23 June – Matt Hancock: Looking Away

(spoken whilst looking away from the camera)

Good afternoon, and welcome back to Downing Street for the coronavirus press briefing.

I’m joined by Deputy Chief Medical Officer Dr Jenny Harries.

Dr Harries is going to set out our next steps for those people who have been shielding for the last three months. But just before we do that, I’d like to take you through the latest data.

This slide shows the number of tests that have been carried out, now over eight million tests in total. And it also shows that for the first time since the peak, the number of positive cases confirmed is under a thousand, at nine hundred and fifty eight. Next slide.

The second slide shows the number of people in hospital, the top of the two shows the number of people admitted with COVID-19, which is three hundred and eighty. That’s down from four hundred and thirty two a week ago. The bottom chart shows the number of ventilated patients. That’s the number of patients on a mechanical ventilator, and that number is three hundred and thirty, class="hidden">down from three hundred and ninety five a week earlier. Clearly the number of people going into hospital and the number of people in the most serious condition in hospital in ventilated beds, both coming down. Next slide please.

The regional picture is broadly the same across the country and for the first time since the peak there are fewer than five thousand people in hospital with coronavirus. And if we go to the final slide, thank you.

Thankfully the number of people who have died from coronavirus each day is also coming down. The latest data show that yesterday fifteen more deaths were reported. This is the lowest figure since mid-March, since the fifteenth of March. And each of these deaths is someone who is loved and someone who we mourn. And each death his one death too many. Nevertheless, the fact that we have a figure of reported deaths that is fifteen, much lower than any previous figure since the peak, is good news. However, it’s a weekend figure and we do see the number of deaths reported tend to rise after a weekend.

Nevertheless having set out all those statistics, if you take into account the number of people in hospitals, the number of people going into hospital, the number of people testing positive and the number who sadly have died, all of those figures are coming down and are pointing in the right direction.

It shows that, while there is still much to do, we are clearly making progress. We are working through our plan and this data shows that that plan is working.

We protected the NHS and thanks to the patience and sacrifice of everyone watching, infections are falling, the NHS is restoring and the virus is in retreat.

A month ago, around one in four hundred people had the virus. Now it’s around one in seventeen hundred.

This means that tomorrow the Prime Minister will be able to set out the next steps in our plan to ease the national lockdown.

But there’s one group who have been more patient and given up more than almost any other, and that’s the two point two million people who have been shielding in England.

Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland have their own shielding programmes, so what we say today is about England only.

And since the start, the clinical advice has been to protect those who are clinically extremely vulnerable.

Our shielding programme – has delivered medicine, support and more than three million food boxes – and it's been integral to that plan.

So just before turning to Dr Harries I want to now speak directly to those of you who have been shielding.

Like so many, I have friends, I have family who’ve been shielding. And I know what a burden it has been.

Shielding has involved not leaving your house for months, not seeing people who you love, not being able to go to the park for some fresh air, or even pop to the shops for something that you need.

This sacrifice though has been for a purpose, and I want to thank every single one of you.

We knew it was a difficult ask, but these measures have been vital in saving lives.

Right from the start we’ve been clear that we didn’t want the shielding advice to be in place any longer than is clinically necessary.

I’m very, very grateful to the clinicians who have led this work and kept the clinical advice under review.

Dr Harries will now set out the next steps in that clinical advice and then I’ll set out the practical support that we’ll be maintaining.


Now if you'll allow me I’ll take one more minute just to set out the practical consequences of all this. I’m sure the whole nation is grateful, Jenny, that your wisdom is guiding this work and we're very grateful for you setting out the clinical advice so clearly.

Over the next few weeks we’ll all have time to prepare for these changes.

First, In the coming days, as I promised I'll write to everybody on the shielding list with further details about what this means for you and what to expect, and we'll update our online guidance in line with these changes.

I know that after three months of shielding it might take a bit of time to adjust to the new guidelines.

So we're working closely with the NHS, with councils and charities to make sure this updated advice is as clear as possible.

If you are receiving centrally provided food boxes or medicine deliveries, this will continue until the end of July. And I am glad to say that seven supermarket companies have confirmed ongoing access to priority supermarket delivery slots, for as long as they are needed.

Support from NHS Volunteer Responders will continue. and so too will the support from NHS mental health services for those struggling with their mental health.

And for anybody facing financial hardship, we’ve made money available to councils to help those struggling to buy food and other essentials.

And my message to employers is crystal clear. Please work with us to ease the transition back to a more normal way of life for shielding employees. We expect you to do the right thing.

Nothing matters more than keeping people safe, and we will keep the evidence about the risks to people under constant review.

The NHS will maintain the shielded patient list and we stand ready to support people to shield again if that’s what’s clinically required, including through an enhanced digital platform.

The support for the shielded has been a huge effort of community spirit, with practical and emotional support alongside the brilliant work of Public Health England and the NHS, supported by my department, the communities department and under the leadership of Chris Townsend in government.

So I want finally to say a huge thank you to those who shielded, to all those who looked after them, and to each and every one of you who’ve played your part in the national effort to bring this virus under control.

So, let’s keep going.

And stay alert, control the virus, and save lives.