Apr 8, 2020

United Kingdom COVID-19 Briefing Transcript April 8

UK Coronavirus Update April 8
RevBlogTranscriptsCOVID-19 Briefing & Press Conference TranscriptsUnited Kingdom COVID-19 Briefing Transcript April 8

British officials, led by Rishi Sunak the Chancellor of the Exchequer, held a coronavirus update on April 8. Sunak says Boris Johnson’s condition is improving. Read the full transcript of the press conference here.

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Rishi Sunak: (00:00)
… where his condition is improving. I can also tell you that he has been sitting up in bed and engaging positively with the clinical team. The prime minister is not only my colleague and my boss, but also my friend and my thoughts are with him and his family. The news about the PM reminds us how indiscriminate this disease is. Nearly everyone will know someone who’s been affected. Friends, family, neighbors, colleagues. This is a terrible virus that respects no boundaries of status or geography or vocation.

Rishi Sunak: (00:38)
But we are not facing it alone. We are all taking part in a collective national effort to protect the vulnerable and each other to secure our public services and to save lives. This endeavor is underpinned by an important, simple idea that we depend on each other. When you need it, when you fall on hard times, we will all as one society be there for you to take care of you until you are once again ready to take care of yourself and others. This idea has been central to all of our efforts to support people and businesses during this crisis. We promise to do whatever it takes and I am striving every day to keep that promise.

Rishi Sunak: (01:36)
But when I say we all depend on each other, I don’t just mean the relationship between individuals, businesses and the state. One of our greatest strengths as a country is our civil society, the local charities who provides so much compassion, care and community to the most vulnerable in our country. You have not been forgotten. British people, businesses and foundations are already doing their part to support our charity sector. And today we in government will do our part as we build on our plan for the economy with a plan to support our social fabric.

Rishi Sunak: (02:19)
There are nearly 170,000 charities in this country and the truth is we will not be able to match every pound of funding that they would have received this year. Charities can already use many of our existing schemes to support people and to protect their staff. All charities are eligible for the job retention scheme and in line with medical advice and just like any other employer, the right answer for many charities will be to furlough their employees.

Rishi Sunak: (02:49)
But some charities are on the front line of fighting the Coronavirus and others provide critical services and support to vulnerable people and communities. For them, shutting up shop at this moment would be to contravene their very purpose, their entire reason to exist. Those charities have never been more needed than they are now and they’ve never faced such a sudden fall in their funding. So today I’m announcing £750 million of funding for the charity sector. £370 million of that funding will support small, local charities working with vulnerable people. We all know who they are. Those small charities in our villages, our market towns, in pockets of our cities. The unsung heroes looking after the vulnerable and holding together our social fabric.

Rishi Sunak: (03:46)
In England, this support will be provided through organizations like the National Lottery Community’s Fund and we will allocate £60 million of this funding through the Barnett formula to Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland. The UK government will also provide £360 million directly to charities providing essential services and supporting vulnerable people as we battle the Coronavirus. Up to £200 million of those grants will support hospices with the rest going to organizations like St. John’s Ambulance and the Citizens Advice Bureau as well as charities supporting vulnerable children, victims of domestic abuse or disabled people.

Rishi Sunak: (04:29)
And last night the BBC announced their Big Night In charity appeal on April the 23rd. and today I can confirm that the government will match pound for pound whatever the public decides to donate, starting with at least £20 million to the National Emergencies Trust Appeal.

Rishi Sunak: (04:54)
Two short weeks ago, I spoke of the need for kindness, decency and the sort of neighborliness that is at the heart of these charitable and community efforts. The normally invisible connections between us have in recent weeks become more apparent. For most of us, we spend our lives oblivious to these connections, these bonds, and how our behaviors, however small, can have a dramatic effect on others. But these bonds are not invisible for our local charities. For the volunteer, keeping victims of domestic violence safe. For the outreach worker, helping a rough sleeper find a bed or for the support worker manning the phones to help stave off the heart wrenching loneliness so many of our elderly relatives and friends will be experiencing right now.

Rishi Sunak: (05:45)
These connections might be hard to see, but they are there and they are strengthened by our compassion for others. Charities embody this like no other organization and their lesson is that the simplest acts have the potential to change lives. At this time when many are hurting and tired and confined, we need the gentleness of charities in our lives. It gives us hope. It makes us stronger and it reminds us we depend on each other. Thank you. If we could now take some questions, I believe. Angela, were you going to present your slides first?

