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15 May 2020


In the Daily Press Conference Health Secretary Matt Hancock confirmed that the R rate had increased in the last week and was now between 0.7 and 1, having been between 0.5 and 0.9 in the week prior. It remains below 1. The Government is continuing with its plan to open schools but advised individuals to abide by the social distancing rules if they go out this weekend. He underlined that the crisis has shown the importance of integration between health and social care and that there was much more work still to do.

The Prime Minister is reported to have changed his mind on the issue of obesity following evidence that it is linked with greater risk of mortality for those who contract coronavirus. The Times reports that he is preparing for a much more interventionist drive against obesity. Previously, he was highly sceptical of public health related campaigns to pressure people to eat healthy.

In BBC’s Question Time Luke Johnson, the former chairman of Pizza Express and Channel 4, claimed that the “pandemic is government propaganda” and that the incoming “double recession” will kill more people than this novel coronavirus itself.

Minister Stephen Barclay was criticised for overclaiming the number of tests done on Wednesday, he said 120,000 tests when there were 76,000 actually conducted on Wednesday.

Leader of the House of Commons Jacob Rees Mogg has faced criticism from the Liberal Democrat Chief Whip over his comments that MPs should set an example by coming back to work. Elsewhere, Education union leaders are due to meet with chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty to hear the reasons for the push for a phased reopening of schools. Trade Unions are considering legal action regarding the measure.

The third round of EU negotiations has just finished. The UK Chief Negotiator David Frost has stated that “I regret however that we made very little progress towards agreement on the most significant outstanding issues between us.” The UK Government has said it will publish draft legal texts next week “so that the EU’s member states and interested observers can see our approach in detail.”

The Chancellor Rishi Sunak will take questions from MPs this Monday.

Daily Press Conference

The below is a summary of the remarks at the daily press conference.

The Health Secretary Matt Hancock led the Daily briefing. He was accompanied by Deputy Chief Medical Officer for England Dr Jenny Harries and Medical Director NHS England Nikki Kanani.

The number of deaths is falling each day in all settings. In the second phase, we have set up the new Covid alert system. The alert level guides the social distancing rules.

We have brought R down. We are now in a position to start moving to level 3. Will only move to the next step when safe to do so.

People can now exercise as often as they like and meet someone else outside your household in a public place. Enjoy spending time outside this weekend but continue to obey the rules.

Asking people to stay alert, which means working from home and staying home if you can and keeping socially distanced from others when outside. By staying alert and obeying the rules you can play a part in the national effort to get R down.

We can then begin to regain our freedom as a country. Care homes look after our most vulnerable people towards the end of their lives. Many will have a loved one in one as I do.

From the start we have tried to put a protective ring around our care homes. Sadly, 31,203 people died in care homes throughout April of which 11,560 died with coronavirus.

Social care is a devolved matter, we have made additional money available in England and the devolved authorities. We have made a further £600m available to care homes in England.

We test extensively in the care homes and almost two thirds of care homes have not had any cases. Now we have capacity to have 100,000 tests a day.

Now all care home staff and residents regardless if they have symptoms will be tested between now and the beginning of June and the care homes can apply online for this.

We have put extra infection control measures in place and stepped up testing in care homes. Since the peak, the number of deaths in care homes has halved, but there is so much more work to do.

Putting in place a named clinical lead for each care home in England and will give care homes the most intensive support that they have ever had.

We are making sure that local authorities conduct daily reviews of care homes. We will require care homes to provide timely data so local and national government can challenge and act if necessary.

Crisis has shown the importance of reform and shown the benefits of integration between health and social care. This is breaking down historic barriers. Both have a common mission to care for people but in the past bureaucracy has kept them apart.

Viruses affect the most vulnerable most. We are doing everything possible to protect them. We have passed through the peak but there is a long road ahead. 

Mr Hancock stated nurses have had a significant pay increase particularly for the most junior nurses. The crisis shows how much we value nurses, he stated this in response to a question about nurses pay.

Mr Hancock stressed that the R rate was not above 1 and it was Government policy to keep it below 1.


On opening of schools the Health Secretary said: “We think it is really important that this is a team effort. It is an incredible challenge. Trying to get them open, and only in a way that is safe, is really important for a child’s education. The good news is that the virus seems to spare children in almost every case and is much lower than any other age group in society. That means that we are able to propose going down the route of opening schools. I would not support a proposal unless it was safe to do so. There is a lot of work to do in each individual school to make sure that is done in a safe way.”

