We will be updating this area after each of the Downing Street briefings, which are currently happening three times a week. You can access our work in this area, and further national guidance, in our COVID-19 member hub.
Scroll down for the latest updates, or seeing older updates below.
Health and social care secretary Matt Hancock gave a statement on COVID-19 to the House this afternoon.
Jeremy Hunt: NHS waiting lists have risen to nearly 5m people – have had capacity problems for some time. Does he agree with the health think tanks letter calling for independent workforce projections, strongly supported by the select committee and Academy of Royal Colleges?
Matt Hancock: Record number of doctors and nurses. Need to make sure we drive this project of 50,000 more nurses.
Today's JCVI/MHRA press conference was led by It was led by Jonathan Van Tam who was joined by Professor June Raine (MHRA), Sir Munir Pirmohamed (Commission on human medicines) and Professor Wei Shen Lim (JCVI).
JVT opening remarks: This is a course correction to the UK programme, keep this in context
Prof Raine: Over 20m have been given vaccine, best way to protect people, no effective medicine without risk
These vaccines are complex – they do clinical trials but then they need data when it rolls out. Public safety is at the forefront and rigorous scientific review is being done.
Questions from the media:
BBC: worried that change of course might damage vaccine confidence in the young especially? be specific on the risks?
JVT: we don't want this to result in a loss of confidence and remain important that people come back for their second dose - all adults need to come forward when they are offered it. Benefit of vaccination is v high in older people, but there is still a benefit in younger people of them being vaccinated - where we have an alternative vaccine it would be preferable to offer an alternative just on the side of safety.
ITV: what would you say to a 31 year old?
Vaccine system needs to be fair and transparent - we have set out clearly what the risks are. For someone who is 32/32 they need to make their own decision, but the balance is in favour of them being vaccinated
Sky: some countries say not under 55 or 60 - are they being over cautious?
Every country needs to make their own decision about their population - size of waves, risk of further waves, amount of vaccine, how well it is being delivered etc.
Sun: Link is firming up? Does the data suggest that there is a link? Expecting the Jansen jab to arrive in summer - is there potentially a good news story for young people?
Alternative right now in deployment is Pfizer, and Moderna from mid-April in England. Common knowledge that the UK has placed orders with Jansen - don’t have certainty on the timing yet could be summer - must be part of in the mix for solutions for vaccine requirements going forwards
The Times: theory of how this reaction might be triggered?
Not sure - scientific work needs to happen to know.
Express: biological reasons for women being at more risk than men? why? yellow card - other risks that have been picked up?
We don't know yet if there is a gender predilection. Yellow card - we publish this every week; encourage everyone to report to us etc.
At today’s press conference, Boris Johnson was joined by Professor Chris Whitty, chief medical officer for England and Sir Patrick Vallance, chief scientific adviser. The prime minister announced the next steps to easing lockdown restrictions. The government has updated guidance on Coronavirus restrictions: what you can and cannot do.
Chris Whitty presented the slides:
Public: When will care home residents be able to visit family?
PM: Must do everything possible to protect them, a review is currently being undertaken.
Public: Could COVID-19 mutate and affect children? Are scientists looking at vaccines for children?
PV: No evidence that the virus will mutate to effect children, expect virus to mutate over time and therefore may be necessary to update the vaccine every year or so. Looking at vaccines for children.
CW: Children are relatively unaffected therefore would want to be confident vaccines are safe for them.
BBC: Can you guarantee a vote on vaccine passports? When do you think people can book a foreign holiday?
PM: On ‘COVID status certification’, no question for producing this for going to the shops or pub garden on Monday. Not planning this for step 3. Three ways for possible COVID certification: antibodies, vaccine status, negative test. Must be careful in handling this in not starting a system that is discriminatory. Pilot events in the next few weeks. On international travel, hopeful for 17 May but do not what to give hostages to fortune and underestimate difficulties. Global Travel Taskforce will report later this week.
ITV: Low adherence to Test, Trace and Isolate?
PM: Testing has been a massive advantage to this country.
PV: Lateral flow tests area are useful in picking up people who would not otherwise be picked up.
Sky: Does ‘freedom’ include twice weekly testing and COVID certificates? Can we learn from Chile which has high vaccination rates but has recently closed borders?
PM: A great deal depends on vaccine roll out and satisfying the four tests.
CW: Chile and Israel provide important examples. Do not yet know reasons for different outcomes. Assumption that you vaccinate lots of people and the problem goes away – Chile provides a good corrective to this.
The I: Did you envision that we would still be the pandemic today one year ago?
PM: Amazed that science has produced so many vaccines.
CW: Said at the time that the virus would be with us for the foreseeable future, but science will de-risk it over time.
PV: Remarkable scientific triumph of vaccines.
The Express: When will vaccinated people be able to hug friends and family? Is COVID certificates ‘un-British’?
PV: Roadmap lays out steps. Will not know impact of easing restrictions yet.
PM: Principle of requiring COVID certificates can be a sensible but we are some way off.
In today’s press conference, Boris Johnson was joined by Professor Chris Whitty, chief medical officer, and Sir Patrick Vallance, chief scientific adviser.
Prime minister (full statement here):
Chris Whitty and Patrick Vallance presented the slides:
Health related questions:
Public: exemptions on international travel to see family?
PM: subject to the same rules, will be reporting on Global Travel Taskforce recommendations on 5 April
Public: will second doses of vaccine be impacted by supply?
PM: at the moment, no foreseen issues. April will be second dose month.
BBC: contradiction of easing restrictions but needing to be cautious? Concerns about wave in Europe?
PM: will be saying more ahead of each step.
PV: five week gap allows data to be assessed in the fourth week (the earliest possible), everything seems to be moving in the right direction but will need to for a formal analysis next week.
CW: always concerned about any areas with high cases, bigger risk is variants of concern where vaccine might be less effective.
ITV: concerns that public will take easing of restrictions too far? Concerns that today’s relaxations will cause another uptick? How well are we protected by the vaccine?
PM: do not yet how robust our defences against another wave are – important people maintain discipline.
CW: high likelihood of an uptick but was anticipated, risk of transmission is massively lower if they stay outside.
Sky: concerns that people will stop listening? Are we really at risk of third wave?
PM: people understand the need for caution.
CW: wall against COVID will be stronger with a second dose of the vaccine but it is not a complete wall. Always people who choose not be vaccinated. This is a slow unlocking.
Daily Mail: why should people who have had the vaccine not hug their grandchildren? Why can we not unlock now when we did last year with the same rates?
CW: increasing levels of protection with two doses, keep rates down will provide more protection. No complete protection.
Evening Standard: Can you rule out another full lockdown? Concerns about low uptake of the vaccine in care home staff?
PM: Yes, if everyone continues to obeys the guidance and if the vaccine roll out continues and is proven effective. Hopeful – nothing in the data currently suggests need to deviate from path.
CW: Important to stress that vaccine will protect you and your family, misinformation about vaccine – key to go to reliable sources (compared to the risk from COVID, the risk from vaccines is much smaller), people who are looking after vulnerable people have a professional responsibility to protect them.
The prime minister delivered the Downing Street coronavirus briefing on the one year anniversary of the first national lockdown. He was joined by Professor Chris Whitty, chief medical officer and Sir Patrick Vallance, chief scientific adviser.
