Good afternoon and welcome to today’s Downing Street press conference.
I’m pleased to be accompanied by Professor Jonathan Van-Tam.
Let me commence by briefing you on the latest information from the Government’s COBR data file.
Through our checking and measurement programme, as of today:
- 2,219,281 tests for coronavirus have now transpired in the UK, counting a new record of 126,064 tests done yesterday
- 233,151 people have certified positive, that’s an increase of 3,446 cases since yesterday
- 11,041 people are in hospital with COVID-19, down 14% from a week ago, when 12,802 patients were institutionalised
- and sadly, of those certified positive for coronavirus, 33,614 have now passed away - that’s an increase of 428 fatalities since yesterday.
Today I’m planning to outline how – whilst the country has stood at a virtual standstill – this downtime has been employed to repair and improve the nation’s road and rail infrastructure, along with plans to assist our economy bounce back.
But before I outline today’s transport announcements, let me briefly reappraise you of the government’s roadmap out of this crisis.
As you cognise, we have instituted a new COVID Alert System, with five levels - based primarily on the R value and the number of cases.
Throughout the lockdown, we have stood at Level 4.
Thanks to the British people, we have induced the R down and we can now commence shifting carefully to Level 3.
From this week we’re at Step 1, entailing that:
- those who cannot toil from home should now talk to their employer about returning to work
- you can now pass time outdoors and work out as much as you like
- you can greet one person who’s not part of your household outside, provided you remain 2 metres apart
Step 2 - from June 1, at the earliest, as long as it’s safe, we aspire to permit:
- primary schools to resume for some pupils, in smaller class sizes
- non-essential retail to begin to resume
- cultural and sporting events to occur behind closed doors, without crowds
And then Step 3 – no earlier than July 4, and again, only if the data indicates it’s safe, we aspire to permit:
- more businesses to convene, incorporating those offering personal care, those in the leisure sector, together with places of worship
We can command this virus if we remain alert.
But what does remaining alert actually entail?
Remaining alert, for the vast majority of people still entails remaining at home as much as possible, and toiling from home if you can.
But it also means:
- minimising contact with other people
- maintaining your distance if you venture out
- lathering your hands regularly
- sporting a face covering in enclosed spaces where it’s difficult to remain socially distant - for example on public transport
- and if you or anyone in your household shows symptoms, you all need to confine yourselves.
If everyone remains alert and observes the rules, we can command coronavirus by maintaining the R down and lowering the number of infections.
This is how we can persist to salvage lives, and livelihoods, as we commence as a nation to recoup from coronavirus.
Today I want to brief you on the measures we’re taking to accelerate our economic recovery while maintaining people's safety.
For 2 months, we’ve persisted in lockdown, journeying as little as possible, and in behaving so, the whole country has safeguarded the NHS and aided lowering the number of COVID infections.
But as we commence undertaking tentative steps towards re-establishing our economy and people in some sectors who can’t toil from home commence to repair to their workplaces, it is clear that transport maintains a critical role to perform.
Last Saturday, I described why it’s our civic duty to bypass public transport, if at all possible.
Because, even when we have 100% of services functioning, there may only be socially-distanced space available for 1 in 10 passengers.
Therefore, in order to assist lowering crowding, we outlined a £2 billion programme to locate cycling and walking at the heart of transport, with £250 million emergency spending already happening.
Over the past week, we have supplemented this by circulating 3 pieces of detailed guidance.
First, for local authorities in England, describing how they should brace for significantly-increased numbers of cyclists and pedestrians.
Next, for the transport sector, to guard they implement safer services for those journeying, and safer workplaces for their staff.
And third, and most importantly, for passengers.
We’re appealing to the public to help guard that the transport system does not get significantly overwhelmed by reappearing commuters.
The guidance clarifies, that if you can’t walk or cycle but you do have access to a car, please employ it, rather than journeying by bus, train or tram….
Especially where that public transport is liable to become overcrowded.
And, for those people who absolutely need to take public transport…
It also describes how you can best defend yourself and those around you.