On guidance given to care homes and whether the PM should correct what he said in Parliament earlier this week the Health Secretary said: “No on 13th March, we did introduce this extra guidance. On the basis of this guidance, at that point, visitors were stopped by care homes. We have tried to build infection control and a supportive ring around care homes, right from the start.”

Deputy Chief Medical Officer for England, Dr Jenny Harries

Eradicating coronavirus would be ambitious, only smallpox has been eradicated. We need to understand immunity and treatment until we get a vaccine. The number of cases in London is dropping quicker than the rest of the country.

  • 0.27% of population have had COVID-19 between 27 April and 10 May (148,000 people).
  • The current rate of R is below 1, somewhere between 0.7 and 1 as an average across the country.
  • 44% of employed adults worked from home compared to 12% last year.
  • 80% of all adults have only left their home for the permitted reasons.
  • There have been 133,784 tests as of 15 May.
  • There have been 2,353,078 tests in total.
  • 3,560 new cases of COVID-19 were confirmed on 15 May.
  • 236,711 cases confirmed in total as of 15 May.
  • There were 910 estimated admissions to hospital with COVID-19 in England and Wales on 13 May.
  • 19% of critical care beds are occupied with COVID-19 patients as of 14 May, down from 24% on 7th May.
  • 10,731 people are in hospital with COVID-19, down from 12,298 this time last week.
  • There were 384 daily deaths recorded today, bringing the total number of deaths to 33,998.

Government advisers have said the U.K. transmission rate, the R level has increased. R level now between 0.7 and 1. This is up from between 0.5 and 0.9 last week. But it is the level of cases that Dr Harries is concentrating on and it is below 1 as we are aiming.

Nikki Kanani, Medical Director NHS England 

  • Many professionals come together to offer support to care homes, they are multidisciplinary teams and we have ramped this up.
  • Working with clinical commissioning groups to make sure medication provision is as needed.
  • Care homes to have NHS internet access this allows for remote monitoring and for people to keep in contact with their families.

Britons advised to stay away from UK tourist destinations this weekend

  • Richard Leafe, chief executive of the Lake District National Park, told the BBC Today programme: “Please don't travel for the moment to the Lake District because of the impact that you will have on the local communities here.”
  • The tourism body for Blackpool has rebranded itself as Do Not Visit Blackpool in an attempt to discourage visitors.

Transport announcements

  • London Mayor and Government agree deal over the tube: Last night Transport for London (TfL) and the Government agreed a deal that will provide TfL with £1.6 Billion in funding. The agreement requires the Mayor to end his fares freeze, give the Government a role in the Governance of the tube, restore a full tube service and to increase the congestion charge.
  • Motor organisations including the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), Independent Garage Association (IGA) and Institute of the Motor Industry (IMI) have written to the Government to urge them to axe the six month MOT exemption for vehicles because as the lockdown ends it means potentially unsafe vehicles could be using UK roads.
  • The Cabinet Office has withdrawn its instruction banning car sharing and refers people to the Department of Transport guidance that allows it.

Government and Quango announcements/news

  • The Government have agreed a deal with technology company Honeywell to manufacture 70 million face masks for frontline workers.
  • Only 8 per cent of the Government target of 18,000 contract tracers have been recruited, 1,500 in total.  The shortage of contact tracers could slow the delivery of the smartphone app across England which Health Secretary Matt Hancock stated would occur in Mid-May.
  • The Office for National Statistics has revealed that 1 in 4 deaths in care homes are linked to coronavirus. It looked at those who had died from Covid 19 and found the most common pre-existing condition was dementia and Alzheimer’s disease (mentioned in 8,577 deaths), followed by influenza and pneumonia (7,225 deaths), diabetes (7,090 deaths) and hypertensive diseases (6,404 deaths). Obesity was mentioned in 411 deaths. 7,376 deaths mentioned “symptoms signs and ill-defined conditions”, which the ONS said is mostly deaths with a classification code for “old age.”
  • Updated guidance on safe working practices for schools and on the virus for all educational settings, regarding education, childcare and children’s social care and providing free school meals guidance.
  • Guidance for the freight transport industry on international travel following government advice for British nationals.
  • Guidance on how to access coronavirus business innovation support package including continuity grants, loans for existing award holders and additional business advisory support services.
  • An overview of scientific information on coronavirus (COVID-19) and The Department for Education’s response to issues raised regarding the science on coronavirus (COVID-19) has been released.
  • Updated Guidance on the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme to allow people to check if they can claim for wages through the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme and find out how to claim.