28 April – Matt Hancock: Adjectives & Adverbs

(in speech position)

Welcome once again to Downing Street for the daily coronavirus briefing.

I’m joined today by Professor John Newton, our testing coordinator, and Deputy Chief Scientific Adviser, Professor Angela McLean.

This morning, at 11 o’clock, we paused to remember the 85 NHS colleagues and 19 social care colleagues who have lost their lives with coronavirus.

It was a moment of solemn reflection for so many of us and of unbearable sadness for some.

They are the nation’s fallen heroes. And we will remember them.

Every day we are working through our plan to protect life and protect the NHS, slowing the spread and building capacity, so that the NHS at all times can offer the very best care to everyone, because we’ve got the beds, the ventilators and the staff available.

So far, thanks to the incredible work of NHS colleagues and the shared sacrifice of everyone watching at home, that plan is working.

The latest figures show 3,260 spare critical care beds available across the NHS.

On the most recent figures:

This morning, the Office for National Statistics and the CQC published more information on the overall impact, including that there have been 4,343 notified deaths in care homes since Easter.

The proportion of coronavirus deaths in care homes is a sixth of the total, which is just below what we see in normal times.

I want to make sure that we bring as much transparency as possible to important information like this, and so, from tomorrow, we will be publishing not just the number of deaths in hospitals each day but the number of deaths in care homes and the community too, something that was not previously possible.

This will supplement the ONS and CQC weekly publications and all add to our understanding of how this virus is spreading day by day.And it will help the judgements that we will make as we work to keep people safe.

Behind every single death is a family’s heartbreak , and we must do everything humanly possible to save as many lives as we can.

We will not be changing the social distancing rules until our 5 tests have been met:

I want to update you on 2 other issues of major importance.

First, testing.

At the start of this month, I set the goal of 100,000 tests a day.

Every day, we’re ramping up this testing capacity, on track to meet that goal.

We are continuously opening new drive-through centres. There are now 41, with 48 going live this week.

For people who can’t get to the tests, we’re expanding home testing to bring the test to them. We are increasing the dispatch of home test kits from 5,000 a day last Friday to 25,000 a day by the end of this week.

At the weekend, 17 mobile testing units, manned by the army, were operational. By the end of the week, we plan to have over 70 deployed, with trained crews across the country.

All of this has led to an increase in daily testing capacity, which now stands at 73,400.

And this has allowed us progressively to expand access to testing.

We started with hospital patients, who have always had access to a test right the way through, ramping up to include symptomaticy NHS and social care colleagues and their households, and then all essential workers.

Today, because we’ve been able to expand capacity, I can expand access further.

Building on successful pilots, we will be rolling out testing of asymptomatic residents and staff in care homes in England and of patients and staff in the NHS.

This means anyone who is working or living in a care home will be able to get access to a test, whether they have symptoms or not.

I’m determined to do everything I can to protect the most vulnerable.

And we now have capacity to go further.

So, from now, we are making testing available to all over-65s and their households with symptoms, and to all workers who would have to leave home in order to go to work and members of their households who have symptoms, from construction workers to emergency plumbers, research scientists to those in manufacturing.

This expansion of access to testing will protect the most vulnerable and help keep people safe . And it’s possible because we have expanded capacity for testing thus far.

Next, I want to update you on our COVID-19 therapeutics work.

This is research to understand whether existing drugs could be used to treat people more effectively once they’ve developed the disease.

Currently no drugs in the world have been clinically proven to treat COVID-19.

But our Therapeutics Taskforce has identified a number of promising candidates.

Currently 6 different treatments have been entered into national clinical trials and the first is ready to enter the next stage: a new early phase clinical trial platform that we are launching today.

This is a national effort made possible by government, academia and industry working together.

In addition, we need to make the best possible use of all the medicines we have.

We’re updating the guidelines for the use of medicines in care homes, removing a barrier so that, for the period of the pandemic, where it’s clinically appropriate , medicines that have been labelled for use by one patient can be used by another who needs them, instead of being destroyed. Clinicians and colleagues in social care have called for this change, which is already standard procedure in hospitals.

Right across government, we are working day and night to defeat this virus:

The risk of a second peak is real, but as a nation we are holding it at bay, so please stick with it: stay at home, protect the NHS and save lives.