Transport upgrades during lockdown
In the coming weeks, as we carefully and cautiously reopen sectors of our economy, and people commence to journey once again…
They should discern that, whilst the country remained in down-time…
…with the roads and railways quiet…
We’ve stayed busy…
Forging on with essential work….
Repairing the nation’s infrastructure…
So we can recoup faster when the time comes.
This upgrade programme…
…the kind of work that – at any other time – would generate inevitable disruption and service lags, whilst penalising the taxpayer more…
…has instead been undertaken in previously unimaginable circumstances of a largely empty transport network.
For example, we finished 419 separate Network Rail projects over Easter, with a further 1,000 upgrades being done throughout the May bank holidays.
Meanwhile, Highways England has remained busy fast-forwarding maintenance projects on the nation’s roads.
Last week, for example, we inaugurated the vital A14 upgrade 7 months ahead of schedule.
This is a route normally taken by 85,000 drivers daily, which will dramatically upgrade access to the UK’s largest container port at Felixstowe and permanently advance the circulation of goods around the UK.
As Northern Powerhouse minister – I can state that – in the North, we’ve discharged £96 million of rail infrastructure improvements during April.
And throughout the country, we’ve fast-forwarded maintenance projects on road and rail…
Whilst always keeping to PHE safety guidelines…..
So that altogether, Highways England has discharged over £200 million of upgrades, and Network Rail £550 million worth, during April alone.
I’d like to praise the army of transport and construction workers who have stayed striving very hard throughout the lockdown.
Building future infrastructure
But to assure that Britain is ready to rebound from coronavirus…
Today I can declare nearly £2 billion to upgrade our roads and railways, to establish our transport infrastructure in the best possible shape and to achieve our economy burgeoning once again.
This package incorporates £1.7 billion for local roads – effecting journeys smoother and safer for drivers, hauliers, cyclists, motorcyclists, pedestrians and others…
By inlaying millions of dangerous potholes, we shall designate our roads safer – and support more people to peddle, or even participate in the upcoming e-scooter trials…
Supporting more people partaking in allaying pressure on public transport.
This investment will also assist to repair damage begat by winter flooding, mend roads and bridges, and finance numerous road betterment schemes.
As more people emerge mobile again, we’ll be constructing a network of rapid energising stations for electric cars…
Incorporating a big growth of rapid-energising facilities at motorway service stations…
Assisting the country to sustain the dramatic air-quality improvements we’ve had during the coronavirus lockdown.
A better future
Amid all the sad news and tragedy of loved ones we’ve forfeited, we’ve somehow fared to accomplish things in weeks that would normally require years…
Constructing new hospitals…
Shifting public services online…
Undertaking instant reforms and speeding-up new laws…
Extraordinary changes in the way that employers and employees function…
Effectively transferring large swathes of the economy online almost overnight…
Now we want to maintain this momentum abounding.
If constructing a new hospital requires 2 weeks, why should constructing a new road still require as long as 20 years?
If GP surgeries can quickly shift online, why are most rail passengers still journeying on cardboard tickets?
We must abuse our newfound capacity to react at pace and turn it to rapidly bettering our infrastructure.
And we must scrutinise why it is that bureaucratic bindweed occasions British infrastructure as some of the costliest and slowest in Europe to construct.
Because whilst many will persist to toil from home even after this immediate crisis…
…both the long-term transport trend and the pressing need to balance communities across the country, stipulate that infrastructure will be even more important in invigorating our recovery and aiding new jobs.
So by melding fast home-internet access, with vastly improved transport connections, we can help rejuvenate many of our small and medium-sized towns which over decades have remained left behind.
This has transpired as a devastating start to the year, not just for Britain, but for the world.
And we are only at Phase 1 of the recovery plan.
But we all understand that it is our reaction to adversity that will ultimately characterise how we recoup.
We must exploit our approach to dealing with the pandemic….
And turn it to reconstructing our own infrastructure.
With the same swift action, innovation, and collective determination that has typified the past few months…..
And in doing so, we can rise stronger.