The prime minister started by committing to build a memorial to all those who have died. He says we are on track to meet the target of vaccinating all adults by July noting that 30 million doses of the vaccine have been administered and finishes saying that we "will meet our targets" and that lockdown will be eased "irreversibly".
Professor Chris Whitty:
Took us through the slides:
Public: How will the UK deal with the third wave in Europe?
PM: UK has very tough measures at our borders already, including tests, passenger locator forms, £2,000 fines, quarantines etc." Won’t rule out further measures, "we keep all these measures under review."
Public: How long do antibodies last for? Does it mean that vulnerable groups vaccinated first will need to be prioritised for a second vaccination cycle before young people have even had their first jab.
Sir Patrick: in general antibody levels are ‘holding up’ but we don't know exactly how long because obviously people haven't been vaccinated for a very long period. So you may see some slight decline. There will be a need to think about booster jabs in the autumn.
BBC: If there’s one thing you wish you’d done differently, what would it be?
PM: There are probably many things we wished we'd known and done differently in retrospect. We were fighting an unknown disease. The single biggest false assumption was about asymptomatic transmission.
Sir Patrick: I wish we knew then what we know now. We've learned so much. The one thing that would have been really important early on was to have better data. That would have required testing to be up and running early on. We simply didn't have it then.
Professor Whitty: It wasn't until people got into hospital and were dying that we had a grip on how fast things were moving. "We had a lack of understanding of how widespread the virus was in Europe.
ITV: Should we have locked down sooner?
PM: No good outcomes either way, as I think all our viewers understand, all these consequences are very, very tough for people. And all I can say is we took all the decisions with the interests of the British people.
Sky: What the main challenges will be and whether COVID’s legacy will last a lifetime?
PM: This is something we will remember and be dealing with in different ways for as long as I live.
Professor Whitty: COVID will be with us for the foreseeable future. Will be able to bring it down to manageable levels, but it isn’t going away. there will be a "delayed" negative impact on other parts of the NHS and that it has highlighted deprivation. Encourages people to take up screening appointments.
Telegraph: Should the UK government’s policy objective be to eradicate COVID or bring down to lowest possible levels
PM: eradication doesn’t make sense in a globalised economy, but should be aiming to bring cases right down.
Professor Whitty: Have only achieved eradication of one disease (smallpox) over hundreds of years. Have very good vaccines, and good tests, would strongly encourage people to get tested.
Sir Patrick: There will be recurrances, particularly over winter. Chances of zero covid very low.
Politico: Is there a plan to share AZ vaccine supplies with the EU?
PM: Vaccines are produced by international cooperation. The UK will continue to work with international partners on the rollout. The UK does not believe in blockades. It would never engage in them. He is "encouraged" by some of the things he has heard from Europe on this topic.
Professor Whitty: It is essential that scientists collaborate. This should be seen as an international issue. There is no point in one country being immunised on its own. We need the whole planet to be inoculated. We need an international approach.
The prime minister was joined by Professor Chris Whitty, chief medical officer for England, and Dr June Raine of the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency in today’s press conference which focused on the disproved link between the AZ vaccine and blood clots and also on vaccine supply.
Dr June Raine:
Health related questions:
Public: Is the UK able to provide data to alleviate concerns about blood clots and AZ?
JR: Yes. Report will communicate all the data and stats around blood clots.
CW: All medicines have risks, like aspirin. Still in a situation where the ONS think 1 in 270 people have got COVID. Still a common and dangerous disease.
Public: Threat of EU blocking export of vaccines?
PM: People should be under no misapprehensions and second doses will be available. These vaccines are a multinational effort, produced as a result of an multinational cooperation. We do not have export bans on exporting vaccines.
BBC: Is there a danger that unfounded concerns of the AZ vaccine would put people off? How important is it that the under 50s get immunised as soon as possible.
PM: Medical professionals view this as safe and has been confirmed by the EMA.
CW: Overwhelming professional view is that these vaccines are highly effective and very safe relative to the risk of infection. Clear that the British public have understood this with high uptake. 99% of people who died were over 50 or with pre-existing health conditions and therefore were a vaccine priority. The higher the proportion of the population is vaccinated, the lower the risk to everybody.
ITV: No change to the roadmap. Does this vaccine supply issue mean we will fail the first test set out for easing the roadmap?
PM: No, will be able to meet the targets.
Times Radio: Are surplus vaccines banned from being administered to under 50s at vaccination sites? Is India not showing vaccine nationalism in stopping exports?
CW: NHS has been clear that the nine groups should be prioritised. Must prioritise not leaving anyone behind. The key priority is to find all the people not yet given the opportunity to be vaccinated in the high risk groups.
PM: India has not banned export. There is a delay caused by technical reasons.
The Times: How confident that we can ease lockdown on 12 April?
CW: Expecting that schools going back will put some pressure on R. Roadmap was planned with that possibility in mind. Not yet at the point where we can see the full impact of schools being open. Will need to look at data when it comes in. Important to stick to the ‘data, not dates’ approach.
The Express: Any evidence that the suspension of the AZ vaccine has had any impact here on uptake?
CW: Anecdotal reports of people not turning up after news on AZ in Europe. Hope they will be reassured by the EMA, WHO, and health professionals. Numbers were very small. Record numbers have been going through.
Matt Hancock was joined by Professor Jonathan Van Tam, deputy chief medical officer for England, and Dr Mary Ramsey, head of immunisation at Public Health England (PHE).
Key points from the briefing came in the questions, with Hancock assuring people that the UK was still on track to vaccinate all adults by July, when asked about the letter from NHS England about vaccine supply. When asked about the improving data picture JVT urged people to ‘hold the line’ and not assume that once they have been vaccinated it is safe to meet others.
Slides and datasets.
Dr Mary Ramsey:
BBC: A NHS letter which warns of a "significant" reduction in vaccine supply and to stop taking appointments in April. She asks if Mr Hancock can explain this? And what does he make of comments from EU on possibly stopping vaccine exports?
Hancock: over-50s have been invited for jabs and then we are going to really focus on getting the vaccine those who are really vulnerable. Vaccine supply is always lumpy and regularly send letters to those delivering vaccines with updates on supply. UK is on track to offer vaccines to everyone in priority groups 1-9 by April 15.
Supply from EU – work with European colleagues all the time. Oxford AstraZeneca Vaccine was funded by UK government. Helped set up supply chain in EU. Vaccine is provided at cost around the world and legally signed a contract of delivery of first 100million doses in the UK.
ITV: Dominic Cummings seems to think your department is to blame for the biggest failure and not for the success of the vaccine roll out.
Hancock: The vaccine rollout has been a huge team effort. It's taken an awful amount of people to make it happen. “Obviously my department, the vaccines taskforce, the NHS, who has led the way in terms of delivery.”
Daily Mail: When will the over 50s get their jabs?
Hancock: The letter is a normal operational note. *Laura Keunssberg is now reporting that the issue is that fewer Astra Zeneca vaccines are available than expected and that this letter is not just a standard one like others than have been written in course of vaccine programme*. There is enough supply and have NHS across the UK ready to deliver to all over-50s by mid-April. Committed to all adults getting the vaccine by end of July and on track to deliver on that commitment.
