Apr 9, 2020
United Kingdom COVID-19 Briefing Transcript April 9
Dominic Raab and other British officials held a coronavirus briefing today, April 9. Raab thanked key workers for their COVID-19 response.
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Dominic Raab: (00:02)
I also want to say big thank you to the carers, the charity workers, all those looking after, or even just keeping an eye on, those in their local neighborhood. You are the lifeline to so many people in our communities.
Dominic Raab: (00:17)
Thank you to the workers who keep the country running. The supermarket work is the delivery drivers, the technicians, the cleaners, the public servants who just kept going, determined to keep providing the daily services that we all rely on. I think you’ve certainly made us all think long and hard about who the key workers are in our lives.
Dominic Raab: (00:39)
Thank you to the volunteers who have stepped up across the country, whose big-hearted sense of responsibility defines British community spirit at its very best.
Dominic Raab: (00:51)
A massive thank you to every single person who stayed home to stop this terrible virus from spreading. You’ve helped protect the NHS and you’ve helped to save lives.
Dominic Raab: (01:04)
Now as we look forward to the long bank holiday Easter weekend, I know some people are going to start wondering, “Is it time to ease up on the rules?” I have to say thank you for your sacrifice, but also we’re not done yet. We must keep going. Let me just explain a little bit about why that’s so important.
Dominic Raab: (01:25)
Today, I chaired a COBRA meeting with a senior ministers officials and representatives from Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland as well as the mayor of London so that we could take stock and assess where we are right across the United Kingdom. At this stage, the government is continuing to gather all of the relevant data to obtain the fullest picture possible of the effects of the social-distancing measures that we’ve put in place.
Dominic Raab: (01:51)
Now, while the early signs suggest that they are having the impact that we need to see, it’s too early to say that conclusively. Sage, will meet next week to discuss the latest evidence and we’ll keep the measures we’ve put in place under review. As we’ve said on many occasions now, we’ll be guided by the science at all times, so we don’t expect to be able to say more on this until the end of next week. And let me just be again very clear about this, the measures will have to stay in place until we’ve got the evidence that clearly shows we’ve moved beyond the peak.
Dominic Raab: (02:28)
I know these restrictions take their toll day in, day out on people’s livelihoods, on people’s quality of life, on people’s mental health. I appreciate that it’s often the little things that hurt the most. With the Easter bank holiday coming up, I’d normally spend it with my two boys, seven and five years old, with their grandparents, doing an Easter egg hunt. I know there’s going to be lots of people who would normally be planning a family get-together or just getting out in the sunshine with friends and loved ones. Unfortunately, right now we just can’t do those sorts of things. I’m really sorry about that. But just take a moment to think of the progress that we’ve already made following the guidance, staying at home, denying the virus what it needs to spread more easily and to kill more people.
Dominic Raab: (03:19)
It’s been almost three weeks and we’re starting to see the impact of the sacrifices we’ve all made, but the deaths are still rising and we haven’t yet reached the peak of the virus. It’s still too early to lift the measures that we’ve put in place. We must stick to the plan and we must continue to be guided by the science.
Dominic Raab: (03:42)
Our top priority, our immediate priority remains to slow the spread of the virus and to save as many lives as possible. That’s why we have to continue to ask you all to keep complying with the guidance. As we’ve said consistently from the outset, it’s vital we take the right decisions at the right time and the most important thing right now is that people continue to follow the government’s guidance until we’ve got the evidence that the virus is firmly under control, so that means please do stay at home to protect our NHS and to save lives. After all the efforts that everyone’s made, after all the sacrifices so many people have made, let’s not ruin it now, let’s not undo the gains we’ve made, let’s not waste the sacrifices so many people have made. We mustn’t give the coronavirus a second chance to kill more people and to hurt our country. I know it’s tough going, but this is a team effort and we’ll only defeat this virus for good if we all stay the course, so please stay home this bank holiday weekend for everyone’s sake.
Dominic Raab: (04:52)
I will turn to Sir Patrick to give us an update on the very latest data. Sir Patrick, over to you.
Sir Patrick Vallance: (04:57)
Thank you very much.
