Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab led today’s daily press conference. He stated that the R number was coming down and that the Prime Minister would set out the roadmap for the next few weeks on Sunday. He confirmed that the plan would include milestones with key conditions attached and that the Government could tighten or loosen restrictions to keep the rate of infection down if this was necessary.
The Government has throughout the day been dampening down all the frenzied media speculation about a bigger lifting of the lockdown. The Government are effectively planning a two-phased announcement over Sunday/Monday. There will be the PM’s announcement on Sunday and this his Commons statement the following day, with more detail likely then. This follows criticism that the Prime Minister was not announcing the measures to Parliament first.
The Bank of England has stated that the crisis could cost every UK family £9,000, GDP could shrink by 25% in the second quarter, unemployment could increase to 9% of the workforce and house prices could fall 16%. The overall economy could shrink 14% this year if social distancing is phased out between June and September. This is the sharpest downturn since 1706. They predicted it could not be till next summer when activity fully comes back because people will be cautious about their spending. UK growth is expected to rebound in 2021 to 15%.
Meanwhile, press speculation on the Government’s announcement of what, how and when aspects of the lockdown will be eased on Sunday continues to dominate lockdown coverage. The Prime Minister convened Cabinet in the morning to discuss the easing of lockdown measures ahead of his announcement this Sunday.
The Daily Press Conference
Dominic Raab was accompanied by Sir Ian Diamond, ONS Chief Statistician and Dr Jenny Harries Deputy Chief Medical Officer at the Daily Press Conference. He announced an extension of the lockdown, with no change in the guidance.
Dominic Raab, Foreign Secretary
- The UK hospital death toll has increased by 464 in the last 24 hours.
- A monumental effort by the UK people means we have passed the peak.
- On Sunday the PM will set out the next steps we will take. For example how to maintain social distancing rules at work to prevent a second peak.
- 30,615 people in the UK have now died after testing positive for Covid19.
- There have now been 1,534,533 tests carried out, of which 206,715 have tested positive.
- 86,583 tests were carried out yesterday.
- Three weeks ago 5 tests were set out, the scientific advice said the Government could not make any changes during this period and people stuck to the rules.
- This involved people not doing what we enjoy in life. Mr Raab applauded the NHS and carers etc who kept going.
- We have now passed the peak and not overwhelmed the NHS. The tragic death toll and PPE in care homes issues recognised.
- The rate of deaths is falling and the rate of infection falling but the virus is not beaten yet. The R rate is between 0.5 and 0.9 depending on where you are in the country. The virus remains infectious and deadly.
- Aware of the differential death rate and its impact on ethnic minorities. Public Health England (PHE) is looking at what "interventions can sensibly be made" to protect frontline workers from BAME backgrounds.
- The roadmap will include milestones with conditions attached for each, at each point when we take these decisions it will be based on the scientific advice.
- //Will be detailed guidance for business, public and other organisations with the roadmap.
- If people disregard the advice then there will be a second peak and potentially the re-imposition of restrictions. Need to open up in a way that can protect life.
- Any changes made will be carefully monitored and based on the scientific evidence.
- Each stage needs to be subject to strict conditions and monitoring.
- Will consider restrictions and monitoring at the border under some circumstances.
- Going to concentrate on reducing the R rate in care homes and hospitals and confident can get it down in the next few weeks.
- Any changes to the lockdown in the short-term will be modest and incremental, what has been reported in the papers is not a reliable guide.
- It is a very dangerous and delicate moment.
Dr Jenny Harries, Deputy Chief Medical Officer
- Percentage of people avoiding contact with vulnerable people – 92%.
- Percentage of people who have not left their home except for an approved reason - 82%.
- Percentage of people who have worked from home - 44% compared with 12% last year.
- 86,000 tests conducted in the last day. There was a technical hitch over the weekend which has been resolved.
- All regions have come down compared to the peak.
- On critical care beds – less than a third are occupied by Covid 19 patients.
- 7 day rolling average of deaths the lowest since the end of March.
- The R rate is lowest in London.
- 539 deaths in all settings in the last period.
- Most of the transmissions are at home.
- If you have a disease with an incubation period of 14 days airport temperature checks are less effective. You have to have the equipment and it has it be reliable. The chances of getting the passenger with a temperature is small. Many people don’t have a temperature with the virus particularly early on. Temperature checks do provide some reassurance though.
Sir Ian Diamond, ONS Chief Statistician
- Soon we will have more reliable information on the number who have had the virus at some stage.
