Monday 30 November

Secretary of state for health and social care, Matt Hancock, was joined by General Sir Gordon Messenger, head of operations for the community testing programme and Professor Stephen Powis, medical director, NHS England.

The secretary of state updated on the daily figures:

  • 15,712 patients in hospital with COVID-19 – down from 16,612 a week ago
  • 460 reported deaths on average each day
  • on average 14,778 positive cases per day. But on 16 November the seven-day average was 25,331.
  • In the last week cases have dropped by 30% before the lockdown in England cases were going up 11% per week
  • R rate is only just below one, so we must continue to follow the rules


View the dashboard in full. 


  • NHS now stands ready to deploy a vaccine should one become ready
  • Have secured 2 million further doses. We now have 357million doses of seven different vaccines.
  • Have built huge testing capacty that can be deployed now.



  • The government now has the capacity to do more with its mass testing programme.
  • It is rolling out university testing programme from today.
  • In Liverpool, where mass testing has been used, the case rates have been reduced by three quarters.
  • A community testing prospectus, which will tell local authorities how they can use mass testing to “come down the tiers” will be published today.


Professor Powis highlighted a slide showing COVID-hospital inpatients in England:

    • Admissions are starting to fall but have risen sharply since September
    • Going into winter the NHS’ busiest time
    • Continuing elective work and trying to catch up with backlog

Slides and datasets.



Hugh Pym, BBC: How concerned is Professor Powis about a new wave of infections in January after Christmas relaxation?
Important to get infection rates down and reduce admissions. Now heading into the winter, the NHS’ busiest time. See more infections, see more falls – so pressure on NHS builds. Crucial going into that that we have this virus under control.


ITV: How will community testing be successful without the additional support that Liverpool had?
SofS: the plan being published this afternoon will offer councils extra money - £14 per test done. General Messenger said it is community testing, tailored to the each area. There will be military support to deliver the programmes locally.


Q: Will vaccine’s be mandatory?
SofS: does not plan to make the vaccine mandatory. Think there will be a very high take up without compulsion being needed.


Q: How to you respond to claims the mass testing programme could detract from the vaccine programme? And is this roll out of community testing an admission that test and trace has not worked?
Community testing programme is an expansion of what can do with NHS T&T. Only because of the work of NHS T&T that has allowed community testing to be rolled out. Vaccines and testing will need to be rolled out together.


Q: Would urge all MPs to vote for tiered system. Lower set of restrictions than national lockdown. Best way to avoid a third lockdown.
Prof Powis- As the NHS goes into busiest time need to ensure that infection rates are falling, and continue to stay down.


Thursday 26 November

Press briefing

Boris Johnson was joined by Professor Chris Whitty, chief medical Officer and Sir Patrick Vallance, chief scientific advisor.

See the full statement


  • Data shows national measures have slowed or reversed the number of cases
  • We have prevented the NHS from being overwhelmed
  • England will return to a tiered system on 2 December
  • Data packs showing the data behind the decisions for tiers will be published for each area
  • Previous tiers slowed the virus but did not reduce R below 1 – areas could not escape tier level. Current system allows for areas to move down the tiers
  • 1 in 3 people with COVID have no symptoms
  • Mass testing in Liverpool reduced cases by two-thirds
  • May be possible for people who test negative to be released from restrictions


Slides are here.


  • Number of cases started to increase in early September
  • Once tiers were introduced, cases increased then decreased – tier 1 did not have an effect, tier 2 held the rate of increase, tier 3 led to a decrease in some cases
  • 1 in 85 people have the disease
  • Rate has been levelling off since national restrictions were introduced
  • Approximately 15,000 hospitalised with COVID-19
  • Expect deaths to level off in the coming weeks before falling – a lag
  • Tier decisions are primarily based on:
    • Rates in all ages
    • Rates in over 60s
    • Rate at which cases are rising or falling
    • Positivity rate
    • Pressure on the NHS


Health related questions

Public: will the vaccines work if the virus mutates or will we need to new vaccines akin to the flu vaccine?
PV: virus does not mutate as much as the flu, none of the mutations so far make the vaccine less effective.
CW: may need repeated vaccinations


Laura Keunssberg, BBC: what was the point of the national lockdown if more people are moving into tougher restrictions than before? Will it be safer for more people to be Tier 3? Concerns about the Oxford vaccine?
PM: Less restrictions when national lockdown is lifted e.g. shops. Will have a vaccine, must not relax too much.
CW: trying to do the least damaging thing. MHRA will make a decision – mistake to make too many judgements before MHRA has looked at the data.
PV: regulator will see the whole data