Angela McLean: (06:37)
If I may.

Rishi Sunak: (06:37)

Angela McLean: (06:38)
I wanted to start by showing this data, which is a record of how much we’ve acted together to reduce how much we contact each other. So what’s shown here is footfall at 17 stations across the country counting how many people pass through their stations at different times through the month of March. And what you see is that at the end of March, footfall was down 94% compared to the first week of March. And in the next slide, what you can see is that that has worked in the sense that this count of new cases in the UK day by day over the last few weeks is not accelerating out of control. Yesterday there were 5,492 new cases and the spread of this virus is not accelerating, and that is good news. If I could have the next slide please.

Angela McLean: (07:43)
What’s recorded here is people in hospital beds with COVID and the highest of those lines is London and the one just below in gray is the Midlands. What this is is a slower responding record of new infections because of course once people are in hospital, some of them will have to stay there for many days, some of them for some weeks. But again, what we see is that the rate at which this is rising is definitely getting slower and it looks like we’re beginning to get towards a flat curve there, which is of course what we’ve all wanted.

Angela McLean: (08:23)
Our overall aim has always been to make sure that everybody can have access to critical care if they need it and that’s what’s shown on the next slide is COVID patients in critical care. Back one please. Can I get back one please? No, okay. This one here. Yes, thank you. And there we can see encouraging news that perhaps at least in some parts of the country, this really has started to flatten. Across the country, in the last 24 hours, this has increased by just 4%. And again, that is good news because this is our most limiting resource at the moment.

Angela McLean: (09:09)
So finally, I have data on the sad statistic of people who have died from COVID, and this is an international comparison across different countries showing how that number accumulates in different countries. And UK is the dark blue line somewhere in the middle there. This data has long reporting lags and even after the number of people in critical care stabilizes or even maybe begins to fall, this number will rise because sometimes deaths are reported many, many days or even a week or so after sadly somebody has died. So we expect this number to keep rising even after the curve has flattened. Thank you Chancellor.

Rishi Sunak: (09:54)
Thank you. Stephen, anything you wanted to add?

Stephen Powis: (09:57)
Maybe a word on charities. So in the NHS we work very closely with our partners in the charitable section and I know it’s really important that not only we all support them during this difficult time, but it’s also really important to recognize the support that they are giving everybody to help them through the time where we are asking people to stay at home and take the measures that we have indicated. I have the real privilege at NHS England of leading the cardiovascular, that’s heart attacks and stroke strategy. Two charities I work very closely with: the British Heart Foundation, the Stroke Association, and I know they would want me to say today, to remind everybody that the NHS has worked night and day to surge capacity to manage Coronavirus. But it is also there for you if you have symptoms of a stroke, symptoms of a heart attack. Indeed, if you have any emergency condition, whether it’s a sick child, whether it’s a mother, or a mother in pregnancy who’s worried about the movements of the baby, you should be seeking emergency…

Stephen Powis: (11:03)
… services just as you always have done. They are there for you and although we are focusing on Coronavirus, it’s important that we also continue to focus on other emergency conditions.

Rishi Sunak: (11:18)
Thank you, Steve. If we take some questions, I think first up is Laura Kuenssberg from BBC.

Laura Kuenssberg: (11:24)
Thank you, Chancellor. You keep saying whatever it takes to help people through this time and with support from the economy. But do you accept, Chancellor, that under the lockdown there is a tradeoff between protecting people’s health and protecting people’s jobs?

Rishi Sunak: (11:40)
Thanks, Laura. Well, I think we’ve been clear. Our priority is to protect people’s lives, their health and wellbeing. That is our absolute overriding priority. But alongside that, in a coordinated, I think, coherent and consistent fashion, we have also put in place unprecedented and significant measures to protect people’s jobs, their incomes, their livelihoods, and the businesses that employ them. I think that’s the right approach. What it does, it means that we can mitigate as much of the economic impact as possible and ensure that as soon as we can get through this, that we can bounce back as quickly as possible. Was there anything that you wanted to follow up on for either of anyone else?

Laura Kuenssberg: (12:26)
Yeah. Do you accept though that some people are falling through the cracks? I mean, the Treasury Select committee this afternoon has said that you need to take urgent action for some people who aren’t covered by your very extensive scheme. Do you think the public should be prepared for a serious downturn, maybe even a recession?

