UK coronavirus LIVE: London Tier 3 threat looms as testing plan for secondary school pupils announced

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  • December 10, 2020
  • Comments Off on UK coronavirus LIVE: London Tier 3 threat looms as testing plan for secondary school pupils announced
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And with that the coronavirus press conference concludes

The three men walk off stage.

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Stefan Boscia, from City AM, asks: “Is there any plan to reopen the Nightingale Hospital at the Excel Centre considering London’s surge in COVID rates and is there any point in putting London’s hospitality centre in Tier 3 for what would be just four days, considering the damage this would have on a sector that’s already on its knees?”

Matt Hancock says: “We’ve protected the NHS all the way through here. 

“The hospitality sector I get it. The Christmas rules don’t affect hospitality they affect who you can meet up with in your own home. The rules are about who you can meet with rather than what hospitality is open or closed depending on your local rules.”

NHS England’s Stephen Powis said Nightingale hospitals have been our insurance.

“In the first wave in Spring we used the Excel centre we have kept them over the Summer and Autumn. In London we are seeing a worrying rise in infections and pressures on our NHS in the east of the city. 

“But not at the levels we saw in April and therefore we can manage with existing hospitals in London. 

“We have the ability to move patients between hospitals to those with less pressure. The Nightingale is important and we are keeping it under review for different uses. it’s important we don’t see further infection rises in London and more pressure on the NHS. The Nightingales are there as that insurance policy and will be there if we need them.”

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Dominic Yeatman from Metro asks if Mr Hancock will apologise about PPE scandal that saw boxes with bugs in and unusable at the start of the pandemic.

Mr Hancock says: “There was a massive effort of people coming forward to get PPE supplies we needed. There was never a national outage. It doesn’t mean it wasn’t difficult at time. We had to move heaven and earth to get the PPE we did into the system. Now we have over 30billion items of PPE.”

He adds we won’t be reliant on imports in the future.

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Rajeev Syal from the Guardian asks Mr Hancock about his former neighbour, Alex Bourne, supplying millions of test tubes for NHS test kits “after sending you a personal WhatsApp message offering his services”.

Matt Hancock said he had “absolutely nothing to do” with a contract to supply medical equipment that was given to a former neighbour of his.

“More broadly, I’m so pleased that many people came forward during the spring of this year when the nation really needed the support of huge numbers of people,” he said.

“I can’t answer any more than say I had nothing to do with this particular contract at all.”

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Victoria MacDonald from Channel 4 asks about the Ockenden report into the baby deaths scandal

NHS England’s Stephen Powis says he has met the families affected. He says it has been “painful and harrowing” for the families and he offers his sympathies.

“They want to know what went wrong and to secondly that the learning on what went wrong can be acted upon.”

He adds it’s “very important” that the recommendations for the Shrewsbury and Telford NHS Trust are acted on immediately.

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Tom Clarke, from ITV, asks if they are confident that the schools’ testing programme is going to make the difference “you need it to make?”

Chris Whitty says testing on its own cant turn the tide on the virus but added to masks and social distancing it adds to heft of measures that have worked across the world.

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Tom Clarke, from ITV, asks if they are confident that the schools’ testing programme is going to make the difference “you need it to make?”

Chris Whitty says testing on its own cant turn the tide on the virus but added to masks and social distancing it adds to heft of measures that have worked across the world.

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Hugh Pym from the BBC asks how concerned the panel are about the rise in infections in the South East, and how likely it is that London and Essex will move to Tier 3.

Mr Hancock answers the second part of the question, saying the review will take place next week. “When we have the most up to date data on December 16 is the moment we will take that decision. I don’t think it’s right to pre-empt that decision. 

“These decisions are what we think is necessary to keep the virus under control until the vaccine can make us safe. It’s six days to go until that formal decision is to be taken. 

“We do look at the data daily and we have seen those worrying rises not just in London but other areas of the South East as well.”

Professor Whitty says “of course we are concerned” about the rises. He says these kind of things are not unique to the UK – the picture is mirrored across the Europe.

He says where Tier 3 has been in place, in the North Westand Midlands,  have done a “remarkable” job to bring rates consistently down.

“But they’be not been falling in areas with lower restrictions in place, parts of London, North East London in particular bits of Essex, Kent and Lincolnshire aswell n. 

“We need to ask are there enough measures going in or do we have to have more? If these rates are going up towards the tail end of Lockdown then that is quite a concerning situation. We need to keep a close eye on that.”

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Kate from Dudley asks will we be able to spend New Year’s Eve with our family members?

Mr Hancock “yes, if you live in the same household.

“But we are not bringing in special rules for New Year’s Eve as we have for Christmas,” he says. “I know this is a tough year 2020 so we have brought in the rules for Christmas so people get that opportunity to see people they haven’t all year. But let’s not blow it especially with the vaccine on the horizon.”

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Phil from south London. asks: What is the criteria that will end the tier system and if it is vaccination, what percentage of the population needs it?

Matt Hancock says the “simple answer” is they’ll keep looking at the same five indicators – and as more people get the vaccine, the government will monitor how those five indicators change.

He says he can’t give a percentage figure as it’s not clear on the impact the vaccine has on transmission.

Professor Chris Whitty says it will take “quite some time” before enough people are vaccinated. “We need to make significant forward steps. We will be able to walk backwards from what we are doing at the moment. 

“With flu there are 7,000 deaths in a bad year 20,000. We accept there is some risk. With this, we accept there is risk of the NHS being overwhelmed and that people feel this is the right moment to take them right down. To very low levels to what we have got but this will be a gradual process not a sudden process.”

He says it is his “expectation” that the vaccines available will reduce transmission but it’s not “absolutely certain yet”.