Highlights from the UK Government’s daily press briefing

Thursday, 26 November 2020:

Today, Health Secretary Matt Hancock made a statement to the House of Commons on the English tier system. The key highlights of the Health Secretary's statement can be read below:

  • Health Secretary Matt Hancock begun his statement by mentioning how the Prime Minister, on 23 November, set out his COVID-19 Winter Plan to suppress the COVID-19 virus and protect the NHS and the vulnerable
  • Hancock announced that on 2 December the government will lift the national restrictions across all of England and the following restrictions will be eased:
  • The stay-at-home requirement will end
  • Non-essential retail, gyms, and personal care will reopen. The wider leisure and entertainment sectors will also reopen, although to varying degrees
  • Communal worship, weddings, and outdoor sports can resume
  • People will no longer be limited to seeing one other person in outdoor public spaces, where the rule of six will now apply
  • The tier system will have three levels ranging from Medium Alert (Tier 1), High Alert (Tier 2), and Very High Alert (Tier 3). The different restrictions within each tier level are explained here
  • London has been placed into the tier 2 category of restrictions, and the full list of local restrictions by tier area can be viewed here
  • Hancock emphasised that the regulations will require the government to review the allocations every 14 days, with the first review complete by the end of 16 December
  • Hancock reaffirmed the UK-wide arrangements for Christmas, allowing friends and loves ones to reunite and form a Christmas bubble of three households for five days over the Christmas period
  • Hancock added that a postcode tracker will be available for the public to check what rules apply in their local area
  • Health Secretary Matt Hancock stated that with 16,570 people in hospital across the UK and 696 deaths reported yesterday we cannot “flick a switch” and have life back to normal as this would see the NHS overwhelmed

Monday, 23 November 2020:

Today, in an address to the House of Commons, the UK Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, announced the government’s COVID Winter Plan which is a stricter version of the three-tier system of rules that were in place across England before the current lockdown. The Prime Minister’s full statement can be read here. Below are the highlights from his statement:

  • The Prime Minister emphasised that the country must get through winter without the virus spreading out of control and argued that the COVID Winter Plan would “help us get to spring safely”.
  • Johnson announced that the national restrictions ending on 2 December will not be renewed but that the government will introduce a “new, stronger, and more sustainable” tiers framework on 2 December.
  • The tier system will have three levels ranging from Medium Alert (Tier 1), High Alert (Tier 2), and Very High Alert (Tier 3). The different restrictions within each tier level are explained here.
  • The tier system will be in place until March 2021, and individual regional restrictions will be reviewed every 14 days.
  • Johnson stated that with NHS Test and Trace and the Armed Forces, the government will launch a major community testing programme that will offer all local authorities in tier 3 areas in England a six-week surge of testing.
  • On vaccines, Johnson said that the government has ordered 100 million doses of the Oxford vaccine, and over 350 million in total, more than enough for everyone in the UK, the Crown Dependencies and the Overseas Territories adding that the NHS is preparing a nationwide immunisation programme, to be ready next month.

Friday, 20 November 2020:

Below are the highlights from the government’s briefing this evening on coronavirus. Matt Hancock, Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, Prof Stephen Powis, National Medical Director, NHS England and Prof Jonathan Van-Tam, Deputy Chief Medical Officer for England delivered this briefing.

  • The main takeaway is that the UK Government has formally asked the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) to assess whether to approve the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine. MHRA will submit their full data in the coming days. If approved, the vaccine will be available via the NHS for free, and the roll-out to all of the UK will begin in December.
  • Hancock said the approval process was “another important step forward in tackling this pandemic”. He said the speed of the roll-out of a vaccine would depend on the speed at which it could be manufactured. He added that “If the regulator approves a vaccine, we will be ready to start the vaccination next month with the bulk of roll-out in the new year. We are heading in the right direction, but there is still a long way to go.”
  • When asked if there will be enough supply to vaccinate everyone by April, Hancock says there are “uncertainties” but the task for the NHS is to make sure it can deploy the vaccine as quickly as it can be manufactured. Hancock added he cannot give a figure on the take-up percentage required yet.
  • On restrictions in England after 2 December and over Christmas, Hancock admits “it is still too early to tell” and cites the ONS study published today shows that the peak is flattening. He added the government is trying to have a “consistent set of rules” across the UK so people can visit their loved ones.
  • Free flu jabs will be available in England for the over-50s from 1 December.
  • In the UK, the average number of cases per day stands at 22,287 In the last 24-hours, 511 people died of COVID-19.