Rishi Sunak: (12:42)
I think I’ve been very clear and very honest that this will have a significant impact on our economy. That’s not uncommon with every other major country that’s grappling with this. We will all see a significant impact on our economy. And I’ve also been very honest that in spite of what are unprecedented measures in scale and scope, I can’t stand here and say that I can save every single job, protect every single business or indeed every single charity, the focus of today’s announcements. That’s just simply not possible. But what we can do is put in place what I think is an enormous amount of support in a targeted fashion as best as possible to help as many people as possible get through this so that as I said, we can emerge on the other side of it stronger, united, and hopefully able to bounce back as quickly as possible. I think if we turn next to, is it Tom Clark from ITV? Tom, are you there?

Tom Clark: (13:36)
Hello, yes, I am. Thank you, Chancellor. My question relates to testing. Yesterday’s briefing with the Chief Medical Officer may be honest admission that Germany’s lower death toll in their pandemic is due to their ability to test more people more quickly. Given that death toll is three times lower than ours, is it now time for the government to come out and admit that thousands of people have died and thousands more people will die in this country as a result of our failure to test more people more rapidly?

Rishi Sunak: (14:10)
Would you comment to testing?

Stephen Powis: (14:11)
To be honest, I don’t think that’s what the Chief Medical Officer did say. I think he said that tasting was one of many factors, and I think the Chief Scientific Advisor spoke about this too, was one of a range of things in Germany. I think it’s difficult at this stage to say what range of factors has contributed to what. I think the Chief Medical Officer was also making clear that it’s important that all countries learn from each other. I’ve no doubt that other countries will want to learn from our experience and some of the things that we have done in the United Kingdom; for instance, the work on modeling and predicting what the epidemic might do. I think the point he was making yesterday was that everybody should be learning from each other. Indeed, that is what we’re doing. Angela might have more to say on that.

Angela: (14:58)
Yes, I would have thought the point would be that the rate of deaths, of course, appears much lower if you can count many, many more of the cases. That’s certainly one of the things that you see. If you see different case fatality rates in countries, that could be because you’re counting many, many more of the people who should be on the bottom of that fraction. In terms of modeling, that is something that we’re really very happy in this country to offer to other countries and hope that’s one of the things we can contribute to the international effort.

Rishi Sunak: (15:31)
Thank you, Tom. I hope, I hope that …

Tom Clark: (15:35)
Like you, I just sat through the Select Committee hearing on which you were a witness. We heard from the people in charged of testing in South Korea and in Hong Kong. They made it abundantly clear testing has reduced the numbers of cases of Coronavirus in those countries. Dr. Whitty did say yesterday that it was, in fact, Germany’s tests that was part of their lower death rates. We had less than certain. He did not speak of that. It is about testing. Can you tell me whether our inability to test will lead to greater mortality here? Can I also follow-up? How dependent is the UK on a testing regime, for us to be able to lift lockdown restrictions and are we on course to have the sufficient levels of testing in the community to allow us to do that in anything like the next three or four weeks?

Stephen Powis: (16:27)
I think we all agree that testing is important. That is not the issue at all. I think the point I was making is that testing is one part of a set of different things that will need to be considered in any country’s strategy. That is the case here. It is the case in Germany. I have spoken to Chief Medical Officer today and I think, well, I know the point he was making yesterday, was it is a part of the overall strategy. I think it is almost certainly too early, in all countries’ experience, to know exactly which components or strategies have been the most effective or have been most important. It’s highly likely it’s the combination of these things rather than one any individual part of an approach.

Rishi Sunak: (17:12)
Brilliant. Thank you. Tom. Can we turn to Andy Bell from Channel 5?

Andy Bell: (17:16)
Yes, thank you. I want to follow up partly on Tom’s question about the lockdown but in a different context, which is the First Minister of Wales has said today that as far as he’s concerned a lockdown is going to continue beyond next week in Wales. Can you level with us now and just accept that the lockdown is going to continue across the U.K. through next week? From a scientific and medical point of view, is it possible or even desirable that different parts of the country could come out of lockdown at different speeds?