The Guardian: Should we have a lessons learned public inquiry now?
Hancock: lessons are being learnt all the time.
JVT: Timing is for politicians. For me personally it would be an unwelcome distraction at this stage. I’m sure lessons will be learnt in due course.
Bloomberg: Is there any scope to bring forward dates in roadmap?
People need to remember that it takes 21 days or more for vaccine to be effective. Vaccine effectiveness continues to increase after 21 days. Not protected moment you’ve had the first dose.
The prime minister, Boris Johnson was joined by Dr Jenny Harries, deputy chief medical officer.
The PM started by thanking teachers and parents and commits to a programme for national recovery to help children catch up with lost learning. He says it is the first step on "the road to freedom" and that "today's return to schools will of course have an impact on the spread of the virus" and repeats that the timing of next steps will be decided by the data.
Dr Jenny Harries took us through the slides and datasets
Mostly focused on schools and whether there would be a surge in infections which could mean schools have to close again. There were also a number of questions about Megan and Harry’s interview with Oprah.
BBC: Now schools have reopened do you accept infection rates will rise?
PM: Think we can do it now because of vaccinating groups 1-4. Will continue to be driven by data.
JH: Do expect there to be an impact on R, but education is of cricial public health importance
ITV: Will you consider speeding up the roadmap?
PM: Have to be driven by data and look at rates of infection – will continue to take a cautious approach.
JH: There are two-week lags between infection and hospitalisation and hospitalisation and death so the five week gap between each stage is crucial to judge the impact of each measure.
LBC: Financial support for self-isolation
PM: Extra money is going to councils - £170m – that’s what he was alluding to when he said previously there was more to come from the chancellor.
Metro: Is the pay increase sufficinet reward for nurses steering the country out of COVID-19?
PM: What nurses say they want is more nurses. The government is hiring 10,000 more boosting the recruitment drive will be key and the extra investment going into the NHS will help.
Matt Hancock, secretary of state for health and social care was joined by Dr Susan Hopkins.
The press conference covered: new evidence of the effectiveness of the vaccine, an update on cases of Brazilian variant, and extra funding to support mental health in schools.
The secretary of state started by outlining the latest data. Slides and datasets here.
Public: What will the government be doing around mental health wellbeing, especially for young children and schools?
SofS: three parts to the mental health response. Firstly to support those who are currently working to deliver mental health services, secondly to expand the number of people who can get access to mental health services. This includes the use of talking therapies and online services, which has been expanded "massively". Thirdly the government is putting extra money into mental health services in schools.
BBC: Is a 1% rise fair?
SofS: One the challenges has been the financial consequences of the pandemic. There is a pay freeze for other public sector workers. 1% rise for NHS staff is what the government considers to be "affordable".
Vaccine hesitancy – is there a case for mandatory vaccination of NHS staff?
SofS: Urge everyone in NHS to get vaccine, have seen uptake increase. not bringing in mandatory vaccination across the board. There is a review being led by Michael Gove which will look into this issue.
ITV: NHS staff pay and how effective is the AstraZeneca vaccine against the Brazillian variant.
SH: there still isn't enough clinical data to say, but based on data from how it works against the South African variant they do hope it will have some impact on reducing hospitalisations and deaths.
The i: When will the socal care reform plans be produced?
SofS: Solving social care has been a long standing issue, will publish details of how we plan to do that this year. More challenging to deliver this in difficult economic times. Integration between health and social care was set out in the White Paper published last month.
Was consideration given to a one-off bonus for NHS staff as is happening Scotland?
SofS: not the approach central government has taken. Have set out what is affordable.
Politics Home: comments from Scottish Tory leader Douglas Ross that test and trace did not work as well as it should have done earlier in the pandemic.
SofS: Test and Trace didn’t exist at the beginning of the pandemic. there has been a "programme of constant improvement" and he adds it is "testament" to that improvement that tests are turnaround in 24 hours for the vast majority of tests. contact-tracing reaches more than 90% of cases and more than 90% of their contacts at "rapid speeds".
Nursing Times: How do you expect to stabilise the NHS and complete vaccination programme without nurses?
SofS: Clear manifesto commitment to 50,000 nurses in the NHS. 10,000 more nurses have joined NHS over last months. The challenge is that the nation's finances are tight. And whilst everybody else in the public sector is having a pay freeze, we are able to pose a pay rise for nurses of 1%.
Matt Hancock, health and social care secretary, held today’s press conference and was joined by Dr Susan Hopkins, Public Health England and Prof Jonathan Van-Tam, deputy chief medical officer for England.
Matt Hancock (slides are here):
Dr Susan Hopkins:
Public: Why is there such disparity in accessing the vaccine across the country?
MH: Working hard to get vaccines out and to deliver according to the JCVI order in a way that minimises wastage. Running around half a million per day over the last week.
Public: Are there specific numbers of cases/deaths needed in order to lift restrictions.
MH: No, four tests: hospitalisations, deaths, variants, vaccine.
BBC: What impact will the vaccine data have on the real world?
JVT: Still 15m who need first dose on the priority groups. Will still take time before being able to apply results. The ratio of mild cases to severe cases should increase in favour of milder cases as time goes by. T
ITV: How likely that there are more than six cases of the Brazil variant? How likely are current vaccines effective?
MH: High degree of confidence that people followed quarantine. Trying to track down sixth case – no signs of further community spread.
Sky: Any prospect of a foreign holiday this summer?
JVT: Still in a zone of great uncertainty. Many European vaccine programmes are running behind ours. Whether we can go on holiday also depends on what foreign countries say and do.
Guardian: European AZ vaccine scepticism?
JVT: Today’s data has vindicated us. Not one to criticise other countries but they will be very interested.
Express: Double masking?
SH: Ideally three layers in a mask. Think one mask with two layers is currently effective for vast majority. In active conversations.
AP: EU’s plan for vaccine passports?
MH: Working with international partners for vaccine certification. This already exists – you need a test in order to travel to the UK. EU looking at certification of a recent test for those who cannot get a vaccine.
In today’s press conference, Matt Hancock, secretary of state for health and social care, was joined by Prof Jonathan Van Tam, deputy chief medical officer and Dr Susan Hopkins, Public Health England.
Prof Jonathan Van Tam (slides are here):
Public: Why was guidance on couples meeting removed?
MH: Wanted to do all that we could to stop spread. Looking at support bubbles.
BBC: Priority of the vaccine for teachers?
MH: Moral thing to do is to save the most lives. JCVI looked at the evidence and the clinical guidance is clear that we should continue by age rage. Data shows teachers are no more likely to catch COVID than anybody else going to work.
JVT: Death rates by occupation are higher in other sectors. More important to be in the queue, worry less about where you are in the queue but be assured it is moving fast.
Channel 4: Is the return of local lockdowns going to happen? What’s behind the regional differences?
MH: Regional disparities is local than in the autumn. Don’t rule out local lockdowns but want to come out of this altogether.
SH: Some of the regional differences are due to occupations. Important people come forward for testing. Taking local action right now.
Huffington Post: 3.5m sick days in the NHS due to mental health. But NHS staff are reported not to be receiving a pay rise in the budget?
