May 8, 2020
United Kingdom Coronavirus Briefing Transcript May 8
British officials gave a coronavirus press briefing on May 8. Secretary of State for Environment George Eustice led today’s briefing.
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George Eustice: (08:11)
Good afternoon and welcome to today’s Downing Street press conference. I’m pleased to be joined today by Steve Powis, the Medical Director of NHS England. And before we give an update on the latest figures on the coronavirus and also our work to help support the vulnerable get access to food. Today is of course the 75th anniversary of VE Day. And although many of the lockdown measures that are in place and the social distancing measures that are in place, mean that many of the planned events have been unable to take place as originally envisaged. Today is an important day to pause and remember, and 75 years ago, people poured into the streets of our scarred cities to celebrate the end of that most difficult conflict. Our soldiers fought around the world. There were countless acts of bravery. 450,000 British people sadly lost their lives. And it was a moment when our whole country pulled together.
George Eustice: (09:15)
As DEFRA secretary, I would like to take this opportunity to recall the efforts of those who also contributed in a nonmilitary way. In particular, our farmers, who stepped up to ensure that the nation was fed. And the many women who responded to the call to join the Women’s Land Army. In a moment, I am going to give you an update on our work to support the vulnerable get access to food. But, firstly let me give you an update on the latest data from the Cobra coronavirus data file.
George Eustice: (09:48)
I can report that through the government’s ongoing monitoring and testing program. As of today, 1,631,561 tests for coronavirus have now been carried out in the UK. Including 97,029 tests carried out yesterday. 211,364 people have tested positive. And that’s an increase of 4,649 cases since yesterday. 11,788 people are currently in hospital with the coronavirus, down from 12,688 the previous day. And sadly, of those tested positive for coronavirus across all settings, 31,241 have now died. That’s an increase of 626 fatalities since yesterday. This new figure includes deaths in all settings, not just in hospitals. And we express our deepest condolences to the families and friends of these victims.
George Eustice: (10:59)
Turning now to our work to help the vulnerable get access to food. Firstly, for the so-called shielded cohort, that’s those who are clinically vulnerable. Over a million food parcels have now been delivered to these households. And in addition, all of those on the shielded cohort have been added to a list giving them priority access to supermarket delivery slots. So far, around 400,000 people have been offered priority delivery slots by supermarkets and around one million orders have been placed. Ensuring that people can shop normally and purchase the goods that they want to buy. There is of course a wider vulnerable group, those perhaps who have disabilities, or who are elderly and perhaps don’t have neighbors or relatives close by to help them, or indeed those with other conditions that don’t put them in the clinically shielded group. But, nevertheless make them vulnerable. And we’ve been working with local authorities and some of the leading charities, such as Age UK, to put together a package of support to help these people get access to food.
George Eustice: (12:14)
And many local authorities and charities have also been accessing the Good Samaritan app as part of the NHS responder volunteer program. And so far, 79,000 shopping runs have been carried out by volunteers engaged in that program. In addition, we are continuing to work with supermarkets to make available additional priority slots for those in this group. But, we also recognize that the economic impacts of coronavirus means that vulnerability is not just about physical access to food. For some, there is also financial vulnerability. So today we are announcing a new 16 million pound fund to support frontline food charities.
George Eustice: (13:03)
The fund will be used by fair share and wrap to continue and support and increase the food redistribution work that they already do, and will significantly expand their sourcing capacity. They will be delivering food to around 5,000 frontline charities, and these include refuges, homeless shelters and rehabilitation centers. Finally, I’m concious that there is a great deal of speculation about what the prime minister might say on Sunday when he outlines a roadmap for the future and how we will evolve the current restrictions. The prime minister will outline any changes to the guidance on Sunday, but in the meantime, in spite of the sunny bank holiday, it is vitally important that we continue to abide by the current restrictions, stay at home to protect the NHS and save lives. Thank you.
