible job. Of course, there’s concern around-
Dominic Raab: (28:03)
Of course, there’s concern around COVID-19 in prisons, both for staff but also for offenders. We’ve got a plan in place, which has meant that that hasn’t become a major issue, but we take nothing for granted. We’re not complacent about it for a moment. I spoke to the justice equity this week. We’re monitoring it very carefully, but actually we’re confident that we have the situation under control. I think we’re going to move over to the media now. Laura Kuenssberg from the BBC. You were mute, Laura. I don’t know if that’s at your end or.
Laura Kuenssberg: (28:48)
That should be okay now. Can you hear me?
Dominic Raab: (28:50)
Well done. Don’t worry. That’s not your quota of questions gone.
Laura Kuenssberg: (28:55)
Thanks very much. Can you just confirm on point of fact, are you renewing the restrictions today as you have to do under the legislation? And Nicola Sturgeon has said it’s potentially catastrophic to move away from the stay at home message. Given that the disease is still prevalent in many parts of the country, are you really sure that it is safe to lift any of the restrictions, however gradual rolling down the lockdown, rolling back the lockdown might be?
Laura Kuenssberg: (29:24)
And if I could ask Dr. Harris, you said that the R is somewhere between .5 and . 9, can you tell people exactly what the R level is in different parts of the country given that it’s such a key factor in how the decisions will be made?
Dominic Raab: (29:39)
Thanks, Laura. Well first of all, I think whether you’re in London [inaudible 00:29:43] or Belfast as we enter another long bank holiday weekend, I think the message is very clear, follow the guidance. To answer your question, there is no change today in the guidance or in the rules, but as I’ve also explained, the prime minister will set out a roadmap on Sunday. And of course we are locked into the closest cooperation collaboration with the devolved administrations through Cobra, but also the prime minister spoke to the first ministers today.
Dominic Raab: (30:11)
He reiterated our commitment to continuing a UK-wide approach to tackling the pandemic even if different parts may move at slightly different speeds. But I think the key thing is that those decisions are made based on the science and the circumstances for each nation. Ian, do you want to comment on the other point that was raised?
The question that was asked is what is the R around the UK and clearly there is some variation and we are absolutely working with some fantastic estimates that are done by our modeling community. And I think that the consensus is that it is below one everywhere, lowest probably in London, but certainly some variation across the different regions.
Dominic Raab: (30:59)
Laura, would you like a followup question?
Laura Kuenssberg: (31:02)
Yeah. Can I just end it on the on that point? Is it possible to give us those exact numbers? But also just to you, Foreign Secretary, you stood there at that same lector and time after time and said that it would be wrong to talk about lifting any kind of restrictions because you might give people the wrong impression, but isn’t that exactly what the government risks doing now ahead of what looks like being a very sunny bank holiday weekend when many people are just desperate to get out?
Dominic Raab: (31:25)
First of all, I’ve said very clearly, so I’m very happy to say it again, that there’s no change in the rules today. What the prime minister will do is set out on Sunday a roadmap that can look to the future and explain what steps will be taken at what moment in time and critically the evidence that will back it up. We’ve always said consistently from the outset, we’ve got to take the right decisions at the right moment in time, guided by the evidence that is consistently what we’ve said from the outset and that approach is continuing.
Dominic Raab: (31:54)
Is there anything else you can say on the R?
No, I think, I mean I’m quite happy to produce them later, but we don’t have them right in front of me now.
Dominic Raab: (32:02)
Laura, thanks very much. Libby Wiener from the ITV.
Libby Wiener: (32:08)
Yes. Hello, Foreign Secretary. Thanks very much. This afternoon, one of your advisors, Professor John Edmonds told MPs that transmission in the community was no longer a problem. He suggested that the epidemic was now centered on hospitals and care homes. Do you accept that the government blundered in not focusing on these particularly vulnerable areas earlier and that’s why the lockdown is having to go on for so long for the rest of us?
Dominic Raab: (32:38)
Well first of all, it’s good news that the R level has come down overall. That’s because of the measures we put in place because when I stood here before the Easter bank holiday we said, we’ve got to stick to our guns here. And frankly because of the efforts of the public in following that guidance and indeed the brilliant essential workers in the NHS care homes and otherwise. We have definitely got a challenge in care homes. The CQC data that came out, I think, yesterday showed that overall in care homes, the number of deaths was down by over 300 on the last week, so that’s positive, but there is still a very significant issue in care homes.