- R rate has risen because of epidemic in care homes, and controlling it "a real challenge" over coming weeks.
- Need to get the R rate in care homes and hospitals down but in the general community it is low.
Lockdown – when will it end and how?
The Prime Minister’s spokesperson earlier stated that lockdown changes in England from next week will be “very limited” and promised that the Prime Minister would use “maximum caution” when starting to ease any measures. The spokesperson went on to say that “we are in a critical moment in the fight against the virus and we will not do anything that risks the progress the British public has made”.
The Daily Mirror claims to have obtained further details of the five-step plan to take the UK out of lockdown over the next six months, citing a 50-page draft Government blueprint. Pippa Crera, Daily Mirror Political Editor, reports that, after Monday’s expansion of outdoor activities, the next step will be the return to school of Year 6 and then other primary school pupils across England from the end of May.
Secondary schools will then return at the end of June, when outdoor activities may also be extended further to include small-team sports, outdoor seating at cafés and outdoor gatherings of fewer than 30 people. Pubs, bars and restaurants could follow in September, Crera states, provided that they implement strict social distancing rules, followed by gyms and even fan-attended football matches the following month.
The Telegraph reports that “The Prime Minister will encourage more people to go back to work if they can do so safely, with The Financial Times claiming that some businesses will be encouraged back to work next week, especially those “where social distancing can be observed, such as on construction sites”.
It is important to recognise that until the statement is made by the Prime Minister on Sunday the above remains speculation and Mr Raab was keen to stress that current press reports are not a good guide.
- Welsh Secretary Simon Hart has set out the importance of moving forward out of lockdown as one United Kingdom. He writes “all four nations entered lockdown restrictions at the same time and should, if at all possible make any modifications to the restrictions at the same time. This is because our economy and systems are so intertwined”.
- The Financial Times has reported that the Government wants universities to prepare to embrace reform after this crisis in return for the financial stabilisation package announced this week. Institutions requiring rescue will be forced to accept a “restructuring regime” in return for help.
- The Department for Health and Social Care have launched a dedicated app for social care workers. It will include guidance, learning resources and mental health and wellbeing toolkits.
- The Foreign and Commonwealth Office has announced five further flights to bring stranded British travellers home from India.
- The Government has been accused by an Irish politician of showing “bad faith” in talks with the EU by refusing to let the bloc establish an office in Belfast post-Brexit. Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin told the Dáil yesterday that important decisions need to be made in the coming weeks and months about the UK’s departure from the EU.
- Justice Secretary Robert Buckland set out plans on ITV’s Peston show last night for social distancing in courtrooms. “We’ll have to use, for example, two courts where we would have used one in the past, so that jurors can retire into a safe space and also be spaced out and distanced within the court,” he said. “We’ll start to see that happening in the next few weeks, but it will be a slow build-up.”
- The trial of the new NHSX app has been extended to all 140,000 of the Isle of Wight’s residents. The Times has reported that “The early stage of a trial has revealed it asks Android mobile users’ permission to log their location data. Whitehall officials were clear that despite this request, the app did not in fact access or record any location or GPS information. NHSX has tried to fix the ‘presentational glitch,’ but is not confident it can be solved.”
- A shipment of PPE from Turkey cannot be used by the NHS because it doesn’t meet UK safety standards. The Daily Telegraph reports that “Every one of the 400,000 gowns brought back from Turkey last month has been impounded in a warehouse outside Heathrow Airport”.
- The Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy has denied a request from the McLaren Group for a £150m loan.
- Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, who today announced that lockdown measures in Scotland “must be extended” for another three weeks. Ms Sturgeon highlighted that easing restrictions would be “very risky”, although she confirmed that she is considering allowing people in Scotland to exercise outdoors more than once a day. In the announcement she also echoed the Welsh Secretary’s comments today in stating that she would prefer all four nations of the UK to keep the same rules and only change them in tandem.
- The Office for National Statistics has found that black people are up to four times more likely to die with Covid-19 compared to white people.
- SAGE has held its first meeting without high-profile member Professor Neil Ferguson following his resignation. Professor David Heymann, another SAGE member, has stated the Ferguson’s modelling work will still be key.
- The Guardian has reported that other senior Government advisers and scientists are unhappy with Ferguson’s treatment. It is alleged that they have pointed out that he is an academic researcher with no decision-making power and was unpaid in the role.
- A team from Glasgow University has claimed that their research shows that being obese doubles the risk of needing hospital treatment for Covid-19.