Rishi Sunak: (17:52)
Let me address that before handing over, Andy. I can just say there will be a cover meeting tomorrow chaired by the First Secretary of State involving the devolved administrations to talk about the approach to the review. We committed that there would be a review in and around three weeks. That review will be based on the evidence and the data provided by Sage, which will only be available next week. But I think rather than speculate about the future, I think we should focus very seriously on the here and now and the present. I think there the messages unequivocal. Our priority right now is to stop the spread of this virus, to get the the other side of the peak. And the best way to do that is for people to follow the advice, which is to stay at home, protect lives, and protect the NHS.

Rishi Sunak: (18:39)
I think, in terms of messaging, I would want to be absolutely unequivocal about that. That’s where we are now. That’s the advice people should be following. That’s the best thing that we can all do to help get through this as quickly as possible. But Angela, if you wanted to add anything on that.

Angela: (18:53)
We have always said that we would need to be able to see what impact the whole suite of interventions that were brought into place on the 23rd of March are having before we can make any evidence-based decision on what to do next. This week is a really important week. We’re all watching what happens. I guess from a purely scientific point of view, more data is better for us. But I completely agree with the Chancellor that what really matters is that people stay home, protect lives, and save the NHS. Or is it the other way around?

Rishi Sunak: (19:31)
Brilliant. And I hope, does that answer your question?

Andy Bell: (19:34)
I’d just like to come back to the idea of whether different parts of the country could theoretically emerge at different times from lockdown. Whether that’s, first of all, politically possible; and secondly, whether that’s in any way scientifically or medically desirable.

Rishi Sunak: (19:50)
I think what I’d probably say before handing over to Angela on the medical issues, I think, again, I don’t want to start speculating about the future. I think that’s not helpful at this juncture. I think the key thing now is for people to focus unequivocally on the advice. We are where we are in this process, and the advice is clear. People should follow the advice. That’s the best thing that everyone can do wherever they live in this country at the moment. I think Angela probably would echo that.

Angela: (20:16)
I would echo that. I don’t want to get into hypotheticals about what might be better one way or another. I suspect that simple strategies might well turn out to be the best to use, but we’ll see and I’m going to get it right this time. The advice is for Easter weekend to stay home, protect the NHS, and save lives. So I will certainly be having my Easter at home.

Rishi Sunak: (20:39)
Thank you, Andy. Gary Gibbon from Channel 4.

Andy Gibbon: (20:44)
Thank you. Chancellor, can I ask you. We’ve had unemployment figures from one European country so far, post-COVID crisis: Norway. Unemployment, well over 10%. From the data you look at in the Treasury, can you hand on heart say we’re not going to see something like that here?

Rishi Sunak: (21:05)
Gary, I will be absolutely honest, this will have a significant impact on our economy and not in an abstract way. It will have an impact on people’s jobs and their livelihoods and that’s why we’ve taken the actions that we have in order to help mitigate some of that. I believe that, for example, the job retention scheme, the furlough scheme that we’ve put in place, which we’ve never had anything like in this country. As I said, when I stood here to announce it, the government is stepping in to help pay people’s wages so that they’re not laid off, so they don’t end up being unemployed, that they remain attached to their company, with a very significant safety net behind them that helps the company, that helps the person, that helps their family finances. I think that, and to combine with all the other measures we’ve taken, will significantly help mitigate some of the impact.

Rishi Sunak: (21:51)
I think that’s what other commentators have said as well. That if we weren’t doing all the things that we’re doing, if we won’t put in place these unprecedented measures, it would certainly be worse. I believe we’re doing the right things. I can’t-

Rishi Sunak: (22:03)
… stand here and say that there isn’t going to be hardship ahead. There is, which is why going through this together as one society united, understanding that everyone’s got a role to play, whether that’s government, business, charities, your next door neighbor. I think that’s the best approach to this, but I’m confident we will get through it.

Speaker 2: (22:21)
Is some of that … Is some of the data from surveys already coming in outstripping your expectations? You mentioned the furloughs scheme, some suggestion that there could be people applying for that, businesses applying for that way in excess, maybe, in treasury expectations. Did you ever think you could be forking out say 40 billion over three months, which could be the number, couldn’t it?

Rishi Sunak: (22:44)
Well, I think just to clarify on that, we have not put out a specific projection or an estimate of the take up of that scheme and I think there was some reporting that we might have and this might be an assessment, so we haven’t actually done that for the simple reason … This is an unprecedented situation, so of course we have a range of scenarios that might come our way, but there isn’t a precise central estimate of of what the scheme might do. What I would say is you’re right, there is other data that we can look at and I think others and myself have talked about universal credit claims which have come down from where they were 10 days ago, which is comforting, but they’re still very elevated relative to what normal levels might be, sometimes four or five times higher.