Dominic Raab: (33:18)
Jenny and I were in a Cross Whitehall meeting yesterday. We’re looking at exactly how we ramp up every bit of what we need to do around the social distancing in care homes, the ebb and flow of people into care homes, the PPE, the testing to make sure we bear down on this problem. And you’re right as well, there’s also an issue in hospitals. So it’s good news that overall that we’ve got control across the country, but of course as we’ve always said, we got to make sure that we see consistent falls in the death rate and the infection rate across all settings and that’s how we will continue with our approach.
Could I also just say that Professor Edmonds would also have said, and I would certainly say, that in early March as we started to move towards the policies that the public had been so wonderful in taking place. We were doubling the size of the epidemic every three days. And I think if you look at the graph that Dr. Harris showed earlier, you see a very steep upward curve. The fact that it is coming down now is because I believe of the success that ONS has been measuring as many other people of the lockdown measures.
Dominic Raab: (34:24)
Libby, would you like to follow up on any of that?
Libby Wiener: (34:26)
Yes. Can I ask on another topic? Essentially there is a huge amount of data now suggesting that black adults in this country are particularly vulnerable, perhaps the death rate is something like four times that for the equivalent people of white ethnicity. The government said it’s looking into it. Are you actually going to do something about it to protect, for example, frontline workers from these ethnic groups?
Dominic Raab: (34:58)
Well look, first of all, we’re very concerned about it. It’s something we take very seriously. We are learning more about this virus all the time because it’s new and we’ve asked Public Health England to look very carefully at all of the implications and how it is affecting different communities, but particularly the BME community. And once we’ve got the advice back from them, we’ll know what interventions can sensibly be made. And that’s the way, again, as we’ve said throughout, we need the scientific evidence to back up any policy decisions that we would want to make in that front.
Dominic Raab: (35:34)
Thank you. Libby. Beth Rigby from Sky News.
Beth Rigby: (35:37)
Thank you. First Secretary of State, the prime minister said in the commons yesterday that there will be changes to the lockdown from Monday, and millions of people would have read that that will include more outdoor exercise and sunbathing. And yet today, you’re saying that they must adhere to the lockdown ahead of a statement on Sunday as we go into this sunny bank holiday weekend. Can you see how the public will find this really confusing? Do we sunbathe on Monday but not on Sunday? And just to follow up on Libby’s question, should BME people now be shielding as they are potentially more vulnerable and at greater risk of catching and dying from coronavirus?
Dominic Raab: (36:23)
Well in relation to the BME question, we’ll take decisions as policymakers when we’ve got clear advice from PHE on the causes and the implications and what we could responsibly do. I think that’s the responsible thing for ministers to do. In relation to any next changes or any second phase that we’re going to be guided by the evidence. We’ve had updated evidence from Sage. There’s further evidence that is coming through and we obviously have to take those decisions at the right moment in time based on that evidence. And whatever’s being reported in the newspapers is not a reliable guide to either the evidence that we’re getting or the policy decisions that we’ll be taking.
Dominic Raab: (37:05)
And so that’s why it’s very important that prime minister on Sunday will set out a roadmap. I think it’s safe to say that any changes in the short term will be modest, small, incremental, and very carefully monitored. And as of now, there is no changes. But the key thing is that we want to give in a responsible and a sure footed way a sense of the roadmap ahead coupled with the milestones and the conditions so that people have the reassurance and the confidence, yes, that we’ll protect life and preserve our way of life, but that we’re doing it in a responsible way.
Dominic Raab: (37:38)
And of course if we find, and this is very important at this stage in the virus, not just for the UK, but for others at the similar stage having come through the peak. If we find in the future that the R level goes back up or that we find that people aren’t following the rules, we must have the ability then to put back measures in place and that is the way we can responsibly go through this stage and transition into a second phase. But as we’ve always said, Beth, we’re going to take the right decisions at the right time. And so for the moment it is really important, particularly as people look towards a warm bank holiday weekend, that we continue to follow the guidance in place at this time.
Dominic Raab: (38:17)
Beth, did you want to come back with?
Beth Rigby: (38:19)
Yeah. Just given that we’re going into the bank holiday and you are formally rolling over the lockdown, isn’t it unhelpful if the prime minister says on Wednesday that he wants to roll, that there might be changes on Monday and then he doesn’t turn up today to tell the British public what those changes might be ahead of the bank holiday?
