BORIS JOHNSON has announced a raft of changes in a 'back-to-work' speech at Downing Street this morning.
Among others, the Prime Minister has introduced a 'lightning lockdowns' concept, which will give councils extra powers to impose restrictions quicker to prevent an outbreak of coronavirus.
Meanwhile, Mr Johnson has also revealed that the NHS are to receive an extra £3billion in funding to help prepare them for future waves.
It is set to help provide extra hospital capacity to battle against Covid-19 while allowing routine treatments and procedures to continue.
Also, from August 1 public transport rules will be relaxed and Brits will be advised to return to work in a Covid secure way.
Nightclubs and soft play areas will remain closed and be kept under review whilst casinos and bowling alleys will be allowed to reopen.
It comes as the coronavirus death toll in the UK reached 45,119 on Thursday as 66 more deaths were recorded.
Follow the latest news and updates surrounding coronavirus below…
THE MAIN TALKING POINTS FROM TODAY'S PRESS CONFERENCE
And that's the end of the press conference.
Here are the main talking points.
- Targeted action – as seen in Leicester, for example – can control the virus now, and there should be no need to revert to a national lockdown
- Local authorities will have new powers to close venues, shut outdoor spaces or cancel events to control the virus from tomorrow
- Testing capacity will hit half-a-million every day by October to prepare for a second wave
- £3bn extra has been announced for the NHS in England to prepare for the winter
- Employers will have more discretion on workplaces from August 1
- Businesses including bowling alleys and skating rinks can reopen on August 1 – but nightclubs will stay shut
- Sporting events with crowds could resume in the autumn if trials are successful
- Schools will be open to all pupils from September
- Social distancing could be scrapped by November – meaning the family could gather around the Christmas table together after all
PM QUESTIONED ON SCOTS INDEPENDENCE
The Scotsman now.
The reporter says Nicola Sturgeon's net approval on coronavirus is 99 per cent higher than the PM's – the SNP is on course to win an unprecedented majority in the elections and there's a swell in support for independence.
“Do you accept that you, Prime Minister, are the biggest threat to the union, and if not, why do so many Scots want to leave the UK?” he asks.
Mr Johnson says that the union has worked well together throughout the crisis – “despite the surface differences in the polemic”.
“The agenda that is being pursued beneath the surface has been very, very similar, and it's thanks to the strength of the union that we've had the response we've been able to muster as one whole United Kingdom,” he adds.
WILL FAMILIES BE ABLE TO GATHER AROUND THE CHRISTMAS TABLE?
Jane Meyrick of The I.
She says November is a landmark month for getting back to normal.
“How optimistic are you that families including grandparents will be able to gather around the Christmas table together?” she asks.
Her second question involves the public's belief and trust in the credibility of the Government.
The PM says Christmas is a “very important time of year for families and for the UK economy and many, many millions of people working in all kinds of sectors, many of them on modest incomes”.
He says it's “very important we hope for the best”.
Steps taken are “conditional on our continued ability to defeat the virus”, which we've done so far through the “massive common sense of the British public”, he adds.
NO PLANS TO EXTEND ANTIBODY TESTING AFTER CLAIMS IT WAS 'GAME-CHANGER'
The FT's second question is whether the PM still believes antibody testing – a test which can tell whether someone has had the virus and has built up antibodies – can be a “game-changer”.
Mr Johnson says it is a vaccine that will really be a game-changer.
Baroness Dido Harding says more than one million antibody tests have been carried out but there are no plans to expand targets for them.
Everyone hopes that they will prove a game-changer and be a “silver bullet”, but she warns that “like technology, science has its limits”.
400K CIVIL SERVANTS ON THEIR WAY BACK TO WORK
Jim Pickard of the Financial Times.
Very wobbly line there – tough to make out the questions, but there was one about civil servants heading to the office.
The PM jokes: “I noticed it says your network bandwidth was low, and I apologise for that because one of our tasks as Government is to get gigabit connection for everybody by 2025.”
He says the country has made “huge progress” – and 400,000 civil servants will soon by heading back to work at Whitehall as an example for other offices.
“There's sometimes no substitute for face-to-face meetings and interactions,” he said.
ZOOM IS A WONDER – BUT HUMAN INTERACTION IS KEY
The reporter says yesterday Sir Patrick Vallance says there's “no reason” to change the advice on working from home – “and today, you've changed it”.
He asks that, if the Government doesn't have a view on whether it's safe, how will employers know.
The PM says places of work must be Covid-secure, and it's up to employers to do that before their employees return.
He says we've all learned “about the wonders of Zoom” in recent months and that advances in tech is a “miracle” – but that human interaction is important.
'ELECTED POLITICIANS ARE THE ONES TO MAKE THE BIG DECISIONS'
Beth Rigby of Sky points out that the PM says the virus could become more virulent in the winter, but that restrictions are still being eased.
She asks where two of the Government's top advisers on coronavirus are.