Stephen Powis: (14:03)
Thank you secretary of state. I’d like to start by paying tribute on VE day to every member of the armed forces and in particular the many doctors, nurses, and other clinicians who serve in our military. The NHS was founded as part of the reconstruction of our country after the second world war, and since it has grown into the most trusted organization in the country. Along with our armed forces and other public service organizations, the NHS is a rock for people in times of uncertainty. And as we’ve all found our way through this global pandemic, I’m proud of the partnership that the NHS and our armed forces have forged to give people the help that they need. In constructing the Nightingales, our extra capacity to back up existing intensive care services, the army and the NHS has worked hand in hand and achieved something quite extraordinary.
Stephen Powis: (14:57)
I know my colleagues working on the frontline of the NHS have been extremely grateful for all the help that the military have offered government in the distribution of protective equipment. So today as we celebrate the service and dedication of our armed forces personnel, I want to remind those serving in the military that the NHS repays your service with tailored care. Whether that’s physical rehabilitation or specialist mental health care in particular to help veterans to make the transition into civilian life. While a growing number of veterans have been referred for help year on year, latest data indicates a drop in the number of people reaching out to specialist services in April. So for any military families watching today, remember that if you need medical help, as is the same for anybody who needs help, particularly emergency help, then please come to us in the NHS. I’d now like to move to the daily presentation of data slides.
Stephen Powis: (15:54)
The first slide is a reminder that I won’t go in detail today because you have seen it many times before of the five tests that the government has set for adjusting the lockdown. In the next slide, we have a slide as usual looking at how the public have been complying with the social distancing instructions that we’ve all been given. This is data from Google, and it shows a seven day rolling average of the mobility of the public in various places. And you will see when it comes to transport and retail and recreation and the workplace, there has been a dramatic reduction since the social distancing measures were introduced. A little bit of an uptick in workplaces, but I would remind you that people are clearly working in some workplaces, although many, many are working from home. One other thing to pointed out in parks, you will see that there’s a bit of variation in use of parks which I’m sure is consistent with sunny weather and people going out a little bit more.
Stephen Powis: (17:05)
In the next slide, we look at the daily tests. You’ve heard the data for yesterday and you will see that there has been an increase in the number of tests at the end of April and into May. In the next slide you will see how that testing capacity is reflected in new cases. You will see a steady number of new cases being reported and these, are remember, are those individuals who test positive in the testing program. But as the capacity has increased, that number has not increased dramatically reflecting that the social distancing measures are being complied with, are working, and overall the spread of this virus is reducing in the community.
Stephen Powis: (17:52)
In the next slide we show how that translates into those that unfortunately have to receive hospital care, and again remember that for the majority of people over 80% this is a mild illness, flu like illness that you can stay at home with, but for some it does require hospital admission. And you will see that hospital admissions peaked and plateaued around the middle of April, and since they had been falling. Most obviously in London where the number of cases was highest, but also maybe a little bit more slowly but certainly in other parts of the UK, and there has now been quite a decrease in the number of people in hospital with COVID-19.
Stephen Powis: (18:39)
Then for the sickest patients, in the next slide you can see the usage of critical care beds for patients who have COVID-19. Again a minority, but these are the sickest patients who require the most intensive care. This shows a proportion of beds and you can see that that proportion has again been falling since the middle of April and is now down at below a third, and the absolute numbers of patients in critical care beds with COVID-19 is similarly falling.
Stephen Powis: (19:09)
Then finally we show data on deaths and sadly you will have just heard of another 626 deaths in all settings today. But you can also see from this slide that when looking at the seven day rolling average, which means that we can correct for changes from day to day, there, again, is a decline in overall deaths that, again, has been occurring from the middle to end of April. And then last is the international comparison. This shows the UK all settings now with a lag on it … I’m sorry, not with a leg on it but UK all settings set from particular start point for all countries, and again the usual caveats that we gave. The comparisons between different countries is difficult and it will only be excess mortality, all cause mortality over a period of time of the pandemic that will be probably the best way to make this sort of comparison. Thank you.
George Eustice: (20:13)
Thank you Stephen. And we’ll now turn to questions, starting with our first member of the public with a question and that’s Alex from [inaudible 00:07:22].