Dominic Raab: (38:41)
Well, sorry, Beth, that’s simply just not the case. And I’ve set out what we’re doing with explaining that the prime minister on Sunday when we’ve compiled all the evidence and we can do so in a responsible surefooted fashion will set out the roadmap ahead. Any measures that will be taken next week will be relatively modest, incremental steps, carefully monitored, subject to all of the qualifications that we’ve already set. But we will set out a roadmap with milestones, maximum conditionality on that so that we can make sure we take surefooted steps.
Dominic Raab: (39:10)
So I know you’re desperate to know what he’s going to say on Sunday, but I’m not going to jump the gun. We’ve always said we’ll take the right decisions at the right moment. Thank you very much, Beth. Chris Smyth from The Times.
Chris Smyth: (39:23)
Thank you. Draw out a couple of things. Firstly, temperature testing is not something we’ve done before because on this case it’s not a panacea. But in places like South Korea, it’s a regular part of being allowed into airports, workplaces, restaurants, and it’s been reported that we’re looking at that here. So is that the next lesson we’re going to learn from Asia. And then following up Libby’s question. I mean Professor Edmonds also said this afternoon there are about 20,000 new infections of coronavirus every day at the moment and can I ask Sir Ian, he’s obviously studying this if he agrees and if not what his estimate is?
Chris Smyth: (39:58)
First Secretary, you put quite a wide estimate on R and Professor Edmonds also said it was very much a higher end of that, so just below one and indeed higher than it was two weeks ago, largely because of what was happening in hospitals and care homes. So is that a concern and how much is that delaying how much we can loosen restrictions?
Dominic Raab: (40:17)
Chris, you managed to squeeze in three questions there, very craftly done. So in relation to the R, all I’ve done is articulate the R level and the range that was explained to us. In relation to any potential restrictions at the border coming into this country, those will be announced in due course and sensible way. I’m not sure. I think the evidence so far has always been that temperature tests are not particularly effective way of proceeding. But I think the critical thing, and we’ve taken advice on board and measures and I’ve asked consistently this question to CMOs, deputy CMOs, chief scientific advisors and all the other scientists.
Dominic Raab: (40:56)
And I think the evidence suggests that you would, once you’ve got the, there’s not much point in taking those measures until the R level is down below a certain point. But as you start to get control of it, what you don’t want is the virus receding in the UK, the source of that being from abroad and that is the point at which you would want to consider restrictions or monitoring at the border. I don’t know whether … Please do.
Dr. Jenny Harries: (41:20)
So just add a comment to that because I think also you were referring to potential use in other environments, so restaurants and things like that, which I think is a routine part of South Korean working. I mean, I think there is a strong reassurance mechanism for the public. But as I’ve said previously, if you have a disease and it has an incubation period of say up to 14 days, the likelihood of finding somebody at the point where they have a temperature and you have a reliable bit of kit. So most of thermal scanners will be distracted, if you like, from environmental color, density and temperatures as well.
Dr. Jenny Harries: (41:56)
So you need a reliable bit of kit, but even then your chance of picking somebody up is very small. But-
Dr. Jenny Harries: (42:02)
… of picking somebody up is very small, but it can have a reassurance mechanism, I think, and the other really important thing in relation to COVID-19 is a sizable proportion, up to about a third of people do not have a temperature at presentation. They may have it variably through the illness or they don’t have it. They come with …
Dr. Jenny Harries: (42:19)
We’re learning more as we go through about the symptoms and signs that people have, so I don’t think we could expect that. We want to catch people, if you like, in the early phase of the disease where they’re most likely to transmit, and not all of them will have a temperature.
Dominic Raab: (42:34)
[Sir Ian 00:00:34].
Sir Ian: (42:35)
You asked a question about whether I agreed with Professor Edmonds. I think we’re incredibly lucky in this country to have mathematicians of the quality of Professor Edmonds and the others in the various teams around the UK who are making those estimates. They are based on new data every time, they make two estimates a week and I think I would personally support them.
Sir Ian: (43:05)
Over the next few weeks, they will be getting extra data through a very large study that the ONS is doing together with the University of Oxford, the University of Manchester Wellcome Trust, which will provide, if you like, direct community evidence both on the number infected at any particular time, number of people infected at a particular time and also the number of people who have had, at some stage, the virus and therefore have an antibody to it.
Sir Ian: (43:35)
And those data, as they become available on a weekly basis over the next while, will inform those numbers even more. But to answer your question straight, I’m very happy with those numbers.
Dominic Raab: (43:47)
Chris, did you have a follow up? Maybe just limit yourself to the one.
