Coronavirus briefing: Government ‘remains united’

Monday, March 16, 2020

The government are now giving daily briefings on the measures being taken in the UK in response to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Keep this page updated for all of the latest information.

 

April 6 - Government ‘remains united’ in coronavirus priority

Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab has said the government “remains united in a single overriding priority” to defeat coronavirus as he insisted that Boris Johnson “continues to lead the government”.

He said the Prime Minister had a “comfortable night” at St Thomas’s Hospital in London after his Covid-19 symptoms continue to persist.

Mr Raab added: “I want to reassure people that every arm of government is doing everything it possibly can to defeat the coronavirus and rise to the challenges that it presents to us at home and abroad.”

He said the government had already returned hundreds of thousands of Britons stranded abroad amid the pandemic and said “we are doing everything we can” to repatriate those who are still stuck.

As of today, 5,373 people have died with coronavirus in the UK.

 

April 5 - Queen tells country 'We will meet again'

The Queen has delivered a message of hope to the nation, saying if we "remain united and resolute" in the face of the coronavirus outbreak "we will overcome it".

The head of state warned the country, in lockdown for almost two weeks and with thousands dead after contracting Covid-19, "may have more still to endure".

But she echoed the words of Forces' sweetheart Dame Vera Lynne's Second World War anthem, when she said "we will meet again".

In a rare televised address to the country and Commonwealth, the Queen sounded a positive note after what has been an unsettling period, saying: "We will succeed - and that success will belong to every one of us."

 

April 4 - Seven healthcare professionals have died

Cabinet Minister Michael Gove has paid tribute to those who have lost their lives to coronavirus, including seven healthcare professionals.

Addressing the daily press briefing, he said staying at home was how “we can all best honour them”.

A five-year-old with underlying health conditions has also died.

The child was among 708 who have lost their lived since yesterday, bringing the death toll in Britain up to 4,313.

Mr Gove said hundreds of new ventilators were being manufactured in the UK every day and more had been sourced from abroad, including 300 which arrived from China on Saturday.

 

April 3 - Matt Hancock: People will die if we relax lockdown discipline

The Health Secretary has urged Britons not to relax their lockdown discipline as the UK is set for warm weather this weekend.

Matt Hancock said: “We absolutely cannot afford to relax the social distancing measures that we have in place.

“We cannot relax our discipline now - if we do people will die.

He once again reiterated the government guidelines and warned: “This advice is not a request, it is an instruction.

“Stay at home, protect lives, and then you will be doing your part.”

 

April 2 - Matt Hancock aims for 100,000 coronavirus tests per day by end of April

Health Secretary Matt Hancock has said he is "setting the goal" to achieve 100,000 coronavirus tests per day by the end of the month.

It comes after a week of intense pressure on the government to significantly increase the UK's capacity to test for Covid-19.

Mr Hancock said the UK lacked a large diagnostics industry so was having to build from a "lower base" than the likes of Germany, which is testing at greater levels for the virus.

He said a country-wide shortage of swabs had been "resolved" but that there remained a "global challenge" around sourcing the reagent chemicals needed for the tests.

He announced that, through a "five pillar" plan on testing, the UK was looking to carry out 100,000 tests per day by the end of April.

He also announced that more than £13 billion of historic NHS debt will be written off to place trusts in a "stronger position" to respond to the crisis.

He said: "This landmark step will not only put the NHS in a stronger position to be able to respond to this global coronavirus pandemic, but it will ensure that our NHS has stronger foundations for the future too."

 

April 1 - ‘Slightly concerning’: Number of new cases back on the up

The number of new cases of Covid 19 in the UK is rising once again after increasing for the third day in a row.

Some 3,009 cases were recorded today, compared to 2,619 yesterday and 2,433 the day before.

Earlier this week experts warned against “complacency” as the rate of new coronavirus cases appeared to be slowing.

Director of health protection for Public Health England, Yvonne Doyle, said the increase was “slightly concerning”, but said it was “still too early to say” if the plateau in hospital admissions had ended.

She urged people to continue staying at home after the government recorded a new increase in motor vehicle travel.

It comes as the death toll in Britain increased by 563 to surpass 2,000 for the first time, with the youngest victim being just 13 years old.

