Good afternoon and thank you for joining us for the daily. Briefing on our fight against coronavirus I’m joined today by dr.. Yvonne Doyle who is the medical director of public health England before Yvonne provides an update on the. Latest data from our Cobra coronavirus fact file I’d like to update you on the.
Steps that we are taking to defeat this pandemic our step-by-step action plan is aiming to slow the spread. Of the virus so fewer people need hospital treatment at any one time protecting the ability of the NHS to cope throughout. Our response to coronavirus we have been following the scientific and medical advice we have been deliberate in our actions taking the right steps at the right.
Time we’re also taking unprecedented action to increase NHS capacity by dramatically expanding the number of beds key staff and life-saving equipment on the frontline provide. The care when people need it most the daily figures show that a total of 152 thousand nine hundred and seventy-nine people in the UK have now been tested for coronavirus of. Those 29 thousand four hundred and seventy four have tested positive the number of people admitted to hospital in England with coronavirus symptoms is now ten thousand seven hundred and sixty-seven whilst three thousand nine. Hundred and fifteen of those are in London and 1918 in the Midlands others hospitalized in.
The UK sadly two thousand three hundred and fifty-two have died this is an increase of 563 fatalities since yesterday the youngest of them was just. Thirteen years old all our thoughts and prayers are with the families and loved ones of those who have lost their lives this is more tragic evidence that this virus does not. Discriminate the corona virus pandemic is the biggest threat our country has faced in decades and we’re not alone all over the world we are seeing the devastating impact of this invisible killer we. Recognize the extreme disruption the necessary actions we are asking people to take are having on their lives their. Businesses jobs and the nation’s economy and I want to. Thank everyone across our whole country for the huge effort that is being made collectively.
In tackling the curve in nineteen and emic to the frontline workers. Treating and caring for patients the people delivering supplies their neighbors and the millions staying at home thank you you are protecting the NHS.
And saving lives and I want to thank businesses too through your support for your workers and your communities. And through your willingness to support our health service you are making.
A real difference whether it’s in us building a new hand sign. That sanitizer plant near Middlesbrough in just 10 days or UCL engineers working with Mercedes Formula One to build new continuous positive airway. Pressure machines which help patients to breathe more easily or broadband providers giving their customers unlimited data to stay connected or indeed London London’s Excel Centre being converted in the NHS nightingale hospital. With space for 4,000 patients these are just a few of the examples of businesses from across our great nation supporting life-saving work. There are also thousands of businesses large and small which have worked with staff to ensure that they’re supported in the days and weeks ahead whether that is through ensuring Phe guidelines are followed on-site. Implementing furlough schemes carrying over annual leave or providing the means to work from home I want.
To convey my heartfelt thanks to all of those businesses. Up and down the country which are working to keep our economy going so that when this crisis passes and it will we are ready to bounce back our businesses are doing all. They can to support our people and I want to make it clear that government in turn will do all it can to support our businesses we have already taken. Unprecedented action to support businesses safeguard jobs and protect the economy from today businesses will start benefiting from twenty two billion pounds in the form. Of business rates relief and grants for up to twenty-five thousand pounds which are being paid into the bank accounts or the.
Smallest high street firms on Saturday I said that we had provided funds to councils. In England for grants to small businesses as of today these local. Authorities have received more than twelve billion pounds this afternoon I held a call with hundreds.
Of local authorities across England and made clear that this money must reach businesses as quickly as possible and I know that businesses across England have already started to receive these. Grants we know high street banks are working really hard to support the UK. Through this period including through mortgage holidays and increased credit facilities loans for businesses are also being issued through the.
Kovat business interruption loan scheme since it came into operation last week the Chancellor to go to the Bank of England and. The financial conduct authority wrote the chief executives of the UK banks to urge them to make sure that.
The benefits of the loan scheme are passed through to businesses and. Consumers and it will be completely unacceptable if any banks were unfairly refusing funds. To good businesses in financial difficulty just as a taxpayer stepped in to help the banks back in 2008 we will work with the banks to do everything they can to repay. That favor and support the businesses and people of the.
United Kingdom in their time of need course this is a brand-new scheme and as with all new schemes it will not be perfect from the outset we are. Listening all the time and a response to concerns that we’ve. Heard from businesses we are looking at ways in which we can ensure they get the support they need the Chancellor would be saying more on this in the coming days. It is crucial that when we overcome this crisis as in time we will the businesses are in a good position to move forward times are tough and we have harder.
Times ahead of us but I know that together we will pull through Thank You Secretary of State I would like to present you. With some slides just to give you an update on what is happening across the country and also with the Health System. Could I have slide one please and this shows slightly concerning trend because we have seen an uptick in motor vehicle traffic so.
The message here really is people do need to stay at home and most are doing the right thing as you can see from the rapid decline in public transport use so everyone needs to. Do that the message here is we need to save lives and protect the NHS so please stay. At home could I have slide two please this shows the number of new UK cases as of today it is slightly concerning it’s still too early. To say whether the plateau of hospital admissions has ended but we’ve now seen three days of increases in a row and again we need to protect the NHS and the best way to.
