No10 COVID-19 Press Conference
Boris Johnson, Prime Minister
The Prime Minister began by saying that 138,000 people had been given the vaccine. "We are in a race to keep the virus under control".
Thanks to the second lockdown the R rate had dropped but this had increased in different parts of England such as London. He confirmed that Matt Hancock would outline the outcome of the tiering system tomorrow in the Commons.
The PM called for extreme caution and having looked at the data, Johnson acknowledged that the Christmas advice needed to be altered in order to take into account the changing situation.
"A smaller Christmas is a safer Christmas, and a shorter Christmas is a safer Christmas" he said.
He called for people to minimise the amount of contacts they have with multiple households.
On vaccines, the PM said the Government aimed to vaccinate all vulnerable and older people by the early months of next year.
"No one should gather in large number for the New Year… You can't mix indoors with other households".
He said that things will be better "By Easter… I'm sure that by next year, that Christmas will be normal for every family".
Professor Chris Whitty, government chief medical adviser
Professor Chris Whitty spoke from the perspective of healthcare professionals, he said that although a vaccine had been approved it had not been rolled out to the general population yet, so it was important to maintain strict social distancing.
Professor Whitty said that all celebrations needed to be kept small, kept short, kept local and it was important to keep into consideration vulnerable people.
A member of the public asked if social distancing would end when the vulnerable population would be vaccinated. The PM replied that the Government was massively accelerating its programme of vaccination to relax social distancing as quickly as possible. Whitty said he was confident that transmission between individuals with vaccines would be significantly reduced. He said that it was important to recognise that risks would not be eliminated for the foreseeable future. He added that it will be like flu, which kills 7,000 people in a normal year, or 20,000 people in a bad year.
A question from the BBC asked if it would make sense to maintain tighter restrictions over Christmas. The PM replied that it would be "inhumane" to cancel Christmas, and instead stricter adherence to the law was necessary. Whitty argued that the modelling shows that more mixing at Christmas would lead to more deaths.
A questioner from ITN asked a question on what would happen to the transmission rates if people stringently followed the law. The PM replied it was important to follow the rules
A questioner from Sky News asked a question on if someone followed the law, but ignores the guidance, and they give Covid to someone who dies, who's fault was it? Johnson said he does not want to criminalise people, but he wants people to follow the guidance. Whitty said in much of the UK the problem is getting worse or flat-lining
A question was asked from the Telegraph on if the new rules represented a more tolerant approach to restrictions. Johnson does not accept that. He says, "alas", the government is still being very proscriptive. It may be the strictest approach since Cromwell's time, he says.
Another question was asked if the PM had a Christmas present for Nicola Sturgeon, Johnson said the people of Scotland will become the proud possessors of thousands of tonnes of fish after the post-Brexit transition ends
A question was asked on the Oxford vaccine. Johnson says he has always been in the anxious camp on vaccine, keen not to "over-promise". He does not want to jinx things by over-promising at this stage. Whitty said this is very much in the hands of the regulator. They have access to lots of data not in the public domain.