Business Secretary Alok Sharma told the press conference that 152,979 people had been tested, with 29,474 positive results.

Of the 10,767 admitted to hospital, 2,352 have died.

 

March 31 - 'First of thousands' of ventilators to reach NHS next week

Cabinet Minister Michael Gove has said the “the first of thousands” of new ventilators will reach the NHS next week in the fight against coronavirus.

He said there are currently 8,000 ventilators deployed in NHS hospitals, but admitted “we need more.”

As well as buying in more equipment from abroad, including the EU, companies such as Dyson, Rolls Royce and McClaren have been involved in coordinating domestic manufacture of ventilators.

Mr Gove said: “This weekend, the first of thousands of new ventilator devices will roll off the production line and be delivered to the NHS next week. From there, they will be rapidly distributed to the front line.”

He also said that while the rate of Covid-19 testing is increasing, the government “must go further, faster.”

He said a “critical constraint” on the ability to rapidly increase testing capacity is the availability of the chemical reagents, but that Boris Johnson and Matt Hancock were working with companies worldwide to ensure the UK gets the material needed to increase tests “of all kind”.

 

March 30 - £75m to bring home 'tens of thousands' of stranded Brits

Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab has announced a new arrangement between the government and commercial airlines to repatriate tens of thousands of British travellers stranded by coronavirus.

The government said it will help fund special charter flights where commercial flights home are no longer an option from “a range of priority countries”, starting this week.

Mr Raab said the government has set aside £75 million support the cost of those flights, "in order to keep the costs down and afforable for those seeking to return to the UK".

The plan will prioritise the “most vulnerable”, including the elderly and those with underlying health conditions.

Airlines involved in the scheme currently include British Airways, Virgin, EasyJet, Jet2 and Titan, but Mr Raab said the list can be expanded.

Where commercial flights are still operating, Mr Raab told passengers to “please book your ticket as soon as possible”.

He said airlines have the responsibility to bring home British travellers at “little to no” cost where flights had been cancelled, allowing passengers to change flights.

 

March 29 - UK could take six months to get back to normal

Deputy chief medical officer Dr Jenny Harries told a Downing Street press conference that it could be six months or longer before the country gets back to normal from the coronavirus pandemic, with reviews of lockdown measures every three weeks.

Housing and Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick led the briefing, announcing that the number of deaths related to the virus in Britain had risen to more than 1,200.

A total of 127,737 people have been tested tested in the UK, with 19,522 of those tests coming back positive.

Of those positive tests, 1,228 people have died.

 

March 28 - UK deathtoll surpasses 1,000

The number of people who have died with coronavirus in the UK has risen above 1,000, the Health Department has said.

As of 5pm yesterday total of 1,019 patients have died after testing positive for Covid-19, up from 759 the day before.

Leading today's press conference, Business Secretary Alok Sharma 17,089 out of the 120,776 tests in Britain have come back positive.

 

March 27 - New alliance to boost testing of frontline workers

Michael Gove has said coronavirus testing for frontline NHS workers will be trialled "immediately", with "hundreds" being carried out over the weekend.

He said the antigen test - which tests whether people are infected - will then be "dramatically scaled up" by the end of next week.

The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster lead the government's daily briefing today, after the Boris Johnson announced he was self-isolating having tested positive for Covid-19.

He said: "Today I can announce that the Prime Minister has brought together businesses, research institutes and universities in a new alliance to boost testing capacity for frontline workers.

"Increasing our testing capacity is absolutely crucial in our response to and our fight against coronavirus."

Mr Gove also updated the press on the latest coronavirus figures in the UK.

As of today:

- 113,777 people have been tested

- 14,543 people have tested positive

- 759 people have died

 

March 26 - Rishi Sunak to self-employed: ‘You have not been forgotten’

Chancellor Rishi Sunak has announced a new scheme for self-employed people affected by coronavirus, telling the “deeply anxious” people who work for themselves, “you have not been forgotten”.

The Self-employed Income Support Scheme is a taxable grant worth 80 per cent of a self-employed person’s average profits monthly over the last three years up to the value of £2,500 per month.

It will be open across the UK for at least three months, but Mr Sunak said it could be extended if necessary.

The scheme is only applicable to those who

- Have trading profits of up to £50,000,

- Make the majority of their income through self-employment

- Are already in self employment and have a tax-return for 2019

The scheme is set to be fully up and running by the beginning of June.

 

March 25 - Boris Johnson thanks 400,000 coronavirus volunteers

The Prime Minister took to the podium today to thank those who had volunteered to help support the NHS in the fight against coronavirus.

Some 405,000 people have signed up to the NHS Volunteer Responders scheme in just 24 hours since it was announced by Health Secretary Matt Hancock.

It is nearly double the government’s original aim of 250,000 volunteers to help ease the burden on health workers.

But the press briefing fell short of addressing the growing pressure on Mr Johnson to announce support for the self-employed.

The Prime Minister said Chancellor Rishi Sunak will update on that issue tomorrow.

 

March 24 - New temporary hospital set up in London

Health Secretary Matt Hancock has announced that a new temporary hospital will be set up in London to help the NHS cope with coronavirus.

The Nightingale Hospital will have the capacity to care for 4,000 people and will be established at the Excel Centre in east London.

It will open next week with the help of the military and NHS clinicians.

Mr Hancock also unveiled a drive to recruit 250,000 volunteers to help ease the burden on medical staff.

The NHS Volunteer Responders scheme is for those in good health who can help the health service care for vulnerable people.

More than 3,500 final year medics and student nurses are also expected to join the frontline in the coming weeks.

Mr Hancock also paid tribute to the 11,000 former NHS staff who have responded to government calls to return to work and help fight against Covid-19.

To health workers across the board, he said: "We salute you."

 

March 23 - Police given powers to enforce social distancing

Boris Johnson has announced the most stringent measures so far in fighting the coronavirus, including shop closures and police enforcement powers. 

The Prime Minister addressed the nation to say from this evening people will only be allowed to leave their home for very limited purposes including shopping for basic necessities, one form of exercise a day, medical need and travelling to work only when absolutely necessary.

He said the government would close all shops selling non-essential goods, stop all gatherings of more than two people in public and stop all social events including weddings, but excluding funerals.

He added that the measures would be reviewed in three weeks, but he warned: “The way ahead is hard, and it is still true that many lives will sadly be lost.”

Mr Johnson concluded: “We will beat the coronavirus and we will beat it together. And therefore I urge you at this moment of national emergency to stay at home, protect our NHS and save lives.”

 

March 22 - 1.5 million vulnerable people told to stay at home for 12 weeks

More than one million of the "most clinically vulnerable" people in the UK will be asked this week to stay at home and avoid face to face contact for the next 12 weeks.

The new measure to "shield" those put most at risk by the coronavirus pandemic was announced today by Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick.

Around 1.5 million people will receive a letter from the NHS this week urging them to stay at home.

It affects those with severe respiratory conditions, specific types of cancer and recipients of organ donations.

Boris Johnson said this next step "will do more than any other single measure that we are setting out to save life."

The Prime Minister continued to urge members of the public to adhere to the social distancing rules and remain two metres apart when outdoors.

He said: "Take this advice seriously, follow it, because it’s absolutely crucial."

 

March 21 - “Be responsible when you shop”, says Environment Secretary

Environment Secretary George Eustice has urged people to “be responsible when you shop” and urged them to think of NHS workers as he outlined measures to bolster the food supply chain amid the coronavirus crisis.

Taking to the podium at the government's daily press conference, he said there was "more than enough food to go around", but said challenges lie in ensuring shelves can be restocked quickly enough.

He urged "every citizen of this country to play their part", asking the public to "respect" the supermarket staff and the measures they have put in place.

Some measures include rationing certain products or reducing opening hours.

 

March 20 - Government to help pay wages as pubs told to close

 

Boris Johnson has said the government is telling pubs, cafes, nightclubs, bars, restaurants, theatres, leisure centres and gyms to close from tonight to fight coronavirus.

He said the areas should close tonight "as soon as they reasonably can" and not reopen tomorrow, though restaurants can still operate takeaway services.

The Prime Minsiter said the government would "review the situation each month".

His announcement was followed by Chancellor Rishi Sunak who revealed that the government would "for the first time in our history step in and help to pay people's wages".

The coronavirus job retention scheme will provide 80 per cent of retained workers salaries up to a total of £2,500 a month and every employer in the country will be eligible to apply for the scheme.

The Chancellor added that the coronavirus business interruption loan scheme, which he announced on Monday, will now be interest free for 12 months rather than the original six months.

Mr Johnson told workers "we will stand by you" while Mr Sunak addressed businesses, saying "the government is doing its best to stand behind you and I'm asking you to do your best to stand behind our workers."

 

March 19 - PM: 'We can send coronavirus packing' in 12 weeks if public heed advice

Boris Johnson has told the nation he is "absolutely confident that we can send coronavirus packing in this country" and the tide can be turned within the next 12 weeks.

The Prime Minister urged members of the public to heed the advice to keep up social distancing and stay at home if ill or if somebody in their household is ill as he said: "I know it's tough, I know it's difficult... but please, please follow the advice."

"I'm conscious as the days have gone by that people will want to know how long we're expecting them to keep it up," he told reporters at his daily press conference in Downing Street.

"I think, looking at it all, that we can turn the tide within the next 12 weeks and I'm absolutely confident that we can send coronavirus packing in this country.

"But only if we all take the steps that we've outlined, that is vital, that's how we're going to reduce the peak and once we've achieved that and I think that we will, if we take the steps I've said, then the scientific progress that we've been making will really start coming into play."

Mr Johnson also  quelled fears of a "London lockdown", insisting there is "no prospect" of bringing the capital's public transport to a halt or telling Londoners they cannot go to work.

He said there is evidence that Londoners are heeding the advice on social distancing but did not rule out ministers taking more drastic action if necessary.

The UK death toll reached 144 as of 1pm today, with around four in 10 of all deaths so far in London.

 

March 18 - Schools across UK to close 'until further notice'

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson has announced that schools across the UK will remain closed "until further notice" from Friday afternoon onwards.

The announcement in the House of Commons followed the same decision made in Wales and Scotland earlier today.

Boris Johnson said that schools will need schools to make provisions for the children of key public service workers.

No exams will take place this summer.

The UK death toll has now reached 104.

 

March 17 - Rishi Sunak unveils 'unprecedented package' of economic support

The Chancellor Rishi Sunak has said it is "time for courage" as he revealed further measures to manage the economic impact of coronavirus.

His “unprecedented package” of support includes:

- £330 billion of government-backed loans. This will be done through a new lending facility for larger firms and loans of up to £5 million with no interest due for the first six months for small and medium sized businesses.

- Extending the business rates holiday to all businesses in the hospitality, retial and leisure sectors

- Funding grants of up to £25,000 for smaller businesses in those sectors with a rateable value less than £51,000

- A three-month mortgage holiday for those in financial difficulty due to coronavirus

Mr Sunak said he would do "whatever it takes" and promised that "whatever resources the NHS needs, it will get".

He said he will go further in the coming days to speak to trade unions and business groups.

In terms of public health, Boris Johsnon said that "although the measures are already extreme, we may have to go further and faster in the coming days".

He called for "national unity" as well as "international cooperation".

"Yes this enemy can be deadly but also it is also beatable and we know how to beat it and we know that if, as a country, we follow scientific adivce that is now being given, we know that we will beat it

"However tough the months ahead, we have the resolve and the resources to win the fight."

 

March 16 - Boris Johnson urges public to avoid all ‘non-essential contact’

The Prime Minister has set out the need for “drastic action” in the fight against coronavirus, as the UK approaches the “fast growth” stage in the rate of infection.

He has asked that the public:

- Stop all non-essential contact with others

- Stop all non-essential travel

- Avoid pubs, theatres and “other such social venues”

- Only use the NHS when necessary

He said the measures apply particularly to those aged over 70, pregnant women and those with underlying health conditions.

The government will also “no longer be supporting” mass gatherings where emergency services workers are required. Mr Johnson said that the country should be “emphatically moving away from” large gatherings of people.

He said people in London, where the virus is spreading most quickly, should “pay special attention” to the new measures.

Those with symptoms and those with which they share a household have been asked to stay at home for at least 14 days.

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