Good afternoon and welcome back to Downing Street for the daily coronavirus briefing. I’m joined by the Chief Nursing Officer, Ruth May, and the Deputy Chief Medical Officer, Jonathan Van Tam.
Our plan is to protect life and to protect the NHS, both by slowing the spread of this virus so we flatten the curve, and by ensuring that the NHS always has more capacity to provide critical care for those in need.
Now, this is a national effort and every single person in this country can play their part in this plan. This Easter will be another test of the nation’s resolve. It’s a time of year when people normally come together. But, however warm the weather, however tempting your local beach or park, we need everyone to stay at home because, in hospitals across the country, NHS staff are battling day and night to keep desperately sick people breathing.
And they need you to stay at home. I’m very happy to report that the Prime Minister’s condition continues to improve. He wants to personally thank the whole clinical team at St Thomas’s for the incredible care that he has received. His thoughts are with all of those who have been affected by this terrible disease. The NHS is there for all of us in this country and I know our amazing NHS staff have given the Prime Minister the very best care possible, in the same way that they would give every single person in this country the very best care possible.
One of the things that makes me proud of this country is that it doesn’t matter who you are, the NHS is always there to care for you.
Before updating you on our plan, I want to share the latest data from the ongoing monitoring and testing programme.
Yesterday, I am glad to report that 19,116 tests were carried out across Great Britain. 5,706 tested positive. The number of people currently in hospital with coronavirus symptoms is 19,304. Of those who’ve contracted the virus, 8,958 have sadly died, an increase of 980 since yesterday.
We never forget that behind this number, behind each one, is a name, a loss and a family that will never be the same again, and we all share a responsibility to tackle this virus first and foremost by staying at home.
Now, earlier this month, I outlined our 5-pillar testing strategy and I’m glad to report a very positive response to setting out the goal of 100,000 tests a day by the end of the month. I can announce today that we have capacity for all key social care staff and NHS staff who need to be tested to get those tests.
To deliver this, in addition to the testing being done in NHS hospitals, we’ve now opened 15 drive-through testing centres, including in Glasgow, Cardiff, Belfast, Nottingham, Plymouth, Leeds and London, and other places.
The UK life sciences industry is also answering our call to arms. Yesterday, I opened our first of our 3 ‘Lighthouse’ mega-labs in Milton Keynes. 2 more are on track, in Cheshire and in Glasgow, and AstraZeneca and GSK, 2 of the biggest pharmaceutical companies in the world, are opening another in Cambridge. And I want to thank the team and all the volunteers who are working day and night to make this happen.
Today, I want to address what we are doing to make sure that we have enough PPE, protective equipment, and to make sure that it gets to the right people. The goal I’ve set is that everyone working in a critical role must get the PPE that they need.
NHS and care staff protect us – every day, while we are safe at home, they go off to work to care for us. We owe it to them to get them the kit they need to protect themselves.
I want to be frank about the challenges our plan is designed to overcome. First, there is a huge international demand for PPE and a global squeeze on supply. Compounding this, some countries have placed export bans and other restrictions on PPE as they look to secure their domestic needs.
Next, there’s high demand for PPE from within the UK. So, everyone should use this equipment, use the equipment they clinically need, in line with the guidelines, no more and no less.
Then, of course, there’s the challenge of distribution. The sheer quantity and type of PPE needed has radically changed because of coronavirus. Many parts of the NHS and social care have never had to rely on weekly PPE deliveries before. In normal times, the NHS supply chain for protective equipment supplies 233 hospital trusts. Right now, 58,000 separate health and care providers need PPE.
So, we’ve had to create a whole new logistics network essentially from scratch. All of these challenges around supply, around usage and distribution are being overcome, and I want to take a moment to set out in detail how.
Today, we’re publishing our PPE plan. It has 3 strands.