Rishi Sunak: (23:24)
That is obviously something we look at and that’s why we’ve not only strengthened the safety net and put extra money to the tune of seven billion pounds plus into the welfare system for those who are accessing universal credit. We’ve also provided more funding to DWP, for example, to help them process those claims and make sure people get the support as quickly as they need. But I say when it comes to the job retention scheme, people who are put on that scheme at whatever scale, to me that’s the scheme working. The idea is that we did that so that people were not laid off, they were not unemployed, they had a good income to get them through this and they remain attached to their company and their employer. So if it ends up being significantly used I will view that as a success if it means that we get through this and then can bounce back quickly and provide security to those people and their families during it. Thank you. I think next Piper Quier at The Daily Mirror?

Piper Quier: (24:24)
We all know that the focus now … The focus now is currently on following the advice, rightly, but I’ve spoken to head teachers and parents and MPs who are very keen to reopen schools as soon as the scientific advice suggests that it’s safe to do so. So can I ask Professor McLean whether … Despite the focus on the advice now, whether she could give us any indication of where schools might be open before the summer holidays, which after all are three months away, and the chancellor, if I can ask you how significant a factor are schools in your discussions about getting the economy back on its feet once we’re through the other side of this?

Speaker 3: (25:12)
I’m happy to answer that by saying there’s very intensive work going on to think about all sorts of different things that we might do in the next stage. It would be completely premature for me to give a yes or no answer to that question because so much depends on this question of how well have the measures put in on March the 23rd worked, and we can’t know that this week until we see a longer run of infections that have happened since that time. But please be assured that people are working incredibly hard to explore those sorts of questions.

Rishi Sunak: (25:48)
Yeah, Piper, I probably can’t add much to what Angela said is that we are … In all these instances we are driven and basing our decisions on the science and what is best for controlling the spread of this virus and getting that [inaudible 00:26:02] number down. That’s been our approach to this thing all along and that will continue to be our approach. And I pay tribute to those who are helping keep our schools open for children of key workers. That is is valuable, and the work that they’re doing is, I believe, well supported by the Department of Education, but they also are owed our thanks for doing that, because that is vital at this time.

Piper Quier: (26:24)
Can I come back?

Rishi Sunak: (26:25)
Yeah, of course.

Piper Quier: (26:27)
I mean, I can understand that obviously the data and the science suggested it’s too soon to see. But Mr. Paris was talking just days ago about green shoots and so the beginnings of signs of the curve flattening, was that premature?

Stephen Powis: (26:41)
No, I don’t think so because I think what I said last week was that the green shoots were occurring in some of the early things that we were seeing, such as the reduction in transport, the reduction in footfall that we describe in these press conferences, which recognizes that the British public is complying with instructions. And, as we’ve said, the message is we need to continue complying with those instructions on social distancing. So, so those green shoots over time translate into benefit in a reduction in the number of infections, a reduction in the number of hospitalizations, and then sadly, finally, into a reduction in the number of deaths. And I think as you have heard from Angela at the start of this press conference, we are starting to see a plateauing, the first signs of a plateauing infections and hospitalizations.

Stephen Powis: (27:33)
If we had not taken those measures, if people had not complied with them, we would not be seeing that. We would be seeing an exponential curve and a set of graphs that were steeply rising. So we are beginning to see the benefits, I believe. But the really critical thing is that we have to continue following instructions. We have to continue following social distancing because if we don’t, the virus will start to spread again. And if it starts to spread again, then in a week or two’s time we will be seeing a set of figures which are not going in the direction that we want to see them. We will see increased pressure on the NHS, we will see increased numbers of deaths.

Stephen Powis: (28:12)
So this is not the time to become complacent. It’s not the time to think that the job has been done. This is the time to continue everybody continuing, whether, whether you’re me, whether your member of the public, frankly, whether you’re a football team, to continue to keep with social distancing and ensure that the hard work and that the hardship that that everybody is no doubt encountering leads to those benefits. That’s a simple message today and you’ve heard it time and time again and there are no apologies for giving it.

Rishi Sunak: (28:46)
Great. Thank you Piper. Could we go next to … Is it Nathan Hall from The Express or no?