Robert Peston, ITV: why did ‘whack-a-mole’ not work?
PM: tiered approach right way to go now
CW: seasonality – rates were low over summer. Now seeing increase across Europe. Should not move people into Tier 1 until confident.
PV: need to ensure tiers are strong enough – must go in hard enough for current situation


Beth Rigby, Sky News: how will mass testing be delivered to 40% of the population? Deploy the whole army? Anticipating rise in cases over Christmas period by being tough with people before and after?
PM: mass testing depends on strong local leadership and is only part of the panoply of interventions.
CW: Christmas is a risk but not the only risk – flu and winter pressures for NHS. Must ensure people adhere to the rules around Christmas


Is it a good idea to travel across the country during Christmas? What are 'unnecessary' things over Christmas?
PM: a balance which requires people to be common sensical. Everyone’s individual behaviour matters a good deal.
CW: would not encourage people to hug and kiss elderly relatives


Other topics

  • Tax and spending
  • Hospitality
  • Financial support



Statement to the House of Commons

Matt Hancock, secretary of state for health and social care made an oral statement to the House of Commons, setting out the new tier levels that will come into place once the national restrictions are eased on 3 December.

There was also a written statement setting out the detail of the new tier system.


The Department of Health and Social Care has also published the full list of tiers and local restrictions by area.


Statement in the House of Commons:

The secretary of state set out the latest data

  • 16,570 people in hospital with coronavirus
  • 696 deaths reported yesterday


He outlined briefly the restrictions in each tier

  • Tier 1 – work from home when you can
  • Tier 2 -  alcohol only served as part of a substantial meal
  • Tier 3 - indoor entertainment, hotels will have to close. hospitality closed except for takeaway and delivery


He outlined the five indicators that determine the tier an area is place in  

  1. Case detection rates in all age groups
  2. Case detection rates in the over 60s
  3. The rate at which cases are rising or falling
  4. Positivity rate (the number of positive cases detected as a percentage of tests taken)
  5. Pressure on the NHS.


Measures will be reviewed in a fortnight and will be reviewed every week, with any changes being announced on Thursdays.  

Places in tier 3 will be eligible for mass testing.

The government has agreed to publish a full analysis of the economic and social impact of the different tiers, as well as non-covid health implications, but not until early next week.


Jonathan Ashworth, shadow secretary of state for health and social care:

  • asked about people in poorer areas, and why the chancellor hasn’t increased statutory sick pay to support those who need to isolate.
  • called for local public health to be given more funding to support test and trace and why there was no public health uplift in yesterdays spending review.
  • asked what plans are in place to protect the NHS in January
  • will the measures introduced today be enough to keep the R below 1, so there is no need for a third lockdown.


Matt Hancock responded:

  • strategy is to keep virus supressed while we work hard to get a vaccine
  • mass community testing will help keep under control
  • working with Dan Jarvis, mayor of Sheffield City Region  to get community testing up and running in South Yorkshire
  • want community testing to be rolled out across tier 3 locations
  • will be further support for councils that are in tier 2 and 3.


Monday 23 November

The government has published its COVID-19 Winter Plan and guidance on Local restriction tiers: what you need to know.

Prime Minister


  • The national restrictions in England will end on 2 December and will not be renewed
  • From next Wed people can leave home for any purpose and meet people outdoors subject to the rule of 6
  • Shops, gyms, leisure centres can reopen



  • A return to a regional tiered approach. Tiers need to be made tougher, in particular: Tier 1 – work from home if possible | Tier 2 – alcohol to be served in hospitality only with a meal | Tier 3 – indoor entertainment, hotels and hospitality to close (except for takeaway)
  • Tiers will be a uniform set of rules – there will be no negotiations on additional measures with regions
  • 10pm closing time for hospitality will change to last orders at 10pm with closing at 11pm
  • Tiers 1 & 2 – spectator sports may resume indoors and outdoors subject to capacity and social distancing
  • Trained officers will have new powers to close down premises which are risks to public health
  • Will announce areas and tiers on Thursday
  • Expect more regions will fall, at least temporarily, into higher levels than before
  • Using these tiers and rapid turnaround tests should be able to move areas down the tier scale



  • May enable more people to see family and friends over Christmas – Christmas will not be normal
  • Do not want to throw caution to the wind forcing us into lockdown in January. Working with devolved nations
  • The virus does not know it is Christmas and families will need to be make a careful judgement for visiting the elderly
  • Will publish guidance for the clinically vulnerable



  • Rapid turnaround and lateral flow tests being deployed in NHS and care homes
  • By end of the year, every care home resident will have two visitors who will be tested twice a week
  • Care workers looking after people in own homes will have weekly tests
  • Testing students to enable them to return home for Christmas and to return to university
  • Will launch a major community testing programme – all Tier 3 areas will have a six-week surge testing. If it works, those who test negative may have fewer restrictions (e.g. meeting up with others who have also tested negative)
  • End automatic isolation of close contacts. In the Liverpool pilot, close contacts will be tested every day for a week and will only isolate if testing positive. If successful, this will be extended across health system from next month and the whole of England from January (devolved nations will also benefit)