What is happening with Brexit and the COVID-19 lockdown? Has it been put on hold or are you still going ahead with it?
George Eustice: (20:31)
Thank you very much Alex. We’re still going ahead with it. Brexit in fact is something that has already happened. We left the European union at the end of January. We have a transition period that ends at the end of this year, and we will still be ending that transition period on time as planned, and we are still doing whatever planning is necessary to ensure that after that transition period we can trade normally, and function normally as a country. Turning now to Heidi from Rumford, and Heidi’s question is how will the contact app work properly when a lot of the older generation do not have smart things? They are the ones that need to know who has COVID-19 the most, though they won’t know and will still be in danger. Well, Heidi, I will start by trying to answer that, and Stephen might also come in with some additional points. The important thing about the new tracing app that we are working on is it’s quite critical as we start to evolve the restrictions we have and move from a complete lockdown of the country to one where we enable people to move around and perhaps to travel to work.
George Eustice: (21:46)
As we get to that point, having that accurate data locally of if there is an outbreak in an infection and somebody tests positive, being able to have anybody who’s been in close contact with them to self isolate is very important. The work that we’ve done suggests that if you’ve got around 60% of the population on this app, then it would become highly effective, but even at lower rates than that, it would be effective. We do recognize that some elderly people may not have a mobile phone and may not have an app, but also many will have family who’d be able to support them to get such an app. And of course some of those, particularly the shielded group may indeed continue to stay at home for longer periods of times and protect themselves. Stephen, is there anything to add?
Stephen Powis: (22:36)
Yes. A very, very good question. So yes, it is that some of older generation do not have smartphones, although it’s also true that many do. And I know from my experience in healthcare not to underestimate the benefits that technology such as smartphones can bring to the older generation and and many of the older generation do indeed use this technology. And of course the older generation are not the only people in society who may not have a smartphone. So it’s absolutely correct that the app will not be the only way in which we will be able to monitor and track down people or track down contacts of people who have coronavirus going forward. It will be an important part, but it will not be the only part.
George Eustice: (23:23)
Thank you Stephen, and the next question we’ve got is Ben Wright from the BBC. Go ahead.
Ben Wright: (23:29)
Thank you, secretary of state. We don’t want to preempt the prime minister, but today the Welsh government has announced some modest changes to their down rules before the prime minister speaks on Sunday. Can we expect those measures to be mirrored in England and what can you as the UK government do to ensure the public receive a very clear message?
George Eustice: (23:51)
Well, look Ben, our very clear message today is that even though it’s going to be a sunny bank holiday, it is absolutely essential that people abide by the current restrictions and stay at home and don’t succumb to the temptation to go out and about. And we will have to wait for what the prime minister has to say on Sunday. But I think what I can say is this. He’s going to set out effectively a roadmap of how we can evolve the current restrictions we have, this complete lockdown at the moment, to something where certain activities may become possible in the short term, in the near term and other things might take much longer. We have to be realistic that there isn’t going to be any dramatic overnight change. We will be very, very cautious as we loosen the restrictions we have. As the data that we’re outlining on a daily basis shows we are not out of the woods.
George Eustice: (24:46)
There are still major challenges with this virus. We will be living with this virus for some time to come and it’s important to avoid that second peak that could overwhelm our NHS, that we exit and evolve these restrictions very, very carefully. I would also say this. We work very closely with all of the devolved administrations. They attend the COVID meetings when some of these matters are discussed, and as far as possible while each devolved administration has obviously got the freedom to have slightly different approaches, as far as possible, we are all working together to try to have a broadly similar UK approach. Did you want to come back on?
Ben Wright: (25:27)
Yeah. Just yesterday’s briefing, we were promised more data on how the R rate varies across the country nationally and regionally. When are we going to see that data and is it the case that the R rate has to be universally low across all four nations before we can expect to see a significant lifting of the lockdown?
George Eustice: (25:46)
I’d like to ask Stephen whether he can pick up on that.
Stephen Powis: (25:50)
Yes. So far I can’t give you the data by region. I think what has been said of the R is somewhere between 0.5 and 0.9. It undoubtedly will vary from place to place and it will vary over time from place to place.