Nathan Hall: (28:52)
Yes. Thank you chancellor. I’m just back to your job retention scheme. The head of revenue and customs has today warned that the scheme is open to fraud and abuse. Have you had any evidence that that is happening and would you urge employees to blow the whistle on firms that may be abusing this scheme?

Rishi Sunak: (29:09)
Yep, thanks. Look, what I would say is we’re obviously designing schemes at pace which haven’t been done before, and part of the reason that we’ve made some of the decisions that we’ve made in the design, whether it’s the job retention scheme or the self-employed, are deliberately to counter fraud, because obviously we want to make them as simple as possible and as accessible to as many people as possible whilst protecting the tax payer. Because ultimately this is all of our money that would need to be paid back at some point. So we want to make sure it’s targeted on people who really need it, and that has actually influenced some of the design choices we’ve made. That means some people might fall between the cracks. That means that there are people who are saying, “Well, can you not do it this way? Can you include us?”

Rishi Sunak: (29:48)
And the reason we’ve not been able to do that is to protect against exactly that, exactly the risk of fraud or spurious claims that we won’t be able to verify or only verify with a very cumbersome manual process, which would delay the scheme’s implementation, which I think is not the right thing. So I’m confident that the decisions we’ve made will minimize the risk of fraud. Obviously the team are hard at work at the moment getting these schemes up and running and we will have as robust verification and auditing processes as possible to ensure that there isn’t fraud and that we can go and tackle it. But that’s why we’ve made some of the choices we’ve made and hopefully that … People will understand that and they hopefully have been reasonable about that when I’ve explained, well, this is why you have to be employed, for example, on this particular day.

Rishi Sunak: (30:33)
Because if you weren’t, then obviously there is the risk that you could create a brand new employment for someone who we’ve never heard of before and suddenly start getting money from the taxpayer for not a genuine case. And so that’s, for example, one of the reasons that we picked a cutoff date of February the 28th for that particular scheme, big part of that was preventing fraud. So hopefully that’s clear and Jim and the HMRC and his team are doing a fantastic job getting these things up and running. I think he talked a little bit about timing and we’re on track to deliver against the timelines that I outlined earlier, which is pleasing because this is a huge challenge for them and they’re doing a great job. Does that answer what you wanted?

Nathan Hall: (31:13)
Thank you.

Rishi Sunak: (31:13)
Perfect. Thank you. James Taxfield, Mail Online?

James Taxfield: (31:19)
Thank you, chancellor. Churchill had a personal doctor and president Trump has a medical team, but the prime minister was left with persistent symptoms Rover a week and was only admitted to hospital after a video call with a GP. There doesn’t seem to have been a great deal of social distancing going on in Downing Street. Haven’t we failed to protect our key decision makers, and what needs to change for the future? Should we be more of a US style system with more protection?

Rishi Sunak: (31:46)
Well, I think I’ll … I’ll defer to Steve in a second, but I would say that I think the prime minister has received excellent care and advice every step of the process. At the end of the day, no matter … We’re all trying our absolute best, but none of us are superhuman and impervious to getting sick during this process. And that’s what makes this whole thing so awful for all of us. But as I’ve observed and seen, the advice, the care has been excellent. Not just beforehand but especially now at St. Thomas’s. [inaudible 00:32:15] if there’s anything you want to add.

Stephen Powis: (32:15)
I’m actually confident the prime minister has and is receiving excellent medical care. I’m not his physician, he will have been advised by his own doctors, but I do know colleagues at St. Thomas’s Hospital. In fact, a couple of weeks ago I took the opportunity to visit St. Thomas’s Hospital visits, some of the critical care consultants, and I can’t tell you how impressed I was, and this is going back a few weeks, at the preparations that they were making, the details that they were thinking through in terms of how they would deal with an increase in patients with coronavirus. They are amongst the best critical care clinicians in the world. St. Thomas’s, even when I was a junior doctor many years ago, was world-

Stephen Powis: (33:03)
… renowned for its critical care capacity. So I’m absolutely confident, absolutely confident, that my colleagues, all the clinical staff, doctors, nurses, and everybody else at Saint Thomas’s is providing exceptional world-class care.

Rishi Sunak: (33:20)
Brilliant. Thank you, Steve. Does that answer your question?

Press Corps: (33:24)
I was just going to say the point on the Downing Street social distancing, in hindsight, do you think that that could have been more rigorously observed there?