  • Will dispense a vaccine as soon as possible – but cannot be done immediately
  • Vaccines are now edging closing to liberating us from the virus – this is not a pandemic without end
  • 350m doses of vaccines in total (100m from the Oxford vaccine) – enough for UK, overseas territories and crown dependencies
  • NHS preparing a nationwide vaccination programme, ready for next month


Kier Starmer

  • Labour will provide any support to deliver the vaccine across the country – an open offer
  • Welcome the four-nation approach to Christmas – awaiting the details
  • A return to the three tier system is risky:
    Do not want a repeat of the previous system: areas moving into higher tiers with no exit
    Which local areas will be in which tier?
    Will there be a element of local consultation or will rules be imposed?
    How long will each area remain in each tier?
    What support can those in Tier 3 expect?
  • Not fixing test, trace and isolate is major risk – how confident is the PM that these measures will keep R below 1?


Prime Minister

  • Right measures for the country
  • Who goes into which tier will be announced on Thursday – delay due to need to see the data as it comes in
  • Will work with local authority leaders – the most collaborative leaders were the most successful in reducing rates
  • Prospect of using lateral flow testing to obviate need for 14 day quarantine



Monday 16 November

Matt Hancock, secretary of state for health and social care, was joined by Professor Jonathan Van-Tam, deputy chief medical officer and Dr Susan Hopkins, medical advisor to COVID-19 response.

Questions focused on vaccines, who would be eligible, whether the government should have secured more doses of the Moderna vaccine, and whether NHS staff should be eligible for early vaccines.

There was also a question about a pay rise for NHS workers. Hancock responded that he will not pre-judge the outcomes of the pay review process.


Matt Hancock

  • Announced that the NHS will have a network of 40 long-COVID clinics in place by the end of the month.
  • Current testing capacity is more than half a million.
  • Announced 2 new mega labs opening early in the new year adding 600,000 tests to daily capacity and will represent a "permanent part of our diagnostics industry to the capacity"
  • Rolling out testing in care homes for visitors – 83 local authorities have signed up for quick turnaround tests.
  • Janssen clinical trials starting today in 17 sites across the country. 3rd trial in this country. 30 million doses on order by end of next year.
  • UK has secured a deal for 5m doses of Moderna’s coronavirus vaccine which will be available from spring next year. This vaccine was announced today that it is 94% effective.
  • 40m doses of Pfizer dose can start to be delivered by end of this year


Dr Susan Hopkins

Updated on mass testing:

  • Four lateral flow tests have been moved into field trials.
  • In Liverpool the trial of one test, being used on people without symptoms is proving very accurate. Almost 100,000 people have been tested in Liverpool, 700 people have been detected as positive who otherwise would not have been found. False positive rate of less than five per thousand.
  • Trials are running in schools and will test university students before they go home, said also used in hospitals and later in care homes.


Monday 9 November

Prime minister Boris Johnson delivered a press briefing, joined by deputy chief medical officer for England, Prof Jonathan Van-Tam and Brigadier Joe Fossey, who has been helping to organise the mass testing trial in Liverpool.

Prime minister

Delivered a statement covering the news of progress towards a vaccine:

  • Set out assessment of vaccine
  • Government has ordered 40 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine – enough for about a third of the population, since you need two doses each. Have also ordered over 300 million doses from 5 other vaccine candidates over 300million doses from other vaccine candidate.
  • Will begin NHS led programme of vaccinations that will take into account recommendations on who should get the vaccine first. (In September the government set out who would be eligible for the vaccine first if things progress, which gives an indication of who will be first in line)
  • Stressed that it is still early days
  • On the mass-testing trial in Liverpool, Johnson said thousands' of people have been tested in Liverpool although he wasn’t specific on the figures. Separately Liverpool Mayor Joe Anderson said 23,170 have been tested for COVID-19 since 12.00pm Friday to 12.00pm today. 0.7% tested positive. Infection rates are now at 300 per 100,000 which is promising.


Briadier Fossey

  • Updated on the mass testing in Liverpool
  • Council, NHS, emergency services and people of Liverpool are working together


Professor Jonathan Van-Tam

  • First vaccine and first steps – but message is “stand fast”
  • Next steps is to see the safety data – 44,000 volunteers in the trial. Will have to look at this and understand it.
  • Could see some vaccine by Christmas
  • Hopeful vaccine may help future waves, but have to “keep pressing hard…please don’t relax, much depends on how you continue to follow the rules”



Questions focused on the vaccine and how it will be delivered and how big a breakthrough this is. In response to a question about how the vaccine will be distributed, Jonathan Van-Tam said the will be released in stages. People in care homes will come first, then the over-80s and NHS staff, then the over-75, followed by the over-70s and the over-65s etc.

There was a question on mental health and how the government will respond to the mental health crisis caused by the pandemic. His answer suggests there won’t be any additional support, and expresses hope that a vaccine and adherence to restrictions means life can return to normal soon and people will recover.



Thursday 5 November

The prime minister held a press conference with Simon Stevens, NHS England chief executive. 

View full transcript


Boris Johnson

  • 12,323 patients in hospital
  • 1,142 patients on ventilators
  • 492 deaths reported yesterday
  • 295 daily death average
  • Have been assured that 4 weeks is enough and intend to move back to a tiered approach when measures expire on 2 December
  • Citywide testing starts tomorrow in Liverpool
  • Furlough extended through to March
  • £15m to help with rough sleeping throughout the winter


Simon Stevens

  • Slides are here.
  • This second wave is real and serious
    • Big increase in coronavirus patients in hospitals
    • Numbers have exceeded April peak for some hospitals
    • Hospitals are coping well
    • Continued increases
  • The health service has been working incredibly hard to care for COVID patients and deal with the backlog
    • Death rate has halved for COVID patients since beginning
    • Flu vaccine uptake expanding – twice as likely to die with both flu and COVID
    • Expanding ICUs
    • Routine operations in some parts of the country where the virus is low are back/approaching normal levels
    • Protect the NHS = Help us, help you
    • 13,000 more nurses than a year ago
  • Ability to continue to provide care is dependent on the growth of the virus
    • Cannot immediately prevent cancer or heart strokes, but we can prevent the spread of coronavirus in the community



Public question: what consideration has been given to the possibility of only limited vaccine success and how we live with Covid going forward?
PM: new treatments, testing regime, scientists say things will improve naturally in the spring
SS: vaccines in development, the ones to come soonest are the most innovative, the more conventional vaccines will come on stream later


Vicky Young, BBC: NHS is facing huge pressure, should the government have been more cautious in lifting restrictions over the summer?
SS: saw a welcome reduction in June and July, NHS used this period to ramp up operations and deal with the backlog, right that collectively we do all we can to stop the growth of Covid


ITV: can restrictions really be lifted for Christmas?
PM: every confidence, if we follow package of measures, that people can have as normal a Christmas as possible
SS: depends on how successful we can be over the next four weeks


Beth Rigby, Sky: given the hospitalisation figures and winter pressures, will we have to live with some restrictions into the new year in order to keep routine services going? Will we extend the measures beyond 2 December when 50 Tory MPs refused to vote for the measures?
SS: 30,000 NHS staff currently off work due with Covid, controlling community transmission will have an impact on NHS being able to provide care
PM: objective to enable people to have as normal a Christmas as possible, grateful to MPs for voting through the measures and believe the government was able to do this with own votes but appreciate cross party support


Financial Times: UK Statistics Authority questioned Sir Patrick Vallance’s data provided to the public?
PM: try to make things as clear as possible, scientific estimates do vary widely therefore must add political judgement, happy to share all data we have, first slide shows the number of people with the virus and the number of deaths – irrefutable fact, have not seen these numbers since May


Daily Mirror: how confident are you that NHS capacity will be sufficiently relieved by 2 December? Will the government will abandon outsourcing and allow a local approach to Test and Trace?
SS: hoping and expecting not to see large increase in infections
PM: Test and Trace has taken too long to get their results but improving, capacity is up to 500,000 per day, biggest diagnostic capacity in Europe, Test and Trace has not had as much an impact as wanted but has been able to get the R down, testing does offer a real way forward for this country through the crisis, problem with getting people to self-isolate in the way that they need do – vital to break the chains, very optimistic about testing generally
SS: first line of defence is social contact behaviours, second line is testing, tracing and isolating – mass testing will be key, third line of defence is specialist hospital care


Health Service Journal: more than 1.2m are awaiting a NHS diagnostic test for non-Covid conditions, will you give NHS what it needs? Does the size of the NHS waiting list next year depend on the level of additional funding still yet to be negotiated?
PM: Covid has put pressure on other tests, why we must depress the virus now, never been greater investment into the NHS than under this government, continuing to expand staffing levels
SS: commissioned a report by Mike Richards which says we need to expand diagnostics substantially, will be expanding accessibility backed by the investment we expect to get, can say confidently waiting list will not reach projected 10m, silver lining is that staff have inspired a new generation of young people to join the workforce