Stephen Powis: (26:03)
The important thing is that as a whole that it stays below one. The five tests that were in the original, the initial slide I showed, I went through them quickly, but you will know what they are and you’ve just heard that one of them is to ensure that we don’t risk a second peak and we don’t risk putting pressure on our health service that overwhelms it. To do that it is a requirement to make sure that R is below one and the number of new cases in the community is not rising. So, it will vary across geographies. It will vary from time to time, but the important thing is to keep it below one.
George Eustice: (26:43)
Okay. Thank you very much Ben, and we’ll now turn to Carl Dinnen from ITV.
Carl Dinnen: (26:49)
Thank you, Secretary of State. Are you disappointed given the news from the Welsh First Minister today, that the four nations don’t look like they will be taking exactly the same approach to the handling of this virus?
George Eustice: (27:06)
Well, look, the devolved administrations do obviously have competence over some of these issues, some of these measures. From the beginning some of them have done slightly different things to England, but generally speaking we’ve taken similar approaches and we’ve been in step, even though there have been some slight differences. I don’t think we need to get too worked up about timings of different announcements. Scotland made some comments, obviously last week. Wales has today. The prime minister will be setting out his approach and that roadmap and how we intend to evolve these restrictions on Sunday.
Carl Dinnen: (27:45)
Can I ask if the restrictions are going to evolve and that suggests that in some ways something might be eased. How are you going to monitor whether or not you’ve been able to do that without risking a resurgence of the virus, without significantly more testing than you’re currently able to do?
George Eustice: (28:07)
Well, I think the first thing I must stress is that any evolution of the current restrictions will be done with the utmost of caution. There isn’t going to be dramatic change in the short term. We will be cautiously making some changes where we think those can be considered. The prime minister will be setting out a timetable for other changes as well.
George Eustice: (28:33)
In terms of how we monitor things, we do now have quite a substantial surveillance program that’s being run by ONS, where we are doing sample data, testing people to get an understanding of the prevalence of this disease. Further work like that, particularly on a regional basis, will help us to understand trends in the disease. Obviously, we also have the daily data that we’ve publishing now regularly from our coronavirus file, which actually shows some of the key indicators in terms of new infections.
George Eustice: (29:10)
So we will be monitoring this very, very closely as any changes are made. I don’t know, Steven, if you wanted to add?
Stephen Powis: (29:16)
Yeah. In monitoring infectious diseases in the community, including in epidemics, it’s really important to have a range of different things that you measure as part of an overall surveillance system. In fact, the data that is presented every day in the slides that I’ve shown you earlier, that data is part of that surveillance system.
Stephen Powis: (29:36)
So admissions into hospital. Deaths, unfortunately is part of that surveillance system. Positive test cases is part of that system. Each winter during the flu season, in fact we run surveillance, public health runs surveillance mechanisms that look at presentation of symptoms, of flu like symptoms, to general practice through to the number of people testing positive for influenza. So there are well-established surveillance processes and I think the key going forward will be to ensure that we have a similar surveillance system for COVID. But it is likely to include, not only the data that you are familiar with, but other data as it becomes available. It won’t be just one thing. It will be a range of indicators.
George Eustice: (30:25)
Thank you. Moving on now to Liz Bates from Channel 4. Liz.
Liz Bates: (30:30)
Yes, thank you. Channel 4 News revealed last night that millions of out of date PP products were distributed to frontline workers. Public Health England say they were tested and that they were found to be safe, but that they won’t release the results of those tests. So can you tell us now, why those test results won’t be released?
George Eustice: (30:56)
Steven, can I?
Stephen Powis: (30:57)
My understanding, as the government releases the PPE equipment and delivers it to hospitals and other settings, is that any items that have gone past their original date of expiry are retested to ensure that they still keep, are still at the right standards and they would not be distributed unless they had been retested to meet those standards.
George Eustice: (31:32)
Okay. Does that explain it? So they would’ve been retested.
Liz Bates: (31:34)
I have another question if that’s okay?