Sir Patrick Vallance: (04:58)
As the first secretary has said, the measures that everybody has taken, the difficult things that we’ve all had to do, are making a difference and they’re making a big difference. We know that the social distancing is working and we know that people are doing what they’re supposed to do and we need to keep doing that. The reason we need to keep doing that is because it stops the transmission of the virus in the community and we know that that is already happening. Next slide please. As a result of stopping the transmission in the community, we stop new cases appearing. This slide, the numbers go up and down a bit, but what you can see is it’s not taking off in that sharp uptake. It’s not gone sky high, and if anything there might even be some flattening. That is because of what we’re all doing with social distancing. If we had not done that, those cases would now be very much higher. If those cases were higher, next slide please.
Sir Patrick Vallance: (06:04)
Then this graph wouldn’t look like this. We would find many, many more people in hospital. We would find the health system potentially overrun. What you can see on this graph is the increase in hospital admissions, people in hospital beds with COVID. It has gone up across the country, but it’s not gone up in that steep way. Again, if anything, we’re beginning to see the first signs of this leveling off. Too early to be sure, too early to know that this is on the way down, but it’s not got that fast upswing that it would have had had you all, we all, not been doing what we are doing with these difficult measures of social distancing. If the hospital beds were fuller, next slide please.
Sir Patrick Vallance: (06:53)
Then importantly, so would the intensive care units be even fuller. People are working heroically in intensive care units to look after the very sick patients who are there. But again, this is not the sharp upstroke, big increases in numbers. It’s a steady increase in numbers, which might, just might, be beginning to flatten off, but it’s certainly not accelerating. That means that the NHS can cope. It’s got the right numbers of beds with the new expansion in order to be able to cope with this. If we were not doing what we’re doing and if we don’t continue to do what we’re doing in terms of the social distancing, we put all of this at risk. We jeopardize the thing that’s allowed us to get to this position. If I can have the last slide please.
Sir Patrick Vallance: (07:42)
Unfortunately, sadly, there are deaths from this disease. Those continue to rise and you can see here the increase in rise in the UK and in other countries. This will not change for a few weeks because the deaths come after the other illnesses, the earlier illness, the intensive care, and then in some patients unfortunately die and that will continue to increase for a few weeks. We need to see this begin to go down as well. It should follow the others.
Sir Patrick Vallance: (08:15)
The message is clear, which is the social distancing that we’re all doing is breaking transmission. It’s stopping the hospital admissions, beginning to see that flattening off, still unbelievably busy, but beginning to see that flatten off. It’s preventing more people going into intensive care and it will prevent deaths. It’s incredibly important we continue to do what we’re doing.
Dominic Raab: (08:39)
Thank you, Patrick. Now if we take some questions from the media, I think Hugh Pym from the BBC is first up. Hugh?
Hugh Pym: (08:49)
Thank you. We’ve heard some harrowing stories of people dying alone because family can’t be with them for understandable reasons to do with the virus risk. What do you say to the British public about how things will-
Hugh Pym: (09:03)
… develop from here?
Dominic Raab: (09:04)
Well, the first thing I would say is thank you for all you’re doing, not just the key workers, as essential as they are and we applaud them for the incredible work they’ve done, but also to every individual who’s followed the advice and the guidance.
Dominic Raab: (09:19)
We’ve made progress. Patrick has set that out, I think very clearly, but we don’t know conclusively that we’re beyond the point at which we could start considering whether the measures will be relaxed. We must keep it up. I think the key thing is for people to understand, how much of what they’ve already done has helped contribute to avoiding an even worse situation in terms of the spread of the virus and the number of deaths, and how important it is that we don’t slow up or take our pressure off at this critical moment before we’ve come through the peak.
Dominic Raab: (09:52)
We recognize the sacrifices so many people have made. It’s a team effort and as a country we need to be united in this mission. We’ve got to keep it up.
Dominic Raab: (10:02)
Did you want to come back with anything further Hugh?
Hugh Pym: (10:06)
Maybe to Patrick Vallance. A little bit more on the death projections that you have got. I know it’s difficult, but how long and how fast do you expect the deaths to carry on rising?