MH: Measures in place to ensure NHS staff get the R&R that they need. Employment is down to the individual NHS trust. Support for staff to deal with traumatic experiences.
Northern Echo: GP clinics reporting lack of vaccine supply? Why are people in the North still having travel more than 14 miles to get their dose – has the vaccine strategy been designed for the South.
MH: Vaccine programme has been equal and fair UK wide. There has been a lower amount of supply across the whole UK in the past week or so – but picked up in the past 48hrs. Lumpy with a bumper March.
Tonight Boris Johnson held a press conference with Chris Whitty and Patrick Vallance.
Chris Whitty presented slides:
Questions from public:
What about the second dose? will first dose need to be scaled back?
Johnson: got supplies in place to keep up the rhythm.
Equitable vaccine roll out - will UK make sure this happens?
Yes, important that the UK will support vaccine roll out across the whole world
Questions from the media:
BBC: There has been progress on numbers but have you warned people of what to prepare for in future? And what about uptake? Full uptake? what do you expect it to be?
CW: On the numbers - thinking about it in relative terms, you get lots dying from flu etc 9,000 a year, sometime more etc – COVID is around for the foreseeable future and will be added to the list. Uptake - 66% - no children included. Also uptake from almost every part of society is high
ITV: no reference to R in the 4 tests - what rate of infection should cause concern? Vaccines and testing certificates? Are they the way? Are you persuaded?
CW: Until this point in time, before we had the vaccine we knew that R growing translated into hospital admissions etc. There will be subsequent surge at some point and R is going to creep closer to 1. The vaccine takes a lot of the heavy liftin on this
PM: Vaccine passport: for international travel - other countries might insist (e.g. yellow fever jab) likely to important in travel. Vaccine certificate for eg concerts: clearly complex issues, ethical issues etc., Going to have a review of the whole issue
Sky: resignation if you have to lockdown again?
PM: Can’t guarantee that it will be irreversible; but that’s what we want
Daily Mail – big bang opening, Whitty unhappy? Have you become a gloomster PM – why so slow?
CW: Schools should reopen, important, priority is for schooling, we have a natural firebreak at easter holidays. Insurances are built in and things we are doing this time round that will take the risk even further down than before.
PM: Not going to be reckless etc. Need to do it slowly and not risk people’s lives.
Back to the office or hug/kiss loved ones. Can we look forward to an end to social distancing this summer? Tough on hospitality sector -what are you doing?
PM: The chancellor will be setting out measures; young people have the Kick start programme. Best thing for all sectors is to get them open in a COVID secure way
The prime minister gave a statement to the House on COVID-19 laying out the roadmap out of lockdown in England. The full statement is here and the government has also published its guidance COVID-19 Response – Spring 2021.
Today’s press conference was led by Boris Johnson, prime minister, Prof Chris Whitty, chief medical officer for England, and Sir Simon Stevens, chief executive, NHS England.
Chris Whitty (full slides here):
Public: How will the NHS cope with the ongoing pressure to vaccine millions of people on a never ending cycle and resume a normal health service provision?
PM: NHS runs mass vaccination programmes every year.
CW: Do not yet know how long needed between vaccinations. Will likely not need to be on the same scale as this year continuously.
SS: Thousands of volunteers have come back to help. Can expand people helping over and above the usual NHS workforce. Would expect high street pharmacists can help with vaccinations as they do with flu vaccines.
Public: Will the government commit to a mental health spokesperson at the next briefing to set out to the public how to access mental health support?
PM: More money into NHS for mental health services – important people make use of these services if they need them. Also important they reach out to mental health charities.
CW: One of the next priority groups is those with severe mental health conditions.
BBC: Can you give the guarantee that this will be the last lockdown? Will it be a very gradual easing of restrictions?
PM: Cannot give that guarantee. Battling with nature. Increasing optimistic about the possibilities of opening up with the vaccinations. Want to set out a realistic and cautious timetable.
ITV: How cautious do you intend to be? Will you wait to see the effect of reopening schools? Are we seeing an effect of the vaccines on the death rate?
PM: Do not yet have sufficient clarity on the data to be sure today exactly what we can say on 22 February. Data becomes clearer every day that passes. Advise those reading speculation about what we will do to take them with a pinch of salt.
CW: Too early to put a number of effect on deaths. Would expect evidence in the next few weeks.
Sky: What do you mean by no vaccination programme is 100% effective? What are the implications for protecting public health – will some social distancing measures become permanent?
PM: There will be some people who will not benefit from the vaccination programme as much as others. We think both vaccines are effective in offering a high degree of protection against serious disease or death. Cannot yet quantify what that means for driving down incidence.
CW: Effect of the vaccine will build. Risk will gradually go down.
FT: No NHS data on how many people have turned down the vaccine. Will the government be open to publishing more data on vaccine uptake and what steps are being taken to encourage uptake in minority ethnic groups? Vaccine passports?
SS: Real concern of vaccine hesitancy in black and south Asian communities. Huge effort in community and faith leaders. Now seeing meaning progress in uptake in these communities. Facing dual pandemic: COVID and disinformation. Uptake data is shared with local public health directors while protecting confidentiality.
CW: Many people may not take up the vaccine immediately, but are likely to do so later.
PM: Some countries will insist people coming in have evidence of vaccination, as some do with yellow fever and other diseases. Still early days, lots of discussions.
Metro: UK vaccinating average 435,000 people per day – at this rate should be able to achieve next groups by end of March, why is the target end of April?
SS: If supply increases, can go faster.
Reuters: How can you tell whether fall in cases is due to lockdown or due to vaccines?
CW: Hope to see order of rates of death to follow the order of people vaccinated.
The prime minister, Boris Johnson, was joined by Sir Patrick Vallance, chief scientific adviser:
Sir Patrick Vallance talked through the latest data slides:
Covered: booking holidays, using testing to allow larger events, such as weddings to go ahead, travel app.
Public: Is there evidence of reduced infection rates in the top two priority groups?
PM: reductions in deaths and cases can be seen in the data, but it seems pretty hard to me to see impact of the vaccination programme on those numbers yet.
PV: it takes two to three weeks after a vaccine for immunity to "kick in", but data from Israel, which is further ahead in its vaccine roll-out than the UK, suggests "quite a significant effect" from vaccinations.
BBC: How worried are you about the Bristol variant?
PV: We’re seeing the same variants in other parts across the world, that’s what you’d expect – variants that give the virus an advantage – increased transmissibility, variability or immune response. The Kent variant in the UK does transmit more easily, and might be more severe, but does not change the effectiveness of vaccines. The Bristol variant has got one change the South African variant has got and does make it look slightly different to the immune system. The key thing is to get the number of cases down – the lower the numbers the lower the chance of more mutations.
ITV: Are you encouraged by how well the vaccine appears to be working?
PM: The numbers are coming down, but they can’t be attributed to the vaccine yet.
Given the great progress we're making on vaccination and encouraging results, are you becoming concerned that the politicians you advise might be tempted to maybe resist your advice to be very measured and slow in how we lift lockdown restrictions?
PV: it's important we are cautious in opening up in order to be able to measure the effects. One of the things that's really crucial in this is to get enough information to know the trajectory we're on and not jump ahead of it because we're very high levels and that can take off very quickly…caution is important as we go into opening things up and measuring is important and data is what's going to be important. The virus isn't going to be particularly interested in dates"
Mirror: Did the government do everything it could when it became aware of new variants – Scientists advice could have avoided this situation.