“Are Sir Patrick and Chris Whitty not here with you today to explain the public health and scientific considerations behind these decisions because they are two of the people who, to quote you, believe this plan is 'too optimistic' and the risks are 'too great'.”
The PM says both men are giving evidence to the Lords today and briefed the Cabinet earlier on the plans.
“They give us advice which we of course take very, very seriously, but in the end decisions are taken by elected politicians. We have to weigh the advice we get,” he says.
“People should understand the balance of what we're saying.”
EMPLOYERS MUST BE ALLOWED TO DECIDE, SAYS BORIS
A question from the BBC about getting workers back into offices.
Some companies have said to their workers they don't need to be back in the office until January, the reporter says.
The Chief Scientific Adviser Sir Patrick Vallance yesterday said there's “absolutely no reason to change the advice that says work from home if you can”.
“It's not for the Government to decide how employers should run their companies and whether they want their workforces in the office or not – that's very much for companies,” the PM replies.
“We want to encourage people to think it's safe to come into work provided employers have done the things they should have done.”
A second question there on breaking news – Health Secretary Matt Hancock has ordered an urgent review into the way death statistics are compiled in England.
We'll have more on that this afternoon.
Asked if he has confidence in the way the figures are recorded, he says: “Matt Hancock is going to be doing a review of those statistics with Public Health England.”
SOCIAL DISTANCING COULD BE SCRAPPED BY NOVEMBER
A new question on scrapping the 'one metre plus' rule within households to allow grandparents to care for their grandchildren so parents can get back to work.
The PM says: “Your children's grandparents would count as part of the bubble you're forming with two households indoors, so I think you'd be ok.”
He says “clearly, looking through to the spring and long-term impacts social distancing will continue to have on many sectors of the UK economy, we hope that by November at the very earliest if we continue to make progress, it may conceivably be possible to move away from social distancing measures.”
He warns that's “entirely conditional” on keeping the virus under control.
PM TAKES QUESTIONS
Baroness Harding says there is still much to do.
The Government plans to offer half a million tests every day by the winter.
“I'm sure this is how we can best protect our families, friends, colleagues and local communities,” she says.
The PM takes questions.
Member of the public Jane from Mansfield asks about a second wave and what the public should be doing to help.
Mr Johnson says the most important thing is to look at the “basic things we can do to protect ourselves and everybody else”, like face masks and social distancing.
180K CONTACTED THROUGH TEST AND TRACE
Some information now on test and trace from Baroness Dido Harding.
She says in the past six weeks just under two million people have been tested for the virus, and 34,000 have tested posted.
180,000 people have been contacted. These people may otherwise have unknowingly spread the virus to others, she says.
More than 30,000 people have given feedback, and 87 per cent were satisfied with the service.
'BRAKES WILL GO ON AT ANY STAGE WHERE NECESSARY'
People shielding for their health will be able to stop at the end of this month, the PM says.
He says some will believe the plans are “too optimistic and the risks are too great” – and “if they're right”, he says “we will not hesitate at any stage to put on the brakes”.
“This plan has been conditional and it remains conditional but if we continue to pull together as we've done so far, I know we can beat this virus – hoping for the best and planning for the worst”
TIMETABLE OUTLINED FOR LIFTING RESTRICTIONS
From August 1, bowling, skating rinks, casinos, and beauticians with close-contact services will be able to open.
Nightclubs and soft-play areas will stay closed.
However, live performances can resume indoors subject to the success of pilots.
Larger gatherings in venues like sport stadiums will also be piloted with a view to reopening in the autumn.
Wedding receptions for up to 30 people will also be allowed.
Schools will be open to all pupils as planned from the autumn.
From October, conferences, business events and sporting events can resume, as long as they can be done in a Covid-secure way.
The PM says a more significant return to normality should be in place “in time for Christmas”.
WORK FROM HOME RULE CHANGE ANNOUNCED
Mr Johnson says the Government is “planning for the worst” – but adds: “Even as we plan for the worst I strongly believe we should also hope for the best.
“That means looking ahead with optimism.”
He says the Government's aim is to “lift the remaining national measures which have restricted our lives since March so we can get back to something closer to normal life” – and that means using public transport and going back to work.
“From August 1, there will be new advice on going to work,” he says.
Rather than encouraging people to stay at home, officials are giving employers “more discretion” to make decisions for themselves.
“Whatever employers decide, they should consult closely with their employees,” he warns.
He stresses new timetable is “conditional and contingent on every one of us staying alert and acting responsibly”.
£3BN ANNOUNCED FOR NHS IN ENGLAND
The biggest-ever flu vaccination programme will be rolled out to help relieve pressure on the NHS.
“We're providing an addition £3bn of funding for the NHS in England to get ready for winter – Scotland, Wales and NI will also receive additional funds,” the PM says.
“This will allow the NHS to use the extra hospital capacity acquired from the independent sector and also to maintain the Nightingale hospitals until the end of March.”
VIRUS 'COULD WORSEN DURING WINTER'
Mr Johnson talks us through the success of tests which tell you if you have the virus, and says that's been massively increased.
