Q. In Northern Ireland the R has been increasing and is barely below 1 – should that cause alarm?
Vallance says the R remains below 1 everywhere but may be very close to 1 in some places.
We have to be very cautious with these changes, he adds.
There will be local outbreaks so we must be prepared for that, he says.
The number of cases remains high and we have to get them down by adhering to the measures in place, he says.
Q. Given that lives are at stake, if the public health advice becomes bastardised by the actions of Dominic Cummings, can you at least criticise how he has acted given the gravity of what’s happened?
This goes unanswered.
And that’s the end of the press briefing.
Q. Do you really have the capacity to trace all the contacts of infected people?
Q. Why is the UK still only listing three symptoms for the disease compared to other countries?
Vallance says the number of new cases appears closer to 8,000 a day, but that’s clearly not the whole number – there are people we’re not picking up.
The app and contact tracing will help close this gap and get people to isolate quickly.
Whitty says there are many other symptoms of coronavirus as it can affect many parts of the body, but fever, cough and loss of smell/taste were the most specific – around 95% of people with symptoms will have any one of those three.
Q. How long can people stay at another person’s private garden, can you go inside to use the loo and when can we hug loved ones again?
Johnson says no to overnight stays as we’re not at that stage.
All of these adjustments have to be in socially distanced way, with people continuing to wash their hands and use common sense, he adds.
We can’t move freely across the country to stay at other people’s houses, he adds.
Whitty says the two metre rule is critical because the virus spreads in air droplets.
After using the loo, wipe everything down and wash your hands, he adds.
Plus if you’re passing things from one person to another, e.g. when doing a BBQ, you must be washing your hands and wiping everything down, he adds.
Q. [To the medics] Would you advise motorists to go on 60-mile round trip to test their eyesight?
This goes unanswered.
Q. [To Vallance and Whitty] Are you comfortable with the PM telling you that you can’t answer questions about Dominic Cummings?
Whitty says he and Vallance don’t want to get involved in politics.
Vallance adds that as a civil servant he doesn’t want to be involved at all.
Q. Are the instructions from contact tracers instructions that you must follow whatever your childcare arrangements or your job?
Johnson says if you get a call from a contact tracer, you must self-isolate.
Whitty adds you must do this to protect all of us.
Q. A number of scientific advisers to Sage have said Cummings’ behaviour risks more people not complying with social distancing rules. Do Vallance and Whitty fear compliance will be reduced because of this?
Q. Is Sage looking at whether the social distancing rule can be reduced from two metres?
Johnson again doesn’t let Vallance and Whitty answer the question on Cummings.
On the two metre rule, Vallance says the scientific evidence suggests two metres is a distance at which it’s safer and other measures add to this, e.g. wearing face masks.
Whitty adds that if, under test and trace, you remained two metres apart from an infected person, you won’t count as a contact and have to isolate.
Q. Durham police have said they would have sent Dominic Cummings home if they had stopped him at Bernard Castle, why should anyone else follow the rules if one of your senior team isnt’?
Q. [To the medics] Is that the kind of example you want people to follow?
Johnson says the police said they would take no action and he intends to draw a line under the matter.
Astonishingly, he doesn’t let Sir Patrick Vallance and Prof Chris Whitty answer on the grounds it’s a “political” matter, and he doesn’t allow a follow-up.
Carol from Sunderland asks what measures will be put in place for people would could temporarily lose their income if local lockdowns are imposed.
Johnson says help such as the furlough scheme and various loan schemes remain in place.
Nobody should be penalised in this epidemic for doing the right thing, he adds.
Jay from Horsham asks how loosening the lockdown for the shielding community – the clinically vulnerable – is going to be approached.
Johnson says he sympathises with how tough it’s been and he wants to release them from “captivity” as quickly as possible but they must be vigilant in their approach.
Whitty says the risk to the shielded and other vulnerable groups is decreasing and they hope to soon get to a stage where the risk is low enough for people to leave shielding in stages.
Changes need to be cautious as rate of infection still ‘significant’, says Vallance
Vallance says the most recent ONS figures suggest:
The proportion of people in the last couple of weeks with Covid-19 is 0.24% – somewhere in the order of 130,000 people have Covid infection, he says.
The number of new infections is estimated to be roughly 1 in 1,000 per week, he says.
This means 54,000 new cases are estimated to be occurring every week – that is not a low number, he stresses.
There is still a significant burden of infection, there are still new infections every day at quite a significant rate, and the R is close to 1, he says.
That means there isn’t a lot of room to do things and things to need to be done cautiously and monitored, and the test and trace system needs to be effective, he says.
An estimated 6.78% of people have had Covid-19, he says.
R number remains close to 1 and not coming down fast, Vallance says
Sir Patrick Vallance is speaking now.
The R is currently somewhere between 0.7 and 0.9, he says.
It remains close to 1, and it could be much closer to 1 in some areas, he says.
The numbers are coming down at the moment, but they’re not coming down fast, he says.
Measures will be reimposed if necessary for local flare-ups, Johnson says
He hopes in the coming weeks we’ll be able to do more in returning to a more normal way of life, Johnson says.
This is all conditional, he adds, based on the scientific data confirming that these actions are safe.
There will be further local outbreaks, he says. The brakes will be put on as required and where necessary, measures will be reimposed, he adds.