Yeah, so on R then, I mean the fact that it is higher than it was two weeks ago, is that delaying what we can do and does it mean we have to wait for the outbreak in care homes to be under control?
Dominic Raab: (44:04)
Well, I probably should defer. I’m not sure, the range [crosstalk 00:44:07] Sorry. Go ahead.
Sir Ian: (44:07)
Sorry. No, no.
Dominic Raab: (44:08)
You fire away.
Sir Ian: (44:11)
The R … [inaudible 00:44:11] is right that R has probably gone up just a little bit from his last estimates and that is driven by the epidemic in care homes, he would say and I would not demur from that. That gives us a real challenge to reduce the epidemic in care homes and it’s one that I think over the next few weeks, from what I see happening, I think will happen.
Sir Ian: (44:35)
It is important to recognize that the R number itself is only relevant if you look also at the context of the prevalence, and I think we need to bring the two together properly to understand where we are. Let me just give you an example, and Secretary, if you wouldn’t mind me being technical for a minute.
Dominic Raab: (44:56)
Sir Ian: (44:56)
If you imagine a situation where we have the prevalence at .00001 or even .000001, so in other words, tiny, tiny numbers and that is the same every week, then the R would be 1 because it’s flatlining. That is so important that we always think about R in the context of the prevalence.
Sir Ian: (45:22)
That’s why I think at the moment we need certainly to get on top of the epidemic in the care homes and in hospitals. I know Dr. Harries would be able to comment. There’s an awful lot of work going on in those arenas, but I do think also that in the community we have things relatively low at the moment.
Dominic Raab: (45:41)
So, overall the R level is down, but there’s obviously clearly a challenge that remains in care homes. Although again, I just point to the CQC data, which shows that the number of deaths is down over 300 on this time last week.
Dominic Raab: (45:55)
But the reality is our top focus is on the hospital infections and on the care home settings. We’ve got a very robust and rigorous plan to really drive down the infection rate in those two settings over the next month and we’re confident we can deliver on that. Jenny, I don’t know if there’s anything you’d add on?
Dr. Jenny Harries: (46:14)
Well, just to reinforce what you’re saying, I think. There are a number of things that you can do to try and support care homes and support residents in them. I think we need to focus equally not just on the residents but on the staff as well, because these are quite closed communities, if you like.
Dr. Jenny Harries: (46:32)
We’ve been talking about the R in the community where everybody has done so well to bring that number down, but of course, workers who are working in care and health settings also are part of their local communities, so we need to make sure that we address infection prevention and control measures and really make them robust.
Dr. Jenny Harries: (46:52)
We test now. We have always been testing for outbreaks, but I think we’re getting new information coming through about asymptomatic infection and how that particularly presents in the elderly, excuse me, and of course those are the people who are probably most at risk.
Dr. Jenny Harries: (47:09)
So, using that new evidence, increased testing and increased focus and also new support coming in from NHS England in terms of giving clinical support to our care homes, I think that focus will be … Well, we’ve seen some positive signs already and I’m sure that will continue.
Dominic Raab: (47:28)
The single biggest challenge we’ve got in care homes is the ebb and flow of people in and out of them, particularly when they’re not showing signs of having the virus. At least that’s something we can control and really focus on with a laser-like precision and that’s what we’ll do. Chris, thanks very much. Macer Hall from the Express?
Macer Hall: (47:46)
Thank you, Foreign Secretary. To Dr. Harries, what’s the latest medical thinking about the impact of warm weather on the virus? Is there any danger that any lockdown restrictions that are eased over the summer months may have to be reimposed over in the autumn because of seasonal variations?
Macer Hall: (48:05)
And Foreign Secretary, a question about the government’s contact tracing app. People who download this app face being asked to go into isolation possibly multiple times if they come into contact with people who’ve reported symptoms. Will they be entitled to sick pay or will their employers be entitled to any compensation if they’re forced to go into isolation again and again?
Dominic Raab: (48:30)
Well, just on that, I think you’re jumping the gun a little bit on the guidance, but the key thing is I think it will be a liberating thing for people because, and indeed for the country as a whole because it will allow people who might have the symptoms to be clear that they don’t have coronavirus and therefore not be subject to all of those restrictions, and that’s the most important thing. It will actually allow people to get out of the isolation measures earlier than otherwise would be the case. Jenny, on …
Dr. Jenny Harries: (48:57)
Yes. Specifically about the issue about weather, I think obviously, it’s a new virus and we are still learning about it and so I would like to leave the evidence base open a little bit. But when we first learned about it, of course, if we look at something like seasonal flu, there was a possibility that it might behave in the same way and in that way we might imagine that in the warmer weather now we would see a decline.