“We're set up testing sites around the UK and now have 200 mobile units that can be rapidly deployed,” he says.
“Anyone, anywhere in the UK with symptoms can get a test without delay.”
He says as winter approaches “we will need to go further, not least because many more people will show Covid-like symptoms as a result of seasonal illnesses, and therefore require a test”.
Testing capacity will increase to at least half-a-million tests a day by the end of October, he says.
“It's possible the virus will be more virulent in the winter months and it's certain the NHS will face the usual annual winter pressures,” he says.
STRINGENT NEW MEASURES CAN BE INTRODUCED
Today, the Government will publish a framework for containing and controlling the virus.
From tomorrow, local authorities will have new powers to close specific premises, shut public outdoor spaces and cancel events.
That means councils can act more quickly in response to outbreaks where “speed is paramount”, the PM says.
And here's an important line.
“Where justified by the evidence, ministers will be able to close whole sectors or types of premises in an area, introduce local stay-at-home orders, prevent people entering or leaving defined areas, reduce the maximum size of gatherings beyond national rules, or restrict transport systems serving local areas,” he says.
PM SAYS VIRUS CAN BE TACKLED WITH LOCAL LOCKDOWNS
The PM says at the start of the pandemic we had to take “blanket national measures”.
He says lockdown has saved “many thousands of lives”.
But now, targeted local action – as seen in Leicester – will control the virus effectively, Mr Johnson adds.
“This approach is already working,” he says.
“In Bradford and Blackburn with Darwin, we identified troubling trends in the data and worked respectively with local authorities to take targeted action.
“In Leicester we instituted a local lockdown in order to bear down on stubborn rates of local infection.”
PM'S PRESS CONFERENCE BEGINS
The Prime Minister begins speaking at Downing Street.
He says the number of infections is shrinking by between five and one per cent every day.
New infections are stable and low, and patients admitted to hospital every day and those in ventilator beds have both fallen by more than 90 per cent from their peak in early April, he says.
POLICE CALL FOR CALM AFTER MAJOR INCIDENT IN BOURNEMOUTH
Police in Dorset have called for visitors to 'be respectful' after a major incident was declared as half-a-million Brits flocked to Bournemouth last month.
People are urged to clean up after themselves, respect social distancing rules and not to light fires in the open or use disposable barbecues.
Assistant Chief Constable Sam de Reya, of Dorset Police, said: “The majority of our communities and visitors have continued to behave in a considerate and responsible manner throughout these difficult last few months and, even though many of the restrictions previously in place have eased, we would ask that to continue as we enter the peak summer holiday period.”
WHAT CAN WE EXPECT FROM BORIS JOHNSON'S SPEECH?
The PM is expected to unveil a new 'contain framework' designed to prove to anxious workers that the virus is “under control” in their local areas.
He will also flesh out the Government's 'whack-a-mole' strategy, spelling out extra measures to stop outbreaks over the coming months.
The move will finally end the work from home blanket strategy that has seen the vast majority of Brits shut out of the office for over four months.
The Prime Minister will also relax guidance on the use of public transport – allowing people to start commuting again in August.
Here's what you need to know.
PM WILL ENCOURAGE BRITS TO GET BACK TO THE OFFICE
Boris Johnson will rip up the work-from-home guidance today – giving bosses the green light to welcome staff back to the office.
The Prime Minister will hold a press conference to tell millions of Brits that it will be safe to return to the office next month.
The media briefing will take place at 11am today.
It is expected to be held at 10 Downing Street.
POLICE BREAK UP ANOTHER ILLEGAL RAVE IN LONDON
Police broke up another illegal block party in London last night as hundreds of revellers crammed together for a wild rave.
An estate in Battersea was flooded with partygoers flouting social distancing rules as cops tried to disperse the crowds.
Tightly packed crowds were pictured disregarding the ‘one-metre plus rule’ as police lined up to break up the party.
Here's the full story.
Image: Darren Fletcher – The Sun
STRICT NEW LOCKDOWN IN CITY OF 3.5M
China has enforced ‘the strictest’ anti-virus measures on Xinjiang as the region braces for a coronavirus outbreak.
Urumqi, a city of 3.5million in western China, recorded five new confirmed cases today after registering its first infection in five months on Thursday.
The government has shut down the city’s only subway line and the shuttle bus services to the airport.
Around 200 flights in and out of the city's international airport have reportedly been cancelled today.
FACEBOOK WILL REMIND USERS TO MASK UP
Facebook is to begin reminding users to wear a face covering to help prevent the spread of coronavirus.
The social networking giant is introducing alerts at the top of its news feed and on Instagram to encourage users to wear a mask when social distancing is not possible.
Face coverings will be mandatory in shops and supermarkets in England from July 24, with fines of £100 for those who fail to comply.
The Facebook alerts will include a link to World Health Organisation (WHO) information on preventing the spread of Covid-19 and how masks can help, the company said.
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