PM: as soon as we became aware of the of the new variant on the 18 December, which substantially changed the position, we acted decisively in the way that in the way that we did. “But there have been people, scientists who have called for a complete lockdown throughout, they're brutally difficult decisions. And we have done our best as I've as I said before."
Daily Express: What is the latest evidence on the effect of vaccines on those who have already had COVID?
PV: If you've had coronavirus, most people get antibodies and some protection, but it's very important people still get the vaccine. Having had COVID before is not a reason not to get a vaccine.
Possibility of vaccine boosters to combat new variants
PM: There is currently "no evidence" that vaccines are not beneficial against all variants. But as new variants appear, it will be more useful than ever to have vaccines that combat all variants. "I certainly think we need to be getting ready for a world in which we do have booster jabs against new variants in the autumn” like the annual flu jab
Matt Hancock, health and social care secretary, was joined by Nikki Kanani, medical director for primary care, NHS England and Jonathan Van-Tam, deputy chief medical officer for England.
Public: When will police officers be vaccinated?
MH: Following JCVI cohorts and then will consider next steps. No decision has yet been made.
Public: Adjust second dose of vaccine against variants or booster in Autumn?
JVT: Likely a booster will be required next Autumn. Not true that current vaccines will not work against the virus we have.
BBC: Possible to keep South African variant suppressed?
JVT: Small numbers of SA variant. Early modelling does not suggest a transmissibility advantage for this virus. Unlikely to overtake B117 variant.
ITV: If we cannot stop transmission through vaccination, what is the plan? Elimination or live with the virus for years to come? Surge testing for variants?
MH: High degree of confidence that the vaccine will work to make people safe. Plan for what to do if we need to update the vaccines. Plan to keep new variants under control. 147 cases of South African variant and no new cases in the last 2 days. Working hard to suppress.
JVT: Manage seasonal flu through vaccination. Key with coronavirus is again through vaccination and ensure the illness is manageable in the community instead of causing enormous pressure on hospitals.
Channel 4: Wise to be making contact tracers redundant?
MH: T&T took time to build up but performing extremely well with 98% of contacts reached within 24 hours.
The Sun: Hope for the return of the rule of 6?
MH: Not getting into this. Too early to say and speculate. PM will publish a roadmap on 22 February.
Guardian: Border controls? Summer holidays?
MH: Need to protect country from new variants hence toughening measures at the border. Proportion of cases coming from abroad is very low.
My London and Yorkshire Live: Will small businesses get help to test staff? Will they have to pay? Has surge testing successfully contained the new variants?
MH: Have not found any further extension of the SA variant. Testing for businesses is free for now.
The prime minister Boris Johnson, was joined by Professor Chris Whitty, chief medical officer.
He starts by paying tribute to Captain Sir Tom Moore and the NHS, thanking them for the role in the vaccination programme. He said that 10million people have had at least one dose of the vaccine, and every eligible person in a care home has been offered the vaccine. He urges caution, saying that deaths are still alarmingly hight and people should stay at home.
Chris Whitty talked through the slides:
Focused around schools reopening and letting those who have received vaccines see families.
Public: Vaccine passports
CW: If you’ve just been vaccinated, there is a period of time (2-3 weeks) to achieve protection. Clear advice is to stick to social distancing irrespective of whether you’ve had the vaccine. Vaccines will protect in three ways: You as an individual, they will reduce the risk to people who interact with those vaccinated, although at this point they don’t know fully the impact on transmission, vaccines also reduce the amount of virus circulating in the whole population. But we are “nowhere near” that, the rate of virus in the community is “incredibly high”.
BBC: When will hotel quarantine start? And will you give more help to people who have to self-isolate? If not, aren’t there two huge holes in your policy?
PM: The UK has one of the toughest border regimes in the world. Do not want to totally close the borders - food and medicines must come in from abroad. But the government has made it illegal to go on holiday, or to come here from some countries. He says that Matt Hancock, will make a further announcement about the hotel quarantine plans tomorrow. Johnson says overwhelmingly people are isolating. There's £500 available for people who can't work because they have to quarantine, and a £10,000 fine for people who break the isolation rules. (It’s worth remembering that Dido Harding told the Science and Technology committee this morning at least 20% of people who should be isolating aren’t)
Sky: Are suggestions every adult might be offered a first dose of vaccine by the end of May and a second by August credible?
CW: This is at the "very optimistic end" and maybe "beyond what is possible". When more people start having second doses, this will "slow things down".
Daily Mail: Are we past the peak?
CW: “Most of my colleagues think we are past the peak” but numbers could rise again and future waves remain possible.
The Times: Has the approach changed from regional tier to a single national approach? Why aren’t people isolating?
PM: the situation is “pretty uniform” nationwide. It will be best to go down the tiers nationally. The government will set out more in week beginning 15 February. And on 22 February he will set out a timetable for lifting the restrictions, with as much detail as possible. This time the government will be able to start easing the lockdown confident that the most vulnerable people will have had a high degree of protection.
CW: There are two reasons why people don’t self-isolate. First, they don’t realise how important it is. And, second, there are financial incentives
Matt Hancock, health and social care secretary, delivered today’s briefing, joined by Professor Stephen Powis, the national medical director at NHS England, and Dr Susan Hopkins from Public Health England.
Matt Hancock updated on the vaccine programme and on the South African variant:
South African variant
Questions focused around priority groups and when they would receive vaccines and on the South African variant.
On the new variant:
Boris Johnson just held a press conference with Chris Whitty and Simon Stevens. The main news was that the UK has passed the grim milestone of 100,000 people lost to COVID-19. There were not any other big announcements in the presser but below is a summary of what they covered and questions from the public and the media:
Professor Chris Whitty:
Sir Simon Stevens:
Questions from the public:
When will we be able to travel, to get businesses going etc?
What strategy to say that no chid is left behind:
BBC: Hope in govt was to contain the numbers to 20,000 what went wrong? What range are we looking at now?
ITV: Care homes - worried about dosage gaps? close it back down?
Sky: we did everything we could…. do you not reflect on whether some of those deaths could have been prevented? SAGE circuit breaker? do you wish you could have brought it in earlier?
Mirror: Do you call people up and speak to the about having lost people? What about extra pay as a gesture of support for NHS? Scotland have done it, LIDL have done it.
Sun: Parents are desperate for clarity - lower case areas, can they go back first; or primaries first? Or by age/region? Also what re EU sabre rattling – what are you doing to make sure we are getting supplies?
Politico: terrible milestone - PM, you spoke about learning lessons. Can you give a concrete example or what you are doing to ensure that we never see this again in the UK? And would you urge the EU against the controls of vaccines that are being looked at?
In today’s press conference, the prime minister was joined by Chris Whitty, chief medical officer, and Sir Patrick Vallance, chief scientific adviser.
Chris Whitty (Full slides are here)
Health related questions
Public: Will the delay for the second vaccine dose reduce its effectiveness?
CW: Everyone needs two vaccinations. Extending the course of the vaccination is to double the number of people who can be vaccinated. Think majority of the protection is given by the first vaccine and the second one tops up and extends that protection. Confident initial protection lasts over a reasonable amount of time.
