COVID-19
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A summary of the Government daily Press Conference on the COVID-19 outbreak. 

Updated 26/05/2020

Health Secretary, Matt Hancock

  • He started off with the figures of the day: 3,681,295 tests were carried out in the UK including 109,979 yesterday
  • 265,227 people tested positive with 2,004 cases identified since yesterday
  • 37,048 people have died, with 134 deaths registered across the UK yesterday
  • No deaths were recorded in Northern Ireland yesterday – he paid tribute to those who showed such resolve
  • ONS stats show the lowest number of deaths in six weeks – but 'we cannot let up on this', he urged the public, 'we must keep our resolve'
  • Although we are passed the peak, there are still 8,802 people in hospital including 98 NHS staff being hospitalised
  • On PPE, he mentioned the calls for more and better PPE and the global scramble to acquire PPE. The Government has built a new supply chain from scratch, he said, noting the operational difficulty of delivery.
  • There has been significant progress in acquiring PPE: the Government has signed contracts to manufacture 2bn items of PPE in the UK; and has now 100 new suppliers for PPE from around the world.
  • The UK was now not simply keeping up with demand but beginning to replenish the stocks.
  • On R&D into treatments, he said the UK was leading in trials and expressed his determination to explore every possible avenue. The recovery trial is the world's largest trial of potential coronavirus treatments and because the NHS is a universal system, the UK has much data.
  • Today, a new trial for selected NHS patients of an anti-viral drug called Remdesevir was beginning – its aim is to shorten the recovery time by around 4 days. The use of the treatment will be prioritised where it will provide the greatest benefit. This was the biggest step forward in the treatment since the crisis began, he added.
  • Until a vaccine or treatment is found, we must not lose out resolve, we must stay alert, control the virus and save lives, he concluded.

Prof John Newton, Test and Trace Coordinator

  • Took us thought slides, noting a small trend upwards in transport use commensurate with the advice to return to work
  • Public transport has seen no increase in use recently
  • The number of tests is fluctuating due to the Government conducting large scale testing on certain days.
  • The number of confirmed cases has seen a downward trend.
  • The number of people admitted in hospital is also trending down, with 11 percent of the mechanical ventilator beds occupied by people with Covid
  • All regions and countries in the UK show a decline in the number of people in hospital,- a slow and steady decline
  • Deaths are also in decline, with 134 registered today, bearing in mind the lag of the bank holiday weekend.
  • ONS figures show 45,231 death certificates mentioning Covid as a cause of death up to 15 May, in contrast with 33,998 confirmed deaths with Covid.

 

Questions

The first question from the public was regarding a review of penalty fines imposed on families travelling for childcare purposes during the lockdown. Hancock said that he will consider this question, speak with the Treasury about it and come back in a future press conference with an answer.

Another question was about returning to school when it is not yet possible to see family that one knows have been isolating. Hancock noted the easing of measures such as opening non-essential retain and returning to school. The Government was looking at how to make the further easing of measure in the future.

Laura Kuenssberg, BBC, noted that 40 Tory MPs thought the PM's top adviser let the country down. Hancock said Cummings offered an explanation and invited questions after. The Health Secretary was of the same opinion as the PM although he understood why reasonable people would think otherwise. He also noted the childcare was an exceptional circumstance, claiming Cummings acted within the guidelines. Kuenssberg asked him if he admitted that it undermined the trust in the Government. Hancock said it was incredibly important people kept their resolve.

Robert Peston asked Hancock why he did not do the same as Cummings when he and his wife tested positive with Coronavirus. Hancock said the difference was that he had childcare readily available at home, whereas Cummings did not.

Ben Kentish , LBC, said people disagreed with him on this matter and the confidence in the Government was lower by 20 points. Hancock was asked how worried he was about the loss of confidence. Hancock regretted the anger that people felt and stressed it was important to focus on what to do next.

Sebastian Payne, FT, noted that a poll taken after the press conference showed that 71 percent of the public said that his drive to Durham broke the lockdown rules. Does it mean the public misunderstood the rules and does that mean the Government failed in drafting them, he asked. Can people use that discretion when interpreting the rules or was description only for No 10, he added.

Hancock said the rules were drafted with exceptional circumstances in mind and it was reasonable to conclude that the description of events given by Cummings was within the guidelines, but he understood why some may disagree.

Joe Murphy, Evening Standard, asked if people could follow the instinct when following the test and trace advice. Hancock said it was important to follow the guidelines not for the Government but for themselves, their families and communities.

Newton stressed it was important to see the test and trace system alongside other measures such as social distancing as we will not be able to test and trace every case. Murphy pressed on noting it was a big ask when people drafting the rules are not following them. Hancock emphasized again the need to follow rules for our loved ones, own communities and for civic duty.