George Eustice: (31:34)
Liz Bates: (31:34)
Just, we’ve been speaking to people in care homes today, still desperate for testing, particularly for their staff. They’ve been directed to a hotline. If you call, it says, “Sorry, there’s no tests available today, call back tomorrow.” Why can they still not get the tests that they need?
George Eustice: (31:54)
Well look, I think the reality is with the testing, we’ve now got around 90 different mobile test centers and another 50 or so drive-through, right around the country. It’s inevitable when you’re trying to use up all of that capacity, we’ve got over 100,000 test capacity now, it’s inevitable that there will in some regions perhaps not be sufficient numbers in some days and there will be daily fluctuations. It’s possibly the case that they can’t get an immediate test on that day, but they should be able to get one quickly, because we do not have the capacity.
George Eustice: (32:31)
Today we’ve got the figures announced that shows we’ve tested 97,000 people and that includes, since we’ve been doing the testing, tens of thousands of staff working in care homes and indeed residents as well.
George Eustice: (32:48)
Next we have Laura Hughes from The FT.
Laura Hughes: (32:52)
Hi. Just to follow up on that testing question. I know the numbers have just gone up over the last 24 hours, but it’s actually the sixth day that we’re still not testing at full capacity. Why is that and why are we seeing reports of people saying that it’s taking actually sometimes up to 10 days for them to get their results back, having had a test?
George Eustice: (33:15)
Well, I think it’s probably for the reasons that I outlined. And I may ask Steven to come in on this point in a moment, but if you have, as we do, 50 different sites that are offering these drive-through tests, you will get a regional variances. You will have some days where there are surplus tests and people haven’t come forward to take them in some areas, and you’ll have other areas where they don’t have quite enough capacity for that local demand in that particular local area.
George Eustice: (33:44)
You’re going to get those day to day fluctuations. I think the important thing is, we set this target to get a 100,000 tests, and we have that capacity. The prime minister’s announced in the last week that we’re going to ramp that up further to 200,000 test capacity per day. That’s going to be important as we start to develop some of our track and trace proposals.
George Eustice: (34:08)
Testing will be an important element of a part of that. The important thing is to have those ambitious targets that you’re working to, to just continually build the capacity. But you will of course get daily fluctuations in availability in any given local area.
George Eustice: (34:25)
Would you like to … Does that answer your question? Or are there any other points?
Laura Hughes: (34:28)
If I could ask you a separate question. Would you like to see more fast food outlets like McDonald’s start to reopen? Were you disappointed that a number of fast food retailers actually closed? Do you feel like they could have stayed open safely? And if you do want to encourage them to open up again, what are you doing to ensure they feel that they can do that safely?
George Eustice: (34:50)
Well, I have had a number of discussions with some of the food-to-go outlets. Companies such as McDonald’s and KFC and Costa Coffee and so on. It is the case that when we originally did the lockdown, we were quite explicit that it didn’t cover, take away food. While clearly restaurants and pubs had to close, we were quite keen to keep that capacity to be able to do take away food for people and that was clear in the guidance.
George Eustice: (35:19)
I think there were a number of reasons why these companies took a decision themselves or their own volition to close. Firstly, footfall in the town centers was obviously down, so where they had branches in town centers, they found that they couldn’t really make them viable. They had issues with anxiety among some of their staff. I think also a sense, that given the strength of the overarching message that people should stay at home, they felt there was maybe a sense that it wasn’t socially acceptable to stay open even though the government hadn’t explicitly mandated their closure.
George Eustice: (35:54)
A number of them have in the last two weeks started to consider reopening. Pret a Manger has opened some of its branches. McDonald’s are planning to open a small number of drive-thru venues on a pilot basis. Also, KFC have also, again, on a pilot basis, opened some of their branches. But predominantly for drive-through. I think our view is that probably a McDonald’s drive-through is made for the social distancing situation that we are in. In that people do not leave their car. They place their order and somebody passes a bag of food to them at the end through a kiosk.