Public: Are those who have had the vaccine allowed to mix together with people who have not?
CW: Even with an effective vaccine, there is a period of time straight after the vaccine when there is no affect – 2 to 3 weeks. Protection will not be complete, not even with two vaccines. Large proportion of people you come into contact with could have the virus (1 in 55 people have the virus, and 1 in 35 in London). Need to vaccinate people at risk and the rest of the population. Over time the answer to this question is yes but for now – no.
PV: Important people who have had the vaccine not to assume their cannot catch the virus and pass it onto someone else.
BBC: Do you expect the daily death toll to rise for longer than expected? What do you think of the Israel reports that the Pfizer vaccine may not be as effective as first thought?
PM: The death numbers will continue to be high.
CW: Deaths driven by rates of increase and decrease.
PV: Death rate is awful and will stay high for a little while. Israeli data is preliminary and the Israeli health ministry has said they are not entirely sure – they’re expecting more information in the next few weeks. Will need to continue to monitor this closely.
ITV: How likely is the current lockdown will last longer than the spring into the summer? How much of the South African variant is already here?
PM: Don’t want to change package of measures but want them to be enforce and obeyed. Can’t consider unlocking until confident vaccination programme is working and there are no changes in medical understanding that may affect calculations. Don’t want an unlocking to lead to another big rebound. Must get infection rates down – not just a case of rolling out vaccine. Remains intention to look at where we are on 15 February and make an assessment.
PV: PHE data suggests 44 people have been detected with SA variant (71 is the upper limit). Need to contain and contact trace. No evidence South African and Brazilian variants have transmission advantages over what is already here. Does not mean these will become the dominant variant. Need to restrict entrance of more variants.
Sky: Is it right that there are more people out and about and restrictions are more lax? With infections going down, are we at or past the peak of infections?
PM: Enforcing the law with increasing toughness. Depends on all of us to do the right thing and avoid transmission.
CW: Overall infections are going down but at a high level and precarious. Could take off again. May still be increasing for 20-30 year olds in some parts of the country. NHS is at the top of what it can manage.
Telegraph: South African strain could be 50% more resilient – is this correct and will borders be closed to all foreign travellers? One study suggests new strain could be 91% more deadly?
PM: Stopped people coming in from South Africa on 24 December. Do not rule taking further measures.
PV: Range of studies.
Guardian: Do you think the public are ready of how long lifting restrictions will take? Do you agree we will need mitigation measures for a long time?
PM: Open question of when we can relax measures. Will look at things continuously.
PV: Virus is not going anywhere – will be here forever but controlled. Have more vaccines that we could have dreamt of last year. New medicines coming along. A different outlook. Key thing is to watch, wait, measure and release and not get hung up on dates.
Matt Hancock, secretary of state for health and social care, delivered the No.10 coronavirus briefing. He was joined by Dr Susan Hopkins, medical advisor to COVID-19 response, Public Health England, and Prof Stephen Powis, medical director, NHS England.
Secretary of state for health and social care
Public: With the increase in hospital admissions, what are the plans to protect those on frontline (supermarket workers, delivery drivers)?
MH: Working through the most clinically vulnerable – to reduce number of deaths as fast as possible. There are local testing sites that you can walk in to.
SH: MHRA have approved lateral flow devises to help protect those and allow people to get tested when they are asymptomatic. Additional tool to help get virus under control. More than 37,000 cases have been detected in recent weeks using lateral flow testing
SP: Have seen increasing pressure on the NHS, since Christmas eve around 15,000 have been admitted into hospital with coronavirus. Fewer people going into ICU as treatments are better. Critical to continue with social distancing. Some time before start see reduction in cases in hospitals.
Public: How much would it matter if there is a huge surge in cases in young people if older are vaccinated?
MH: Still don’t know how much vaccine protects from COVID-19 and transmission. Younger people are more likely to end up in hospital.
BBC: Regional variations in vaccine, what about local teams who can’t get hold of doses?
MH: Parts of country have made significant progress. Now making sure we prioritise supply into parts of country that still need to vaccinate over 80s.
ITV: Why are some areas doing better than others?
MH: Takes time to set up each of the sites, need to make sure sites are safe. By 4 Feb everyone in top 4 groups will have been offered the vaccine.
Sky: How do you identify who needs it more urgently – police officers, teachers, etc. How do you respond to the head of the World Health Organisation saying the distribution of vaccines globally is putting the world on the brink of a catastrophic moral failure?
MH: Clinical advice is to go through the top four groups, then over 50s. Then it’s about protecting people as much as possible – that’s why we need a debate. UK is world’s biggest financial supporter to ensure access to vaccines through organisations. Agree o the importance of international roll out.
SH: Look at a range of figures (deaths, ages etc) and transmission – that knowledge will help with targeting.
I: Why are fewer vaccinations happening at weekend?
MH: Delivering a full, seven-day service. There are movements in supply and making sure we get vaccines to people is a priority.
BMJ: Doctors worried about decisions over which patients to treat. Will government introduce emergency legislation to protect these doctors?
MH: Not in a position where doctors have to make those sort of choices. Advice is that it is not necessary to change law on this matter at this point.
SP: Have planned for this – have opened more ICU beds, have been able to flex capacity. Hospitals and healthcare settings can work together as one – providing assistance if hospitals are at capacity.
At today’s press conference, the prime minister was joined by Chris Whitty, chief medical officer, and Patrick Vallance, chief scientific adviser.
Full slides are here.
Public: What plans are there to contain potential future variants, especially ones that will require changes to the vaccine?
PM: Tougher measures at borders and airports with quarantine.
PV: Comprehensive screening programme to sequence the virus. Evidences suggests current immunity from vaccines/the virus is effective against this variant. Similar problem to the flu.
CW: Must be seen as an international problem. Need to support every nation.
Public: What number for the daily death rate is needed for the government to consider lifting restrictions?
PM: Want to get to a stage where we have vaccinated JCVI 1-4 cohorts. Depending on effectiveness of this roll out, will consider steps to lift restrictions but depends on where the disease is. Cannot have a false sense of security.
CW: Indirect effects such as pressure on NHS and cancer services. There could be a significant health problems.
Hugh Pym, BBC: Some hospitals in London and SE are so stretched that patients are being moved hundreds of miles. Does this suggest the government did not prepare enough? When will the peak on the NHS be?
PM: Huge amount to prepare the NHS. London NHS has been under huge pressure but coping well. Some tentative early signs that pressure may be slightly easing but too early to be confident.
CW: Expect the peak of the infections to have already happened in some areas (e.g. London and the South). Peak of hospitalisations may be around now and peak of deaths will be later. Peaks are coming in the next week to ten days for most areas.
PV: Not a natural peak, coming down due to measures in place. A lesson to ensure it is cooled down enough before removing restrictions.
ITV: Why is it only now that there are proper controls at the border? Acting too late? Is the Brazilian variant here already?
PM: Taking steps now to protect against new variants.
PV: Countries that detected new variants first have good sequencing measures in place – not to assume those are the only places where the variants are. Must keep monitoring.
LBC: How many doses are available now and how many will be available in February? Will things be back to more normal by Easter or summer? More outbreaks in workplaces – has SAGE looked at the problem of workplace transmission?