Patrick Vallance: (10:20)
In general, I’d expect the deaths to continue to keep going up for about two weeks after the intensive care picture improves. We’re not there yet in terms of knowing exactly when that will be, but that’s the sort of timeframe I’d expect.
Dominic Raab: (10:35)
Sam Coates from Sky.
Sam Coates: (10:39)
I suspect Britain needs a little bit of hope going into this Easter weekend, so Dominic Raab, will the government set out in public the principles that will guide you when you do finally come to lifting this lockdown? Angela Merkel, the German Chancellor said today that the German government would do that next week. Can you commit to doing something similar?
Sam Coates: (11:02)
And to Chris Whitty, two or three weeks ago you were very concerned about the speed that the coronavirus was ripping through communities. Can you say how fast it is now going, being transmitted? Has that transmission rate now come down or is it still going through Britain as fast as it was?
Dominic Raab: (11:23)
Thanks Sam. We’ll look, the positive is that I think as we’ve hopefully set out clearly we can show people that all the sacrifices that they’ve been made and all the forbearance that they’ve showed has made a real difference. It has saved lives, it has helped protect the NHS.
Dominic Raab: (11:38)
We’re obviously not on the same point along the peak as the Germans, so I’m not sure that the direct analysis works, but what we will do is continue to be followed by the evidence and the science. As we’ve always said, and as I said earlier, we’ll take the right decisions at the right moment in time.
Dominic Raab: (11:56)
[inaudible 00:11:56] Patrick?
Chris Whitty: (11:56)
Answering directly the question that you asked about the speed. At the time when I was first talking about this, the doubling time, how fast we were doubling in terms of numbers, particularly in intensive care, was around about three days. It varied a bit. This has got steadily longer in time over the last two weeks thanks to what people have done. As Patrick showed in the data, this is really now becoming not quite flat but it is doubling time is now six or more days in almost everywhere in the country and extending in time.
Chris Whitty: (12:31)
That has only happened because of what everybody has done, what we’ve all done in terms of staying at home and only going out for work, exercise and critical shopping and medical care.
Chris Whitty: (12:44)
If I can just add one thing in terms of the principles, and this is not principles except in the narrow sense of health, I think it’s important to remember that the direct effects of people dying from coronavirus and this has been affected by people helping to pull the curve down, but there are also indirect effects which have to be taken into account when we’re thinking about the health effects over the longterm. Those include, the indirect effects were the NHS to be overwhelmed and because of people’s actions, there is still room in intensive care. There’s still room in the emergency services across the country in terms of other health issues.
Chris Whitty: (13:24)
But we also have to remember the effects on things that have to be delayed to free up NHS space. And we have to think about the longterm health effects of some of the economic measures. These are all health things and there are other economic and other things that need to be taken into account by ministers, but for me as a doctor, I’m thinking about the health things. All of these need to be taken into account in working out how is the best way to go to the next stage in this epidemic.
Patrick Vallance: (13:52)
If I can also come in, if I may?
Sam Coates: (13:54)
Patrick Vallance: (13:54)
Chris spoke about the doubling time in intensive care, which has got longer. If you look in the community at the moment, you would expect there to be no doubling time. This is not doubling. In the community. you would expect this now to be shrinking for all the reasons I’ve said. And the evidence suggests that that is what’s happening in terms of the transmission in community. So that all points in the right direction. And the doubling time in ICU is a reflection of what’s happening earlier and the efforts that have been made in terms of social distancing.
Dominic Raab: (14:25)
Sam did you want to follow up?
Sam Coates: (14:28)
Just in terms of publishing the principles that we will rely on, perhaps not next week because we are, as you say, in a different place to Germany, but will the British government at some point explain to the British people in a document, the tradeoffs and the evidence about how they’re going to go about lifting the lockdown?
Dominic Raab: (14:47)
Well look, we’ll make the right decisions at the right moments and we’ll be guided by the science. I think that’s really all I’d say at this point. But just remember, I think the focus, and we don’t see any distraction from that, as we look forward to the long bank holiday weekend, is just picking up on the evidence that Patrick and Chris have set out, is not to take our eye off the ball, not to undo all the good work, not to undo the sacrifices so many people have made by becoming more lax, or failing to follow the guidance at just the moment where we need to make sure we double down, follow the guidance, get through this peak.