Do that is to stay at home to avoid catching the disease yourself and obviously avoid giving it to anyone else that is the way the NHS. Can continue to protect us could I have slide three please this slide.
Shows the ink and hospital admissions I think a lot of reporting has been about London and you. Can see why on this slide and that’s where coronavirus is most advanced but the chart. Shows that the threat is everywhere we need to protect the NHS everywhere and the Midlands now is obviously a concern as well and slide for. Please and this is what it’s all about it is about saving. Lives this slide shows the global death comparisons we need to save lives as. Things stand it has not been as severe here as in France and we’re just.
Tucked in under the USA and obviously Italy on a different trajectory but and Spain and the United States as we’ve. Said but there is no reason to be complacent stay at home protect the NHS save lives thank you thank you Vaughn I think we’ll now move to the Q&A the first question. Is from the BBC lawrenceburg Laura thanks very much Secretary of State and the peak. Of this disease seems to be coming earlier than the government expected but you are. Missing the testing targets there’s a huge amount of evidence. Of staff not having the equipment they desperately need there are not enough ventilators do you accept now that the approach.
And the response from government has just been too slow Laura thank you very much for that question but can I just make it absolutely and the Prime Minister has. Been very clear about this is well is it increasing testing capacity is absolutely the.
Government’s top priority we’re now at 10,000 tests a day we’re rolling out. Additional networks of labs and testing sites and in terms of phe. Over the last two weeks 390 million products had been distributed and of course we will continue to do.
More and work to make sure that Phe is available as you know there is a hot line which. Is available 24 hour hotline for NHS staff as well but Yvonne if you wanted to comment on this piece Thank. You Secretary of State so Laura the there is positive news about this we committed the. NHS and Phe committed to make 10,000 tests des available we have met that target by the end of March early April and.
We have some more capacity and our commitment is actually to go to 25,000 tests a day and we are confident. With our industry partners that we will achieve that so that means patients are getting at the tests. They need but there is also spare some spare capacity in that for testing the most. Urgent health care workers and alongside that a secretary of state assert there is a second. Strand front opening and as already testing a couple of thousand health care workers in an order. Of priority so we are definitely increasing our testing capacity Thank You Lora next question is from.
Skybet Rigby Beth thank you question from Duke you give us the number and proportion of front-line NHS staff who’ve been tested for. Coronavirus you said mm is that out of half-a-million frontline NH has workers and how are you intending to scale that up and if I may to the sake of. State the prime minister said nearly two weeks ago he. Wanted to get to a quarter of a million tests a day that was. The virus an antibody test latest daily figures ten thousand four hundred and 12. Tests why is it taking so long for reality to match the rhetoric and will you give a clearer timeframe as to when you will deliver on the prime minister’s promise so.
Beth and the number of tests undertaken in the NHS public health England combined testing capacity is just increasing. At the moment so that will be a relatively small. Number but there is capacity for example today for almost three thousand and that will increase as we get to 25,000 that capacity but the important capacity is.
In the second strand where we will have five and have five centers where people can drive through and get their testing done in. Order of priority NHS chief executives are identifying that priority and the intention here is to get from thousands to hundreds of within the coming weeks so we are very committed to our NHS. Frontline staff thank you you don’t think that and I think Beth if honest explained the details in terms. Of ramping up testing you made particular reference to the antibody test and what I can say. On that is of course we are urgently evaluating that test and it is an absolute priority and of course this is about making.
Sure that people who have the test can find out whether they’ve had the virus and are now immune to it the chief scientific officer has said that the. Accuracy of this test is incredibly important so it’s also important that we get this right before we launch the test itself thank you for that the next question is. From ITV Robert Peston Robert hello largely a question I think for Yvonne. Doyle if I reported this afternoon the million antibody tests are arriving from China in the coming few days they have been paid for. By the government the government has said it won’t pay for anything he doesn’t think it works but I am told that PhD public. I think England is dragging its feet in giving its approval to the use of these tests I’m also told that these tests would be.
An alternative to PCR and would actually detect active virus for example in frontline staff when will they be in. Hospitals for use thank you Robert so the antibody tests the important thing about these antibody tests is it’s not a matter of. Dragging or feet it’s important that the test is valid that it does what it says it does and as the chief. Medical officer said there’s something worse than no test is is a wrong test or a bad test so that is what is being tested at the moment and in the meantime there. Is a separate strand which is very important which is called seroprevalence where our own labs are testing the validity of. Whether the blood samples were getting very generously from people who’ve had the disease but also from blood and transplant and from.
The College of GPs surveillance scheme whether those tests are also valid and we are very pleased about that so I would say Robert as soon as we can we want to be out there. Doing these tests thank you thank you Robert thank you Vaughn the next question is from The Evening Standard from Joe Murphy Joe hello may. Ask Devon Doyle if 2000 NHS staff have been tested so far and 125,000 our self isolating or thereabout that’s. By my reckoning 1.6 percent can I ping you to a target for the improvement that you promised in. The previous answer what for example will that number look like in one week. From today and do you think people are getting complacent about the measures that have been put in and mr..
Sharma I think a lot of us feel that we haven’t yet been given a full and practical explanation of why Germany. Is able to test many times more than the UK do they have more labs. More equipment are they making better use of universities or the private sector than earth and if so why or are they using a different perhaps a quicker test and what are the reagents that. We’re struggling to get we’re looking to work out is this a capacity issue. For the Germany versus the UK or is it a political choice that’s made us tests fewer people I presume you’re talking about the health care worker.
Frontline testing and the intention there as I say is. To go from thousands of thousands to hundreds of thousands that will have to go on the basis of the priority that has identified as to which of these workers are actually needed. When I say work as they’re really staff or colleagues are needed in which settings. Particularly where the sickest patients are and they will be tested first so that is the intention over the coming weeks and do you well I’m speaking do you wish me to.
Speak about the reagent just about the reagents so the reagents are generally produced by the manufacturers of the machines and so the reagents that work best are those that work with the. Machines that they’re intended for that’s the most efficient we are working with the industry to ensure that that supply is good and that the machinery. Is most efficient but as the head of the industry has said there is a. Global market and this but they are committed to working with the UK government and with us to ensure that we get those tests. Through as quickly and there is complementary work going on to ensure that we can supplement.
That if needed and that is very exciting for the future Joe I think you you asked you made reference. To Germany we of course look to see where we can learn throughout this process and of course. We are working with industry were working with the scientific community to make sure that we have you know maximum possible supplies but on a scale which. Is comparable to building a medical equivalent of a car factory so we are trying to do something at. Huge scale very fast but I think as you’ve heard from Yvonne we are making progress we will continue to make progress and we are determined to make sure that we have the.
Supplies and provides the support that we can for people across the UK and particularly the most vulnerable and those key workers in the NHS thank you. Very much for that Joe I think this question is from Financial Times from Laura Hughes Laura the government’s exit strategy well getting us out of this. Lockdown and what role will testing play in that Jeremy Hunt has called for mass community testing is it too. Late for that or is that a government’s policy and one that we’ll see being carried out over the next few weeks and months well. Thank you for that Laura let me just say a few words before I pass on. To to go on on this of course people will understand across the country why we have put these restrictions in place and the promise was very clear.
They were for an initial three-week period and we would review them but what’s also really important is that if we stop these too quickly there is a possibility that that. Effort that people have made that massive effort people are made across the country is wasted and we could potentially see a dangerous second peak we actually want to avoid. That but I think it may be helpful even if you want to amplify on this but a good point Thank You Secretary of State so we the Prime Minister has committed – taking review. Of this after Easter and I think it’s important to say that we are.
Looking at this through the scientific lens as well through modeling and through the information we’re getting. From clinical cases as to how this epidemic is progressing and we will be guided by that Laura so we obviously want to make the right call at the right time on this. And it is something that we have to keep reviewing every week and they certainly were very close to Sage and the modeling on that but in terms of the mass. Testing which is your other point here so testing if the testing. Strategy is in to increase the amount of testing done not just in healthcare workers but in the population the the rate. Limiting step there is not us it’s really whether the tests are valid.
And how then to get that out and about and aided by technology and I think that will change as the phases of. This epidemic change we will perhaps use different techniques in the beginning at the containment phase this was very people very professional people dependent in the community we obviously. Would want this to go faster as the we come to a different phase of the epidemic thank you. For that Yvonne we have one final question which is from buzzfeed from Emily Ashton Emily NHS front line workers across the country are showing extraordinary. Courage and showing our hospitals day after day in horrific circumstances and you. May have seen today a joint statement from trade unions saying the lack of personal protective equipment has become a crisis within a crisis workers are being productive unnecessary risk.
And they’re also going into work not knowing whether they have been infected by this virus or not and many wondering why we weren’t preparing for testing much earlier and the government keeps. Offering them warm words we’ve heard more of those this evening but do you accept that you are putting though those workers into. A dangerous situation I’d really need to act urgently to keep them safe Emily thank you for that at UMC right I mean I pay tribute to the amazing work that. NHS staff in front line across the whole of the NHS and across the public service are doing at this time to support us and support the population specifically on the. Point of PPE I think as I said in response to an earlier question over the past two weeks we have delivered over 390 million PPE products.
We’ve ensured that these are being delivered to every GP practice dentists community pharmacies and there is also now a 24-hour NHS run hotline where NHS and social care. Workers can call and request that PPE if it’s needed of course we will continue to do as much as we can more to get more of this equipment to. The frontline because at the end of there you are apps you write this is about helping and supporting those who are making a difference in.
Helping and supporting our population thank you so Emily it is absolutely our. Commitment to protect frontline staff and we are in touch with a wide range of leaders clinical leaders nursing. Leaders community leaders and the trade unions and they are aware of our intention we are working very rapidly at the. Moment to ensure that the deliveries reach where they’re needed and good stopped taking on that and also that our guide our guidance is easily understood and people understand what they actually need. To keep them safe in the circumstances they’re in great well thank you very much I think that.
Was our last question could I just end by saying is that we do request that everybody follows the government guidelines ultimately this is about staying at home protecting. The NHS and saving lives and we will get through this working together thank you.