PM: Depend on manufacturing processes and batch testing approvals. Using all supply as possible and get it into people’s arms as fast as possible. Ambition is 15 February to offer 12m people the vaccine.
CW: Likely things will improve in the spring. New variant makes things harder. Current measures can beat the virus. Vaccine will take the heavy lifting.
PV: SAGE has produced papers on workplace safety.
PM: Important people do not get fixated on transmission by proximity. Widely transmitted by handling things touched by someone who is infected. Handwashing is important
FT: What happens to the rest of society once the most vulnerable are vaccinated? Will easing restrictions before vaccinating under 50s be safe for the working age population? Why is government education campaign not focusing on risk of poorly ventilated indoor spaces?
PM: Loosing restrictions will be a process. Focus on JCVI 1-4 cohorts will make a huge difference. More work to be done to immunise the rest of the population. Cannot be more specific tonight.
CW: Some sensible decision of GPs about shelf life. Must ensure vaccines are used as efficiently as possible.
PM: Most transmission and biggest risk is indoors. Ventilation has been a recommendation.
The Express: Concerns that roll out in some care homes is too slow? Target for over 80s reached sooner? Effect of vaccine on transmission rates?
PM: Working flat out to vaccinate works and residents of care homes. Hope to have completed care homes by end of the month. Some places have 80-90% of over 80s already vaccinated.
PV: Would expect vaccine to have some effect on transmission. Will not be complete suppression of transmission. Being vaccinated does not mean you cannot pass it on but protection from severe disease.
Pulse Magazine: Problems with vaccine deliveries to GPs?
PM: Crucial people get down to where vaccine is offered when they get the message. Bumpy days ahead.
The secretary of state for health and social care Matt Hancock MP delivered the No.10 coronavirus briefing, joined by Professor Steven Powis, national medical director, NHS England.
Professor Steve Powis
The prime minister held a press conference with Simon Stevens, chief executive of NHS England, and Brigadier Phil Prosser this afternoon.
Sir Simon Stevens:
Questions from the media:
Alex Forsyth: Events in the US - was Trump responsible for inciting the crowd? Can you deliver your promises? How close is the race between vaccine to the virus?
PM: We are going flat out to reach out targets. Purpose of press conference to see a bit more of the working/detail. You will hear more on Monday from Matt Hancock.
ITV: Why can't GPs get the vaccines; and how long will it take?
SS: We are rolling it out. There might be some lumpiness and bumpiness to start with. What you don’t hear is all the places where it is working smoothly - we need to have sense of gathering around to get this done rather than poking and prodding
C4: Do you regret not locking down earlier? Concern from NHS staff that this is fake news - what message do you have for them?
PM: We went into tier 4 in December. People who say it is a hoax - they need to grow up etc. You've heard what pressure NHS is under, we need to protect it.
SS: It’s a lie re this being a hoax – it’s dangerous to say so and demoralising for staff.
The Times: COVID and other conditions - are they going to be able to get normal care over the next few months. Estimates of uptake so far?
Vaccination is voluntary - we can't require that all of those eligible take up the offer - but flu vaccination shows that it is high.
In London and parts of South East, very serious. 800 people every day admitted to hospitals with corona - equivalent of new St. Thomas' hospital every day. 13m can we exceed the target - it is challenging target but it is vital to set challenging targets. It’s a big stretch - huge national effort; we want our working and efforts to be scrutinised and visible.
Reuters: people who have the first shot are worried that they won’t get the second shot
SS: yes people will get their second jabs - health service has been asked following JCVI advice etc to put the optimal gap between at 12 weeks. After 12 days you might have 90% of the benefit and it means we can offer it quicker.
Evening Standard: London hospitals - less than two weeks from being overwhelmed. Why wasn’t more done? And what are you doing right now?
SS: without further action, there was material action of this being overwhelmed. London hospitals are using independent sector etc, we will open nightingale next week - this will also be a vaccination centre there.
PM: lots of conditionals re the deadline for 15th Feb etc. but if things go the right way (no new variants etc) we might be able to look at relaxing some measures.
The health and social care committee held an oral evidence session today as part of its inquiry into Coronavirus: recent developments. Matt Hancock, secretary of state for health and social care, and Clara Swinson, director general of global and public health at Department of Health and Social Care, gave evidence.
The prime minister was joined by Professor Chris Whitty, chief medical officer, and Sir Patrick Vallance, chief scientific adviser, in today’s press conference.
Full slides are available here
Public: How are you supporting people with severe mental health issues?
PM: Working with charities to support people. Best thing is to get through this as fast as possible.
Vicky Young, BBC: When did you first advise the government in England and do you think the vaccine rollout timetable is realistic?
CW: CMOs met yesterday and advised to move to Level 5. Vaccine timetable is realistic but not easy. Important that vaccine is rolled out according to the order recommended by the JCVI – ordering means it will have maximum impact on the disease. Decision to delay second dose by 12 weeks was taken following advice from numerous bodies.
PV: View from SAGE was that it was likely more measures would be needed to retain transmission of a new variant. More measures will be needed.
Robert Peston, ITV: What is the chance we will be out of lockdown by mid-March? Concerns that widening the gap between first and second dose increases risk of virus mutating?
PM: Depends on numerous things – including everyone following the guidance. Think by mid-February when a big proportion of the most vulnerable groups are vaccinated then there is a prospect of relaxing measures – but lots of caveats.
CW: Extending the gap allows more people to be vaccinated. The risk is sufficiently small when measured against the benefits of vaccinating more people.
PV: The more you vaccinate, the more evolutionary pressure on the virus. The virus will mutate and new vaccines will be needed in due course.
What changes are needed to reach the goal for vaccination figures? Is there going to be a daily figure of the number of people vaccinated? Is this lockdown enough to defeat the virus?
PM: It will be a huge effort. Need to ensure we can get enough vaccine to where it is needed.
CW: If people stick to the rules strongly and the NHS vaccinates as fast as it can – we hope the lockdown will be enough. This coronavirus is not going away just as the flu is not going away.
Prime minister Boris Johnson was joined by Professor Chris Whitty, chief medical advisor.
Boris Johnson started by saying that although the situation is worse than when the Christmas rules were drawn up, the rules are not being changed – it is the guidance that is being revised. He says that the government will not criminalise people who made plans based on the five-day relaxation of restrictions announced in November. We are outliers on this – we are the only European country who is not changing its Christmas plans.
In response to a question about whether people should still see people – Chris Whitty said that both options for Christmas are bad options. The government has tried to minimise the risk. But people should think what they can do to reduce the risk.
All the questions are focusing around Christmas.
BBC, Laura Keunsberg: Wouldn’t it be safer, clearer and braver to ditch the rules over Christmas?
PM: Don’t want to criminalise plans and arrangements people have made for some time. Guidance really should be regarded as a maximum. People should think hard about coming in under those limits.
Any modelling of the impact of this period on how the pandemic spreads?
Any period where people come together that would not normally meet will increase spread of virus.
Today it was announced that London and some areas in Hertfordshire and Essex would be moved into tier 3 restrictions. Secretary of State Matt Hancock delivered an oral statement in the House of Commons, and the No.10 coronavirus briefing. See below for summaries of each.