George Eustice: (36:38)
I think it is quite possible for these venues to reopen and reopen safely. We never mandated that they should close. We’ve learnt a lot from supermarkets and other food outlets about how you can do social distancing and do it well. I think some of those food to go businesses will probably be seeking to learn lessons from what supermarkets have done as they consider tentatively reopening. I think all of them will do this in a cautious way, just as any further evolution in government policy will be cautious.
George Eustice: (37:13)
Thank you. We now have Shaun Lintern from The Independent.
Shaun Lintern: (37:18)
Good afternoon. A question to you, First Secretary Of State. Sticking with testing. The president of the Institute of Biomedical Science has told The Independent today that the 200,000 test capacity target has not actually been helpful and made it harder for NHS labs to focus testing on the right groups of people. The head of NHS providers said earlier this week that there were problems with key workers getting tests and needing to get back to work. He also called for a more considered strategy. Do you accept that the focus on setting round number targets has not actually been helpful to people in the system? And can you say a bit more about perhaps the strategy that we will need in a more considered testing strategy going forward as we move into test trace and isolate?
Shaun Lintern: (38:09)
And to Mr. [inaudible 00:12:08], new figures yesterday showed 600 more care homes have reported outbreaks of COVID-19 in a single week. The total now more than 5,000. So the care sector is clearly the epicenter of the infection. Can you tell us how high the rate of infection in care homes is at the moment and why we’re still sending positive patients into care homes, and what specific steps is the NHS taking to support the sector to look after people infected with COVID-19.
George Eustice: (38:42)
Well, on the first point on testing. I don’t think I do accept that. I think it is important and helpful to have targets that you’re moving towards in order to expand that capacity in short order, which is what we’ve been trying to do. That’s why we had that ambitious target to get to 100,000 and again to get to 200,000-
George Eustice: (39:03)
… by the end of this month. I don’t really see any reason why those people in the Army who have been heavily involved in the logistics of setting up some of these centers, why the planning to get that additional capacity, both the infrastructure to have additional drive-through testing centers or indeed additional mobile centers and bringing on stream additional laboratory capacity. I don’t really understand at all why that would distract from those that are delivering the current test capacity and they can continue to do so.
George Eustice: (39:38)
The planning for an expansion is done by an entirely different set of people. And I think the reason why it is important to have quite an ambitious target, to expand this test capacity further, is as we evolve this policy and as we start to roll out things such as our track and trace approach, testing will become quite an important feature of that. In that, if somebody through the track and trace app reports symptoms and starts to self-isolate, they will also be referred for a test. So if we want to start to roll out some of these smart approaches well, having that test capacity will be quite important. Stephen?
Stephen Powis: (40:22)
Yes. Good afternoon, [inaudible 00:00:40:24]. Of course, it’s really important that we do get on top of outbreaks in care homes, as you suggested. And indeed the NHS has been working increasingly closely with colleagues in social care to provide support. We are testing patients before they are discharged into care homes. But I think it’s important also to note that it’s a relatively small number of discharges from hospitals that actually are directly into care homes, are somewhere in the region of around one in 20 are going into care homes for the first time. We’ve also done some preliminary work on whether there’s any correlation between areas of outbreaks and discharges. And we can’t see a correlation between discharges and outbreaks. It is right though, as I said, that we put as much support as we can possibly do into care homes.
Stephen Powis: (41:24)
That includes support through primary care and general practice, but it also includes support around infection prevention and control. And as you know, hospitals have got very established mechanisms for infection, and prevention, and control through directors of infection, prevention, and control. Typically, the chief nurse of hospitals. And they are lending their expertise to colleagues in the care sector with an offer to help in training and to ensure that the standards of infection control that we are well used to in hospitals is translated as much as possible to assist with infection control in care homes. So you’re absolutely right to point out that the NHS plays a part in supporting colleagues in social care and also public health, because of course the directors of public health in local authorities and local authorities are really key partners as well in managing outbreaks and preventing outbreaks in care homes.