Strand 1 is about guidance: being clear who needs PPE, when they need it and who does not. There is enough PPE to go around, but only if it’s used in line with our guidance. We need everyone to treat PPE like the precious resource that it is. That means only using it when there is a clinical need, and not using more than is needed.
Last week, following extensive consultation with the medical royal colleges, all 4 UK governments published updated guidance for what PPE to use in what circumstances. The new guidance included the clinical advice that many items of PPE can be used for a whole session, not be changed after treating each individual patient. Everyone is still protected but there’s enough PPE to go around.
The guidance is also clear where PPE is not needed. Because, outside of health and social care, in most circumstances, the best way to protect yourself and to protect others is to regularly wash your hands, and wherever possible to keep at least 2 metres between you and other people when you leave your house.
And of course the most important way to protect yourself is to stay at home. Because a front door is better than any face mask.
The second strand of our PPE plan is about distribution: making sure that anyone who needs PPE can get it, and at the right time. This is a herculean logistical effort. We’ve brought together the NHS, private industry and the armed forces to create a giant PPE distribution network on an unprecedented scale. That network is now delivering daily to our frontline heroes. Quite literally.
Since the start of the outbreak, we’ve now delivered over 742 million pieces of PPE to the frontline. This includes 161 million masks, 127 million aprons, 1 million gowns and 345 million pairs of gloves. These have reached hospitals, ambulance trusts, GP settings, social care, hospices and community pharmacies. We’ve also set up a 24/7 hotline for any providers experiencing supply problems.
And crucially, every NHS hospital has received a delivery of critical PPE once every 72 hours, and over the next week we’re making that daily. This week we’ve arranged a priority drop of 30 million items of PPE to the Local Resilience Forums. The LRFs are in turn delivering to social care and others according to local need.
And, in the coming weeks, we’ll be scaling up our PPE delivery systems still further. I can announce that over the next 3 weeks, we’re rolling out an online portal, allowing primary care and social care a system so that they can request PPE from a central inventory, and this will mean we can track demand in real time and deliver according to need.
This herculean effort of enormous operational complexity to get the right piece of equipment to the right person at the right moment, I pay tribute to the enormous efforts of all of those making it happen. We will do everything we possibly can to keep improving this, but I also want to take a moment to say thank you to all those involved.
The third strand is about future supply, which is making sure we have enough PPE to see us through the crisis. We are using up PPE on an unprecedented scale, so we are constantly buying more from abroad and now making it at home.
Our PPE sourcing unit is securing new supply lines from across the world, ensuring that what we buy meets rigorous standards. This includes teams from the Foreign Office and the Department of International Trade, out in the Far East especially, buying directly from manufacturers, and teams in Whitehall focused on rapid freight operations to get it here. We’ve published the standards that we’ll buy against, along with our global shopping list.
And it’s also about ramping up domestic production as well. Going into the crisis, we did not have a major domestic PPE manufacturing industry. So, like with ventilators and testing, we’re creating one.
Many businesses have generously come forward with offers to turn over their production lines as part of this national effort. In particular, I want to thank Burberry, with their offers of gowns; Rolls-Royce and McLaren, who are creating visors; Ineos and Diageo, who are producing hand sanitiser. We’re talking to many others and we want more to step up to the plate.
So, if you’ve got production facilities and you can meet our published technical specifications, we want to hear from you so we can make this kit here in Britain that will keep people safe. This is our comprehensive PPE plan to protect the people who protect us to make sure they have the kit they need to do their jobs safely and with confidence.
But, I want to finish by saying this. Even if you’re not directly involved in the NHS, in the PPE supply chain, in testing or as a key worker, there is something that everyone of us can do to play your part in the national effort.
Stay at home.
Because spreading the virus today risks lives tomorrow. And it increases pressure on those who work in the NHS.
Do it for them. Do it for the people who you love.
The more we follow the rules, the faster we can lift these restrictions and get back towards normal life. Thank you to all those of you who are already doing your bit as part of our national effort.
Stay well, stay at home, protect the NHS and save lives.