Dominic Raab: (15:23)
I think that’s the most important thing right now.
Dominic Raab: (15:26)
Hannah Miller from ITV Granada.
Hannah Miller: (15:30)
Thank you, Foreign Secretary. Two questions for you. Today, Greater Manchester police revealed that last weekend they received reports of more than a thousand gatherings. How can they possibly be expected to police that when around a fifth of their staff are not in work?
Hannah Miller: (15:44)
And secondly, I want to talk to you about furloughing. We’ve spoken to a blind warehouse worker in Rochdale called Joe. He is worried about being able to socially distance and he’s being told to go in or to take unpaid leave. The government said it wants employers to take socially responsible decisions. Does that sound socially responsible to you?
Dominic Raab: (16:06)
I don’t know all the details of the case, but he sounds like a very vulnerable individual. We’ve provided the support to employers, we know they’re under pressure and we want all businesses to do the right thing. We’re doing our bit and I think it’s important for us all to pull together and particularly for the most vulnerable in our communities. I’d want employees to think long and hard if they have people like that, who they’re employing and who are within their care in a broader sense.
Dominic Raab: (16:32)
On the issue, I think it was Greater Manchester police. The police doing a great job and it’s a very difficult line for them to walk, but I think they’re doing a terrific job. Above all, as we go into this long bank holiday weekend, I think people should think very long and hard, not just about the guidance and the importance of keeping up, but about what happens to those on the NHS frontline who are doing a heroic job if people in large numbers don’t comply with those rules. I would urge everyone just to take a moment before they do anything, however warm it is, however great the temptation, just to think about the sacrifices those in the frontline, particularly in our NHS are making.
Dominic Raab: (17:15)
Did you want to come back again?
Hannah Miller: (17:17)
Thank you. Yeah, thanks. Just on the furloughing and guidance around people with disabilities. Do you accept that the guidance around social distancing for people with disabilities perhaps needs to be looked at in a bit more detail?
Patrick Vallance: (17:31)
Well, we can certainly take another look at it, but of course it’s the way it’s applied that’s really important. With a flexibility, and again as I said, a sense of the fact that we’re all in this together and we’ll pull through this together. We can always look at the guidance. We want to make sure it’s as clear as possible, but it’s the way it’s implemented as well, which is really important.
Patrick Vallance: (17:51)
Ben Kentish from LBC.
Ben Kentish: (17:55)
Thank you, Foreign Secretary. You talked about the sacrifices that NHS workers are making, and we’re hearing more stories of that today. People losing their lives.
Ben Kentish: (18:03)
In some cases, they’re telling us, because they haven’t got the right equipment. Now, to thank them for that work, thousands of people around the country tonight will take part in the Clap for Our Carers. But I wondered if, today, you could go further and commit to, when this crisis is over, giving them a real reward, a financial thank you for the sacrifices that they’re making on behalf of us all?
Ben Kentish: (18:27)
If I may, could I ask the Chief Scientific Advisor, Matt Hancock, the Health Secretary, mentioned last week that a surveillance study was being carried out with an antibody test that’s been developed by Public Health England. Could you tell us what the early results of that show, in terms of how many people in Britain have had the virus? How many would you expect to have had it in the 12 to 18 months or so until a vaccine is developed? Thank you.
Dominic Raab: (18:55)
I think that they’re really good points. I think the carers, and all those on the front line, as I paid tribute to in my earlier remarks, have done an amazing job. We’re obviously doing everything we can to provide the equipment, the PPE, that they need. We’re rolling that out at pace. I recognize that there have been challenges with the distribution. We’ve got a help line, but most importantly, we’re really rolling that out in pace. We’ve got the military involved where that’s appropriate.
Dominic Raab: (19:22)
I’ll be taking part in the Clap for Carers this evening. You’re right, there will be a moment where we look at how we formally recognize all of those on the front line who have done so much to pull us through this very difficult period for our country.