George Eustice: (42:18)
If I can just followup a question, then get back to Steve, if I may? Sticking with vulnerable groups. We’ve reported today on new deaths in mental health units, published by the CQC. Why has NHS England not published the data it receives on a weekly basis about the deaths of people from learning disability and autism from COVID-19? Parliament’s Joint Committee on Human Rights, a slew of charities and many parents and families are worried about this lack of transparency from NHS England, especially in what is a traditionally marginalized vulnerable group. Will you commit NHS England to publishing that data and what can you say to reassure families and loved ones?
Stephen Powis: (43:08)
You know, [Sean 00:43:08], that people with learning disabilities and autism and actually wider mental health problems are really key to NHS England’s work, and you know from the longterm plan that we published at the start of last year just quite the focus that we are placing on those groups of individuals. It’s really important that they get the appropriate care, the right care and have parity of care with everybody else, so we’re not losing that focus.
Stephen Powis: (43:37)
In terms of patients with mental health who are unfortunately dying with COVID-19, many of those have been transferred from mental health facilities into acute hospitals. It is a small number, but they are being transferred. And yes, I can commit that we will publish that data. We’ve been looking at how we can do that as part of our … We publish deaths daily. We’re looking at how we can report on those groups and I’ll commit that from next week we will be publishing data on learning disabilities, autism and mental health patients who have died in acute hospitals and we’ll do that at an ongoing basis.
George Eustice: (44:19)
Thank you very much, Sean. Then finally, we have Stephen Pollard from the Jewish Chronicle.
Stephen Pollard: (44:23)
Hi. Many people rely on charities for social care and with a huge rise in job losses, those charities which provide administrative support and help with benefits and so on, the demand for them has soared at the very time when their funding has basically stopped. And the one thing you hear consistently from charities is that the government’s package, while welcome, is nothing like big enough. Given that a lot of these charities are providing services that either wouldn’t exist or would cost the taxpayer a fortune if the taxpayer was to provide them, is there any prospect of further funding for charities being considered?
George Eustice: (45:08)
Well Stephen, as you alluded to, we have got that fund that was announced, the 750 million pound fund to support a range of charities in a wide range of areas supporting people suffering from the Coronavirus. Indeed, the 16 million pound package that I’ve announced today is being drawn as part of that 750 million pound funding package. There have been many, many successful bids into that covering all of the areas that you’ve mentioned.
George Eustice: (45:41)
Also, some of the food charities and many more besides, including packages to support, for instance, smaller zoos and some of the other venues that have been effected. It’s been quite a broad package. I think quite a supportive package. These are extraordinary times, but I think that that 750 million pounds fund is very welcome and has helped a lot of charities with the additional burdens that they have as a result of the Coronavirus. Are there [crosstalk 00:46:11] any other points you want to make as well?
Stephen Pollard: (46:13)
Yeah, just one. One of the most heartbreaking things for many people who’ve lost a loved one to Coronavirus is the restriction on mourners at funerals. Understandable restrictions, but no less heartbreaking for that. I just wondered if there’s any prospect in the relaxation of the easing of some of the rules that the Prime Minister will announce, if mourners may be allowed … Close family mourners may be allowed to attend funerals?
George Eustice: (46:40)
Well, I completely understand the point you’re making and this is a very sensitive issue and I also know that because gatherings at places of worship have also been stopped for lots of people from many different religions. That has also affected them as well. But it is funerals, I think, that are the hardest here. We have allowed funerals to continue for immediate family members, close family members, but I appreciate that that’s not much hope for wider family who’d also like to attend. This is an area that we will be looking at closely. Obviously, I can’t prejudge what the Prime Minister might say on Sunday, but I can reassure you that we’re very, very conscious that this is an incredibly sensitive matter, that people want the opportunity to pay their last respects.
George Eustice: (47:36)
Obviously, we have to be cautious because we have to be very careful about large social gatherings, but it is something that we are giving consideration to. Right. Thank you very much. That’s the end of the questions that we’ve got today. I would also, again, as I’ve done before, just like to conclude by recording my thanks to all of those working in the food industry, from supermarkets and food manufacturers right through to farmers. There’s really been quite an extraordinary effort over the last couple of months to ensure that we keep food on our supermarket shelves, but thank you all very much.