Speech: Health and Social Care Secretary’s statement on coronavirus (COVID-19): 12 April 2020

first_imgCoronavirus press conference: 12 April 2020Good afternoon and welcome back to Downing Street for today’s daily coronavirus briefing. I’m joined today by Dr Yvonne Doyle, Medical Director at Public Health England.And, before I outline the latest on coronavirus and the work that we’re doing as a government to tackle it, I wanted to briefly update you about the Prime Minister’s condition.It’s great news that the Prime Minister has been discharged from hospital and is now continuing his recovery at Chequers. I hope everyone has seen his message of love, and thanks to all those who’ve supported his recovery and to the NHS colleagues who have cared for him so brilliantly at St Thomas’s Hospital. I know that they have cared for him as they would care for anybody in this country and it’s one of the things that makes me so proud ‒ that the NHS is there for us all and can give its very best to every single person and has been able to throughout this crisis.I know that all of his thoughts are with those affected by this illness, and of course the government is working constantly through our coronavirus action plan. And the aim is to protect life and to protect the NHS, both by slowing the spread of the virus to flatten the curve and by ensuring that the NHS is always there for you and always has more than enough capacity to meet the demands that are placed on it.Today marks a sombre day in the impact of this disease as we join the list of countries who have seen more than 10,000 deaths related to coronavirus.The fact that over 10,000 people have now lost their lives to this invisible killer demonstrates just how serious coronavirus is and why the national effort that everyone is engaged in is so important.According to the most recent figures, 282,374 people have now been tested for coronavirus. 84,279 have tested positive. Across Great Britain, the number of people admitted to hospital with coronavirus symptoms is now 19,945 and, of those who’ve contracted the virus, 10,612 have tragically died. Our sincere condolences are with all of them, with their families, their friends. Their grief is our grief, and their stories will not be forgotten.On Friday, I said that staying at home this Easter weekend would be a major test of the nation’s resolve. And I am pleased to say that the nation is rising to this challenge. I know that for some people this has been extra tough, if you’re at home with children, if you can’t visit relatives because they’re shielding, if you’re unable to go to church on this most important day for Christians. Your steadfast commitment to following the social distancing rules is making a difference. Thank you for the part that you are playing in helping to protect lives at this critical time in our nation’s history.But we cannot be complacent, not when there is so much is at stake, so, please, keep going, stay home, protect the NHS and save lives.Today, I want to provide an update on the work we’re doing to slow the spread of the virus and to build capacity. The latest figures show that in Great Britain we have 2,295 spare critical care beds, up 150 from yesterday.So, throughout this crisis, with all challenges that we’ve been dealing with, all the operational difficulties and all of the logistics, we have always been able to provide the very best of care to everybody who needs it through the NHS.At the start of the crisis, people said that the NHS would be overwhelmed and we’ve seen that, and we’ve seen the risk of that, elsewhere, but not here. And that is because of the action that a huge number of people have taken, the incredible work of so many.There is more spare capacity now for critical care than there was when coronavirus first hit our shores. And this is before the Nightingale hospitals come on stream. London’s has opened, and we’re already in process of building 6 more around England.This critical expansion is partly because we have a record number of ventilators, 9,775, and partly because we have record numbers of returners coming back and rejoining the NHS. Over 5,000 former staff are now back on the NHS frontline and over 36,000 have come forward to enlist. And this bolstered capacity has been backed by substantial financial support. As the Chancellor has said, whatever our NHS and vital public services need during this time, they will have.But of course there is always more that must be done. So, we’re increasing the amount of PPE and I’m glad to say that there are now record amounts in the system. And we need the right amounts of medicine too, and I can assure everyone that we’re working very closely with the pharmaceutical supply chain and hospital pharmacies so that the right medicines are there to treat people. And I’m glad to see the reassurances that have been provided today that everybody can have the medicines they need in order to get the care that they need.And when we debate the operational challenges we face, I want to be transparent about every single one. Let us not forget that the core measure of NHS capacity, which is what matters to you when you or one of your loved ones needs it, is whether you can get the best care if you catch coronavirus. On that, we are succeeding and in fact succeeding more with each passing day.I also wanted to provide a brief update on the work on PPE, which is so important for NHS and social care staff. I pay tribute to our health and care staff who, this weekend, just like every weekend, are giving the best possible care. On Thursdays, on streets, front doors and balconies up and down the country, we’ve seen the esteem with which the whole nation holds our carers, the people who make the NHS and social care what it is, and we owe it to them to get them the equipment that they need.On Friday, we published a comprehensive PPE plan, which is based on everyone using the right PPE according to the agreed guidelines. And, daily, we’re delivering millions of items to the frontline.Now I know that there have also been questions about gowns. In the last 2 days, 121,000 gowns have been delivered around the country, and more are going out today and in the week to come. So, we’re working very hard to resolve all of these individual logistical challenges.It’s worth saying that the average time for dealing with PPE queries has gone down from 6 days in March to an average of 2 and half days over the past week. And, since we published the plan last week, I’m delighted with the sheer number of businesses that have come forward to help with our PPE effort, even over the bank holiday weekend. Thank you to all of you and to all those that are involved in this enormous, herculean effort on PPE, and I know that we’ll see many more businesses coming forward and I look forward to it.Testing, of course, has a huge role in our response and we have discussed repeatedly testing at these press conferences. I’m pleased to say that 42,812 NHS and social care staff and their families have now been tested. And, as we ramp up our ability to test in large numbers, we also need to make sure we have the ability to trace contacts just as effectively.And so, today, I wanted to outline the next step: a new NHS app for contact tracing. If you become unwell with the symptoms of coronavirus, you can securely tell this new NHS app, and the app will then send an alert anonymously to other app users that you’ve been in significant contact with over the past few days, even before you had symptoms, so that they know and can act accordingly.All data will be handled according to the highest ethical and security standards and would only be used for NHS care and research and we won’t hold it any longer than it’s needed. And, as part of our commitment to transparency, we will be publishing the source code too. We’re already testing this app and, as we do this, we’re working closely with the world’s leading tech companies and renowned experts in clinical safety and digital ethics so that we can get this right.I want to thank all of these world-leading experts who’ve been involved. The more people who get involved, then the better informed our response to coronavirus will be and the better we can protect the NHS.Her Majesty the Queen spoke for all of us, as she so often does, when she said that Easter is not cancelled and that we need it now more than ever. This is an uncertain Easter for so many people. At a time when we normally come physically together, we must stay apart. It runs counter to every human instinct and every intuition that we possess, but we must persevere.Because, if we follow the rules and slow the spread of the virus, then each new day will bring us closer to normal life. And we can enjoy Easters to come, safe in the knowledge that, when it mattered, we did our bit and rose to the challenge. And we put our loved ones, we put our NHS staff and we put our local communities first.So please, this Easter, stay home, protect the NHS and save lives.last_img