Sir Patrick Vallance: (19:36)
On the surveillance test, [inaudible 00:19:37] the antibody test. The first thing to say is that these tests are difficult to get right. Across the world, people are trying to get really specific and sensitive tests on this, and that’s a lot of collaboration across the world to do that.
Sir Patrick Vallance: (19:50)
The scientists at Public Health England have worked on this, and yes, there is a surveillance study underway. I don’t know the results yet. They’re not out. This will continue until we’ve got the right results, and they’re able to communicate them. Of course, they will communicate them, like all good scientific practice, as soon as they’re ready, and they know what they show, and they can validate that these are reliable results. That’s what’s going on at the moment.
Sir Patrick Vallance: (20:15)
In terms of how many people would you expect to get this before a vaccine or treatment comes along, I think the processes that we’ve got in place are clearly to suppress the number. The idea is to try to keep that number as low as possible.
Dominic Raab: (20:28)
Did you want to come back on any of that, Ben?
Ben Kentish: (20:31)
If I may, Foreign Secretary, you said there would be a time to reward NHS workers. I wonder if you might just [inaudible 00:20:37] on a personal level, what form you think that should take?
Dominic Raab: (20:40)
Well, I do think it’s important, while they’re doing this great job, and we’re all trying to focus on getting us through the peak, that we keep our focus and our attention on that. I’d want to give it proper thought, with all of the other people in government. But what I would say is I think we all recognize the enormous sacrifice they’ve made. How much it’s done to help pull us through, even to this level, how much it’s done to avoid some of the worse scenarios we could have otherwise faced. I’m sure there will be the appropriate level of recognition at the right moment, once we’re through the worst of it.
Dominic Raab: (21:15)
Oliver Wright, from The Times.
Oliver Wright: (21:17)
Thank you. A question, first, to Professor Whitty, if I may. We know that the daily death figures that you’re reporting come from the NHS, but we’re expecting next week figures from the Office of National Statistics which will be wider than that. Do you expect that when you take into account care homes and other settings that we’ll see a significant rise in the total death rate?
Oliver Wright: (21:42)
Just to follow up on Ben’s point, with Sir Patrick, John Newton said last week on this antibody study that’s being carried out at Porton Down that they were days away from having preliminary results. You say that you haven’t seen the results, but would you anticipate that those results were being made available to the SAGE Committee that will advise ministers on the next stage in the lockdown?
Dominic Raab: (22:10)
You can go first, Chris.
Chris Whitty: (22:10)
On the NHS figures versus the ONS figures, so they measure different things. The reason the NHS figures are very useful for us is that we an get them very fast, and they are collected in the same way the whole time, and they’re very comparable, actually, to international figures, which tend to be collected in the same way. What that allows us to do is what Patrick was doing at the beginning, which is to see in relatively near time the trends over time, because it’s a very stable way of collecting the data. Those NHS figures are all people who are proven to have coronavirus on testing, so they’re definitely cases in hospitals.
Chris Whitty: (22:50)
The ONS figures are much wider than that. I would therefore expect that it’s not just that they go further outside hospital. They also include people who have, sadly, died where the doctor thinks that coronavirus may be involved, even if there is no test involved in that decision. I would expect those numbers to be higher, but because it takes longer for the data to come in, that’s always going to be a lag between those two amounts, which makes the ONS data extremely useful for looking at the wider picture, but the NHS data is more useful for us to make decisions day-to-day, and to make decisions, for example, about what we need to change in terms of our current interventions.
Sir Patrick Vallance: (23:32)
The answer to the question is yes, of course we would expect to see those results in SAGE, and we’ll see them when they are ready, and the studies have been completed, and they’ve been properly analyzed. We spend a lot of time looking at this from across the world, as well. Had calls with colleagues from many countries earlier this week on this very topic. Had a call last night with somebody from Stanford University working in this area. This is something we look at right the way across the world all the time, and of course, the PHE results will come to SAGE when they’re ready.
Dominic Raab: (24:00)
Do you want to come back on any of that? No?