Secretary of state for health and social care Matt Hancock was accompanied by chief medical officer for England Professor Chris Whitty and London regional director for Public Health England Professor Kevin Fenton.
Professor Chris Whitty
Showed two slides:
Questions focused on whether the government should rethink the relaxation of restrictions over Christmas and for more detail on the new variant of the virus.
New variant of the virus
Full statement here.
Matt Hancock, secretary of state for health and social care:
Jon Ashworth, shadow secretary of state for health and social care:
Jeremy Hunt, chair, health and social care select committee:
Matt Hancock, secretary of state for health and social care was joined by NHS England’s national medical director Professor Steve Powis and chief medical officer for England, Professor Chris Whitty.
Matt Hancock updated on the roll out of the vaccine and the latest data.
What is the exit criteria to come out of the tier system?
BBC, Hugh Pym: How concerned are you in the rise in cases in the SE, how likely is it that London / Essex will be moved into Tier 3.
ITV: is a third wave inevitable? And if it is, shouldn’t we act now, instead of waiting until next week?
Metro: PPE was routinely redated, and sometimes boxes were not fit for purpose.
City AM: Are there any plans to reopen the Nightingale in the Excel?
Today’s round up includes:
The prime minister was joined by Professor Jonathan Van Tam, deputy chief medical officer, Sir Simon Stevens, chief executive, NHS England.
The prime minister updated on the announcement that the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine has been approved by the MHRA, and will now be rolled out. He urged caution however, setting out the logistical complications that will mean it will take some months before people in the high priority groups will be vaccinated.
Jonathan Van Tam
Dr June Rainie, chief executive, MHRA, Prof Sir Munir Pirmohamed, chair, Commission on Human Medicines expert working group and Professor Wei Shen Lim, chair, JCVI, presented information and answered questions.
Slides and the JCVI priority list
Prof Sir Munir Pirmohamed:
Prof Wei Shen Lim:
Questions from the media:
Fergus Walsh, BBC: Can you reassure public that they can have confidence in the vaccine given how quickly you have approved it? And can you sum up reasoning behind who gets it first?
Dr Rainie: thorough work, methodologically sound, meticulous work. Has only been approved because strict tests have been done and complied with - no corners have been cut. If you are climbing a mountain, you prepare and prepare. We started in June. In Sept we were at base camp and now we are approaching the last sprint. Offer of vaccination - vaccination priority based on risk of dying from COVID-19 We have prioritised the most vulnerable
Victoria McDonald – Channel 4: Why the MHRA has authorised it faster than the EMA? How long is there a lag between getting it and getting it effective?
MHRA: it is equivalent to all international standards. We have mounted teams and built capability and worked in parallel. Public can be confident that the standards we have worked to are same as others. Vaccine requires 2 doses - they will be immune 7 days after the second dose. Some protection after day 12 of the fist dose.
Emily Morgan ITV: historic moment - how much of a momentous moment this is for you and science? Priority list: can you confirm that care home residents will still be the first to get this given how hard it is to transport or will NHS staff be the first??
Care homes - important point, there will be some flexibility - vaccinations should be offered to care home residents, but we know that there will need to be flexibility in the system
Daily telegraph: have you identified when the first vaccine will happen- what day – who will be the first person? How will you decide? Will the tier 3 areas be given priority? And have economic decisions been factored in e.g. if you can't work from home, would you be higher up the list??)
DHSC working to make sure that the first vaccine will be delivered as soon as all checks have concluded. Not within remit of JCVI to impose time limits on delivery. The prioritisation is national – not done by tiers
Independent: Does the fact that we aren't members of the EU made any difference to speeding this up? We don’t have enough Pfizer vaccine – what will happen?
We have been able to authorise this under provisions in EU law - we are under that until end of the transition. Availability - good questions about vaccine supply and availability - we expect during a pandemic that it will be limited in the first instance, so most vulnerable get it first.
Scottish Sun: What’s your message to people who are sceptical about vaccine safety (anti vax misinformation). What is the timescale for other vaccines?
Public can be confident that every rigorous check has been done. The safety of the vaccine has been scrutinised rigorously. Absolute confidence in the safety etc. We have further rolling reviews going on – not possible to predict a timeframe
Business insider: do you see probs with Pfizer vaccine because of needing to keep it cold?
Issues with this, but every vaccine that comes through will have its own characteristics. Pfizer - needs v cold storage. Stability issues of course. This mass vaccination programme is an unprecedented thing - there will be manner of operational flexibilities.
HSJ: which frontline staff will get it? Can you reassure NHS staff? Will NHS staff be able to opt out?
JCVI advised that certain frontline health care workers should have higher priority (exposure, specific conditions etc) and amount of interaction that they have with people that are vulnerable. No suggestions that it should be compulsory and adverse effects are mild - similar to affects after any other vaccine.
The prime minister begins by acknowledging International Day for Disabled People tomorrow and says a strategy for disabled people will be published next year. He welcomes the approval of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine which will begin roll out next week.
Starmer askes who does the PM expect to receive the vaccine next week with enough doses for 400,000 to be vaccinated. PM says the JCVI has recommended: residents in care home for older adults and their carers, people 80 years and older, frontline health and social care workers, people 75 years and older and the clinically extremely vulnerable. PM says it is important to recognise that this unquestionably good news but it is not the end of the struggle against coronavirus. Important that the tiering system is followed across the country.
Starmer says there are more than 400,000 people in these lists. When does he expect the people in the two top groups can be vaccinated? PM says it is important people do not get their hopes up too soon for the speed of rollout. Expecting several million doses before the end of the year. Rolling out as fast as possibly can. Emphasis on tiering system and mass community testing.
Starmer asks what plans have been put in place to get the vaccine into care homes given the practical difficulties? PM says vaccine needs to be stored at -70 degrees and there are logistical challenges to be overcome. He is working with all devolved administrations to ensure the NHS across the country is able to distribute it as fast as sensibly possible. This is why the AstraZeneca vaccine is important too.
Starmer says we have the highest regulatory safety standards in the world. Will the PM work with us to bring emergency legislation to clamp down on misinformation with financial penalties for companies that fail to act? PM says he is working to tackle all kinds of disinformation and will be publishing a paper shortly on online harms.
Starmer urges the PM to share the communications plan for the vaccine with the House so they may use the messaging to encourage people to take up the vaccine.
The session also covered the collapse of Arcadia Group,
Health related questions
Chris Green MP: Does the PM agree that the vaccine should be taken on a wholly voluntary basis?
PM: The vaccine is not mandatory and encourage everyone to take up the vaccine.
Tom Tugendhat MP: Will the PM welcome the skill of all those in the NHS in making historic donations work of the community.
PM: sale of hospital is a matter for the local CCG.
Richard Thomson MP: Will the PM match the Scottish bonus initiative for NHS workers in England and allow it to be paid tax free?
PM: Scotland has fiscal freedom to allow the bonus to be paid tax free. Proud of increases for health workers and record investment in the NHS.
Secretary of state for health and social care Matt Hancock updated the House of Commons with the news that the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine has been approved by the MHRA.
Full statement is here.
Jon Ashworth, shadow Secretary of State for Health and Social care:
Jeremy Hunt, chair of the health and social care committee: