Wednesday 30 September

The prime minister delivered a second press conference updating on coronavirus in a week, joined by Professor Chris Whitty, chief medical officer and Sir Patrick Vallance, chief scientific advisor. He signalled an increase in these press conferences, while at this stage not back to the daily briefings we were seeing during the early stages of the pandemic, it does indicate a change in approach from the government. Johnson highlighted an increase in daily cases and deaths, which showed the measures in place were not quite working yet. Johnson urged people to follow the rules and said that he hopes that if people follow the guidance as before, then we can stop the virus spreading but that he wants to do that while keeping the economy open and young people in education. He reiterated the message that the government doesn’t want to go back to the 'stay at home' national lockdown we saw in March. Johnson said he won’t hesitate to introduce national measures "if the evidence requires it" but stopped short of setting out a threshold, just saying that they were "going to keep our eye on it".

He said we are better prepared than we were in the spring;  over 2000 beds that could be available in 7 Nightingale Hospitals, testing more than Germany, ventilator capacity has been trebled,  32bn items of PPE have been ordered and a four-month stockpile will be in place. He said that by December UK suppliers will provide 70% of it, compared to just 1% before the pandemic.

Chris Whitty presented slides showing the spread of COVID-19 across England, the estimate of weekly rate of new cases, and patients in hospital with COVID-19.

He said there has been a significant uptick in people entering ICU. He said that it is not at a stage where capacity is threatened but it is going in the wrong direction. But he stressed that the NHS is absolutely open for business, and that people should continue to visit GPs / Hospitals when they need.

In response to a question from Laura Keunsberg, Sir Patrick Vallance, the government’s chief scientific adviser, defended the messages from the press conference last week. He said he was trying to get across three messages in his presentation last week:

  1. more cases could lead to more deaths, that case numbers were growing already, and that cases could double very quickly.
  2. cases are going up, and the number of deaths is rising.
  3. more likely that in April and March there were over 100,000 cases per day. So you cannot make a like for like comparison between the published figures then and the published figures now (which are higher).



Thursday 24 September

Today the chancellor of the exchequer, Rishi Sunak, gave a statement to the House on the economy and laid out his plans to protect jobs and the economy over the winter period. He began by saying that there were reasons to be optimistic; we are in a better place than we were in March, the promise to give the NHS 'whatever it needs' has been met and over £12bn has been provided to NHS Test and Trace. The economy has seen three months of consecutive growth and millions of people have moved off the furlough scheme and back in to work.

Since March, the government has provided £190bn to support people, businesses, and public services. He acknowledged that restrictions likely be in place for the next six months and the economy will undergo a more permanent adjustment. He reiterated that he cannot save every business or every job and defended his decision to end the furlough scheme saying it is wrong to keep people in jobs that exist only inside the furlough.

The chancellor announced a new Jobs Support Scheme set to run for six months from November. Under this scheme employees must work at least one-third of their normal hours and be paid for that work, the government and the employer will then jointly pay for the other two-thirds of the hours not worked. This scheme is aimed at small and medium companies or larger companies that have seen a decline in revenue as a result of coronavirus. The self-employed grant will be extended on similar terms and conditions as the new Jobs Support Scheme.

He announced further measures to support businesses with their cash flow:

  • Time to pay back bounce back loans was extended from six to ten years. Businesses may choose interest only payments or apply to suspend payments.
  • The government guarantee for coronavirus business interruption loans was extended to ten years allowing lenders to give businesses more time to repay.
  • There will be a new loan scheme in January.
  • VAT repayments (initially due in March) can be spread across eleven smaller repayments with no interest.
  • The cut in VAT for hospitality and tourism to 5% will be extended until 31 March.
  • Tax bills can be extended over 12 months from next January.

The details of these schemes will be laid out in due course. The chancellor ended his statement by warning that we must bear these costs in mind.

Full speech is here.


Tuesday 22 September

Prime minister's statement to the House of Commons announcing new coronavirus restrictions

The prime minister delivered a statement today announcing new coronavirus restrictions. The prime minister stressed that this is not a return to full lockdown, but said that unless the government acts now there is the possibility of tens of thousands of cases by next month and hundreds of deaths a day by mid-November. He also said that in the last fortnight, daily hospital admissions have doubled. While these new measures do not go as far as some had been arguing for, the prime minister warned that if the R value does not go back below one, and people's behaviour does not change, there will be significant extra restrictions, and we can expect the existing ones to last at least six months. He also announced that the military may be used to support police in enforcing new rules.

In his statement, he addressed some of the arguments against further restrictions highlighting that there is a rising proportion of those being tested, testing positive, which is a strong sign the prevalence of the virus is rising and that it is not just that more tests are being carried out that is causing the rise in cases.

Although at this stage he did not outline any further financial support, and refused to be drawn on extending the furlough scheme, he did hint that the chancellor and culture secretary would be looking at a package of support for the sports industry, particularly those that rely on money from spectators.  

Key points from the restrictions:

  • Office workers to work from home where possible but schools, colleges and universities will stay open
  • From Thursday, all pubs, bars and restaurants should operate table service only, except takeaways, and close at 10pm
  • Extend the requirement to wear face coverings to retail staff, indoor hospitality (except when eating / drinking) and taxis also from Thursday
  • Businesses will be fined and closed if they do not comply with restrictions
  • From Monday 28 September, a maximum of 15 people will be able to attend weddings and 30 will be able to attend funerals
  • The rule of six will be extended to all adult indoor team sports
  • Spectators sports will not resume from 1 October
  • The penalty for breaking the rule of 6 or failing to wear a mask doubles to £200 for first time offenders


Monday 21 September

Coronavirus data briefing with Sir Patrick Vallance and Professor Chris Whitty

Sir Patrick Vallance, chief scientific advisor and Professor Chris Whitty, chief medical officer delivered a briefing earlier today to provide an update on coronavirus in light of emerging data.

Vallance and Whitty drew comparisons between the situation in France and Spain and the lessons the UK could learn from their experiences. The key message from both Vallance and Whitty was that a very serious wave of disease was on its way, unless the UK could get a handle on the spread. They suggested that any second wave could last at least until next spring and possibly summer next year. Vallance warned that a vaccine won't be ready in big numbers until the "first half of next year".

Slides and datasets -

Key points below.



  • Increase of numbers of cases – comparing with Spain and France – has translated into hospitalisations
  • Increase in cases in all age groups
  • Not down to increase in testing
  • ONS study shows a similar increase
  • Roughly 70,000 people in UK have COVID infection around 6,000 a day are getting the infection
  • At the moment it looks like the epidemic is doubling roughly every seven days
  • See no evidence that the virus has changed since April



Four ways in which this virus will have an impact on the population

  1. Direct COVID deaths
  2. NHS and emergency services overwhelmed
  3. If the NHS is having to spend efforts treating COVID cases, will lead to reduction in treatment in other areas, prevention programmes, early diagnosis
  4. Impact of measures on the health of the population


Four things that can be done to limit the spread of the virus:

  1. Reducing individual risk – washing hands, using masks, space between people where possible, especially indoors
  2. Isolate symptoms – people must isolate when showing symptoms or told to by track and trace
  3. Break unnecessary links – reducing social contacts between households
  4. Vaccines / diagnostics


On the vaccine:

Vallance said several vaccines are in clinical tests and the UK has put itself in a good position for vaccine supply. While it is possible that some vaccines could be available in small amounts later this year, it is more likely that a vaccine will be available early next year - although that is not guaranteed.