Oliver Wright: (24:02)
Just would like to ask you, Mr. Raab, if it’s possible, have you managed to have any contact with the Prime Minister since you took over his responsibilities, at all?
Dominic Raab: (24:10)
Not, yet. I think it’s important to, particularly while he’s in intensive care, to let him focus on the recovery. We in the government have got this covered. I chaired the COBRA meeting that I’ve just come from. We are pursuing all of the different strands of our strategy to defeat the coronavirus, and I’m confident we’ll get there.
Dominic Raab: (24:32)
George Parker from the FT.
George Parker: (24:33)
Question for the Foreign Secretary. I’d like to ask you about the Bank of England’s decision today to effectively extend its overdraft facility for the government. We’re told this is a temporary measure, but nevertheless, it’s very unusual. Can you explain exactly why the government needs this facility, and is it possibly because the cost of your economic interventions to address the crisis are costing more than you expected, particularly the job retention scheme? Separate question for Professor Whitty. We heard today from U.S. scientific equipment maker Thermo Fisher that they have an agreement with the government to supply 100,000 swab tests a day, at least. Can I just check that is correct? If so, what are we waiting for?
Dominic Raab: (25:19)
George, on the Bank of England decision, obviously, we’ve got an independent Bank of England. They make those decisions autonomously. As you said, it’s a temporary measure, but the broader picture is, from the fiscal measures that the Chancellor has taken through to the measures taken by the Bank of England, we want to make sure that we’re in the best position. Not just to see us through this crisis from a health point-of-view, as important as that is, but also from an economic point-of-view. We are making sure that we use all of the levers across government to achieve that.
Chris Whitty: (25:50)
On the testing, we’re ramping up every day on the testing. But I think it’s important to differentiate between tests available and ready to run, and the whole system running, in terms of in the lab, and actually having the whole system running so you’re very confident that someone who needs a test can order the right test and get the right result back.
Chris Whitty: (26:09)
The whole process is going up every single day this month. I expect to see an increase in the number of tests that go out and the number of results that come back, including Thermo Fisher, but not only Thermo Fisher. There are quite a few other groups who are involved in this.
Dominic Raab: (26:24)
Did you want to follow up there, George?
George Parker: (26:26)
Yeah, just a very quick one to Sir Chris Whitty. I mean, doesn’t this really reflect the fact that the problem lies in our laboratories, and not through any, for example, shortage of chemicals, which is something that Michael Gove said last week?
George Parker: (26:39)
Mr. Raab, very quickly, going back to your earlier opening remarks, you said that the [inaudible 00:26:43] will have to stay in place until we have evidence that clearly shows that we have moved beyond the peak. Should we assume, therefore, that once we have evidence that shows we have moved beyond the peak, that the restrictions will start to be eased?
Dominic Raab: (26:57)
Well, I think the whole point is not to make assumptions, but to be guided by the evidence when we’ve got it. I don’t know, Chris, what do want to…
Dominic Raab: (27:03)
Chris Whitty: (27:03)
In terms of kit, there was a period when both swabs and reagents were in short supply. That’s beginning to sort itself out. A testing process is a long chain, of which actually doing the test is in the middle of it, but there are large parts either side. But you’re absolutely right that that was a barrier. It’s much less of a barrier, although it has not gone away completely. But it is a lot better than it was.
Dominic Raab: (27:29)
Thanks, George. Hugo Guy from The Eye.
Hugo Guy: (27:34)
Thank you. Foreign Secretary, can I just ask you to clarify the extent of your own authority in the Prime Minister’s absence? We’re aware you’re chairing the committees and the cabinet that he would normally do. Are you authorized to make big decisions, for example on lifting the lockdown, a decision that’s going to have to come next week? If the Prime Minister is still unavailable, can you make that decision in the same way that he would do?
Hugo Guy: (28:04)
And Sir Patrick, can I just ask, as you pointed out, the mass surveillance testing results are not yet available. Do you have any estimate at all for how many people in the UK have probably been infected with coronavirus, or are we just still flying blind on that one?