Dr. Jenny Harries: (49:18)
But if you look around the world, we’re seeing epidemics in warm and cooler climate. So, I think probably not a lot of evidence there, but your point about lockdown and the winter is a really important one.
Dr. Jenny Harries: (49:31)
I don’t think it particularly relates to lockdown, but it does relate very much to active work now, first in pushing, as we push and we’re more successful in pushing that peak forward, which we’ve seen. We definitely don’t want a second peak and we don’t want it in the winter because people will be suffering from other winter infections, so they will be increasingly debilitated.
Dr. Jenny Harries: (49:54)
So, all the work that’s ongoing now, we must do safely as the First Secretary said, but equally it’s probably a good place for me as a public health doctor to advertise all go and get your flu jabs this year. Really, really important that people maintain their health and take every preventative measure that they can.
Dominic Raab: (50:10)
Thanks, Jenny. Macer, did you have any followups there?
Macer Hall: (50:11)
No, that’s fine, thank you.
Dominic Raab: (50:11)
Brilliant. Good to speak to you. Gemma Crew from PA. Final question.
Gemma Crew: (50:18)
Thank you and good afternoon. We’ve heard about 20,000 people a day are still being affected. On Saturday, my colleague asked whether you know of where people are contracting the virus and I believe you said you had the data but not to hand.
Gemma Crew: (50:32)
Could we ask again, are people picking it up in supermarkets, public transport or is it predominantly care homes and hospitals? As surely this is quite a vital part of the lockdown easing decision making process.
Dominic Raab: (50:46)
Well, let’s … Jenny talked about the wider statistical picture, but as has already been explained, the evidence that’s been provided to us is that overall we’ve got the rate of infection down across the country and particularly in the community. The two areas where there are specific concerns are care homes and hospital infections and we have a very clear concerted plan that covers everything from cohorting and the social distancing through to testing and PPE. So, we’re not complacent for a moment in those two settings, but we do have a plan that we’re delivering to bring it right down. Jenny, is there anything-
Dr. Jenny Harries: (51:22)
I should add to that … Yes, I mean, to reinforce that, I think that’s where our focus of attention is going forward and where we think cases are potentially going to be at the higher end whilst those in the community are dropping off.
Dr. Jenny Harries: (51:33)
It’s very difficult to say precisely where an individual caught their disease because we’re exposed to, we have multiple exposures all the time and at a time of pandemic when an infection is fairly widespread, it’s difficult to pinpoint that.
Dr. Jenny Harries: (51:49)
We can look in some ways, so for example, looking at different transmissions in the chain of transmission and seeing where the most risks are. Actually, when we do that, most of the transmissions are at home, so the home environment is a very strong environment for finding linked cases.
Dr. Jenny Harries: (52:07)
But equally there’s some really good genomics work ongoing at the moment, which will give us really good data, I think going forward to understand where the chains of transmission are and actually where they came into the country from.
Sir Ian: (52:20)
I would just add one thing if I may. All the data that we are looking at shows the success of social distancing and if I make it a personal view, then I do believe that social distancing and maintaining it over the next few weeks is going to be central to continuing to reducing the epidemic.
Dominic Raab: (52:42)
Gemma, did you want a supplementary last question?
Gemma Crew: (52:46)
Yeah, thank you. Can I just ask, you said moments ago about the problem being the ebb and flow of people into care homes. Doesn’t that underline the need to probably get testing back up to 100,000 a day? And can I ask if you’re considering testing people, relatives that might be wanting to visit loved ones before they go into care homes?
Dominic Raab: (53:07)
I think the challenge, and it’s actually similar in hospital settings as in care homes, is people who are not showing symptoms but who have coronavirus passing it on. The speed with which we can detect that, testing is part of that, but also it’s the movement of people in and out of those settings, which is fueling that transmission.
Dominic Raab: (53:28)
They’re both parts of that problem. There’s not a silver bullet here. It’s about putting all the different bits of the jigsaw together and having a strategic, holistic approach.
Dominic Raab: (53:36)
We’re confident now we’ve got enough information, we’ve got the data and we’ve got the plan in place now to really drive down the infection rates in hospitals but also in care homes. Gemma, thank you very much. And that brings an end to this press conference. Thank you all very much.