Boris Johnson held a press conference at 5pm this evening (5 April) to provide an update on the ‘roadmap’ out of lockdown.
The prime minister also announced a massive expansion of the government’s testing regime, with everyone in England expected to be able to access two rapid Covid test kits per week from Friday (9 April).
One year to the day since Mr Johnson was taken into hospital suffering with Covid, the prime minister confirmed that the conditions have been met for England to move to the next stage of the ‘roadmap’ out of lockdown next week.
The prime minister appeared alongside England’s chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty and chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance.
Mr Johnson also addressed reports that the government is preparing to implement a Covid certification scheme, and that a number of mass event pilots will take place over the coming months.
Prior to the 5pm press conference the prime minister met with the Covid-O committee and the cabinet to finalise the announcements.
Covid press conference: Boris Johnson to address nation at 5pm
Last updated: Monday, 05 April, 2021, 17:59
Four key reviews
PM says that four reviews will be published today, looking at key subjects.
- Safe return of major events
- Social distancing
- The “potential role” of Covid certification
- Resumption of international travel
“It is by being cautious, by monitoring the data ate every stage, and by following the rules, that we hope together to make this roadmap to freedom irreversible”
Chris Whitty will now take us through some of the data behind what PM was discussing.
Vaccine rollout continues apace
31.6 million people have received a first dose, and 5.4 million people have received a second-dose, says Chris Whitty.
It is heading “very much in the direction,” he says.
Vaccines are higly effective, but not completely effective
These vaccines are highly effective, but not completely effective, says Chris Whitty. “It is absolutely essential that everybody who is called for a second booster dose” takes that offer up, he says.
Hospitalisations and deaths down
Number of people in hospital with covid has been falling steadily and continues to fall. Alongside this, number of people dying has also been decreasing, and at a faster pace than happened in first peak. It may well be because of combination of lockdown measures, plus effects of vaccines, says Chris Whitty. Average number of deaths is around 47 per day, he says, down from 1300 earlier in the year.
New variants of concern were expected to come up, he says, including some which are more resistant to vaccine. Total number of cases of South Africa variant in UK is 469, and has stayed steady over time.
“No evidence this is increasing,” he says.
They will remain an issue, he says, but there is “no reason to feel this fundamentally changes our position”.
PM now Catherine from Basingstoke asks when care home residents will be allowed out for a walk or socially-distanced visit to cafe or beer garden. PM says it has been a “very tough time” for people in care homes”. Says a review is underway to see if this can be done in a “reasonable and safe way” but more will be said about this in coming days.
Vaccines for kids
Matthew from Norwich asks whether Covid could mutate and affect children more. Are scientists developing a vaccine for children, he asks? Sir Patrick Vallance says “no evidence” that virus will mutate to specifically impact children. Over time it may be necessary to update vaccines every year or so, he says. Pfizer are looking at a children’s vaccine, he says, and he expects to see more trials for children in coming weeks, but this will be the same vaccine
Will there be a vote in parliament on ‘vaccine passports’ and will people need them to access pubs? “No question” that people will be asked to produce a Covid status report to “go to the shops or pub garden or hairdressers on Monday” says the PM.
No plans for this to change before indoor hospitality reopens in May either, says the PM. But vaccination status for international travel probably will be part of the way we deal with this, he says. “There are three ingredients to your Covid certification” he explains. These are:
- Immunity from previously having the virus
- Vaccination status
“Ethical and practical issues” with vaccine passports
The prime minister says he wants to stress there are “complicated ethical and practical issues” with Covid status certification.
“You’ve got to be very careful in how you handle this,” he says, “and don’t start a system that is discriminatory.”