Rishi Sunak: (33:32)
Well I think … Look, everyone is doing their best to follow the guidelines, whether it’s cabinet, we’ve conducted, I think for the first ever time, meetings via alternative means. And people are appropriately following all the guidance. That doesn’t mean that we can completely eliminate the spread of infection in this process. But I think the good news is, as I said, there’s good update on the prime minister’s condition. Those that have been away are, many of them now, returning to work. But I think whether people are away, or social distancing, or physically in the same place, the business of government, throughout all of this, has gone on, and it has gone on at pace. And the team, whether it’s politicians, cabinet ministers, civil servants, doctors and medical advisers are working night and day to make sure that we do what we need to to get the country through this and support the British people at this time. I can absolutely give you that assurance.

Rishi Sunak: (34:24)
Thank you. Can we turn to Tim Ross from Bloomberg? Tim, are you there?

Tim Ross: (34:30)
Hello, yes. Chancellor, you say the prime minister is improving. Do you expect to see him able to leave hospital next week sometime? What are your expectations there?

Tim Ross: (34:42)
Also on Brexit, Chancellor, you have said before that your very honest about the risks to the economy and the fact there will be a really significant impact, potentially a recession later this year. Do you really think it’s a good idea to leave the European Union if the UK economy is in, or just coming out of, a very deep recession?

Tim Ross: (35:01)
And then to your two colleagues, the decision on whether to persist with the lockdown measures will be taken, [inaudible 00:02:07], you’re saying next week probably sometime. What will the full range of data that you’re analyzing be in order to take that decision? And are we at the beginning of the peak now? How far off is your best guess?

Rishi Sunak: (35:26)
If I could start, I think you talked about, ” Should we still leave the European Union?” I think. I mean, we have left the European Union; that has happened. What we’re doing now is just negotiating the final terms of our trading arrangements. That work is carrying on. And David Frost, the prime minister’s chief sherpa in this regard, held talks earlier this week with the deputy counterpart over at the EU. They’ve exchanged legal texts. They’ve set out some clarification that they both wanted from each other. And indeed I think David is talking to his direct counterpart, either later this week or next week, to plan the next steps for the meetings and continued negotiations over April and May. So I think we remain committed to the timeline of concluding those talks and negotiations. That work is happening, albeit over video conference rather than in person. So I think that’s a pretty clear statement of where we are on that.

Rishi Sunak: (36:22)
Angela, do want to take the question on that?

Angela: (36:24)
Yes, very happy to take that question.

Angela: (36:26)
So one of the great strengths of the kinds of mathematical modeling that Sage is drawing on in order to give its advice is that it lets you pull together information from all sorts of different data streams. So my colleagues who are generating that advice will be using hard data on things like numbers of people arriving at hospital, numbers of people having to be admitted to critical care in hospital. But also things like that data on how many people are there in stations, survey data asking people, “Well precisely what behaviors have you toned down in the last few weeks?”

Angela: (37:02)
So I could actually bore you by telling you how many different data streams are under consideration. But that is the strength of that approach, is it lets you take a lot of different kinds of information and do the best job you can of synthesizing them together in order to understand the situation we have been in, in the past, that has brought us to where we are now, and then do what you can to project into the future what’s going to happen next.

Angela: (37:27)
But I’m not going to do that right now because that’s something that we do in a rather formal process. The model has come to Sage, and then Sage puts that together, and we send it over to our politicians in order to make decisions.

Rishi Sunak: (37:43)
Do you have anything you wanted to add finally?

Stephen Powis: (37:43)
As you know, Sage has been publishing its material so that is available, and I think also to add that many of the academic groups that contribute to Sage publish their own research and modeling independently. And so that is there for all to see in terms of those key academic groups.

Rishi Sunak: (38:01)
Brilliant. Thank you. Well if I could possibly wrap up. Thank you Tim for that, and just say thank you to Angela. Thank you, Steve, for answering all the questions.

Rishi Sunak: (38:12)
Our announcement today was about supporting charities, who are a critical part of the social fabric of this country. It builds on the economic plan that we’ve already announced to protect people’s health and economic security by supporting public services like our NHS, backing business, and protecting people’s jobs and incomes. And if I could conclude by saying this: Our economic plan, and the plan for charities that we announced today, are built on one simple idea, that we depend on each other. Thank you.

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