Dominic Raab: (28:30)
Thanks very much, Hugo. Look, I’ve got all authority I need to make the relevant decisions, whether it’s through chairing cabinet updates, as I did earlier in the week, chairing Cobra, or indeed the morning meetings of senior ministers. We’ve got a great team. It’s a team effort. Obviously, it’s not exactly the same as when the Prime Minister was here. That’s very clear. But as his first secretary, deputized to discharge his responsibilities, we’ve got all the authority we need.
Sir Patrick: (28:57)
I think in terms of the test, one of the reasons it’s so important to get that test out is to try and work out the proportion of people who may have had the disease asymptomatically. I think across the world it’s looking less likely that it’s a very high number. It’s not likely that it’s 90% of people have had it asymptomatically. Much more likely, it’s lower than 50, could be around 30, but we don’t know for sure.
Sir Patrick: (29:22)
In terms of the number of people who’ve had it in each country, that’s why the antibody test is so important. There are beginning to be some stories of people getting answers to that question. Again, I wouldn’t expect that to be a high percentage. Most of the figures that come out so far are low single-digit percentages, but we need to see. There’s a couple of examples of slightly higher percentages than that, but these are early data, and we need to make sure that we’ve got the right information.
Dominic Raab: (29:49)
Would you like a supplementary there, Hugo?
Hugo Guy: (29:52)
Well, yeah. Can I just clarify, Sir Patrick? Appreciate the picture is still unclear, but you would expect it to be, for example, well under 10%, probably, of people in the UK have been infected, by comparison to the situation in other countries? Is that fair enough?
Sir Patrick: (30:09)
I can’t tell you what the answer’s going to be. We need to do the experiment, find out the answer. But from what I’ve seen from other places, it’s mainly single-digit numbers, and it could be a bit higher in some places.
Dominic Raab: (30:20)
Andrew MacAskill from Reuters.
Andrew MacAskill: (30:24)
Many thanks. I’ve got two quick questions for the advisers. First, for Sir Patrick, why did your [inaudible 00:30:30] committee, as members told Reuters, not begin reviewing and modeling the consequences of a full lockdown across the country until mid-March? And for Chris Whitty, I’ve got to ask, Britain created a coronavirus test on January the 10th. Why did it take more than two months to contact many labs to ask them to create capacity to carry out tests?
Sir Patrick: (30:52)
Thank you. Maybe I’ll tell you what happened, and that’s the easiest way to answer the question, which is, we started working on this in January. We had our first SAGE meeting in January. We had a pre-SAGE before the 24th, I think it was, of January. We had an earlier meeting, and in February, we modeled all of the interventions that you’ve now seen. Those interventions were modeled, looked at in SAGE, including scenarios of full lockdown to push the peak out to autumn. They were done throughout February. That’s why in early March it was possible for the Department of Health and Social Care to publish an action plan which included all of the measures, and reported that all of these might be necessary at some point, and they needed to be put in the right combination and in certain orders to get the maximum benefit. So it’s not correct that we didn’t model it till March. We modeled it throughout February, and that was, of course, what led to the action plan.
Chris Whitty: (31:50)
Yeah. On testing, you’ve got to remember, this is a completely new virus initially. From the time that, actually, the Chinese scientists put the genotype on the web, which was a fantastic first step, we moved incredibly quickly to get a first test. There was quite a rapid ramp-up, but it initially had to start off to be sure the test worked. To make a point which I’ve made before, getting a test that’s inaccurate is really unhelpful. So we had to be confident about that, and then it was rolled out in stages, and it continues to be rolled out in stages, and will continue all the way through this month.
Dominic Raab: (32:22)
Andrew, would you like a final question?
Andrew MacAskill: (32:25)
Yeah, just to follow up on that point, we were told by … This is to Sir Patrick. John Edmunds told us that neither him or Neil Ferguson carried out any modeling for the lockdown until March. I’m just wondering why there’s that discrepancy there.
Sir Patrick: (32:39)
Well, I don’t know exactly what John said to you and what he didn’t say to you. I know what happened, and I’ve just told you what happened. The modeling came in from a variety of sources.
Dominic Raab: (32:49)
Thanks, Andrew. Thank you all very much.