Covid-19 Weekend Bulletin

From the weekend press conferences


George Eustice, Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

  • There are many things that the government is asking the nation to do differently as we work together to fight this pandemic.
  • He started with one message: be responsible when you shop and think of others
  • Buying more than you need means others are going without and is making life difficult for frontline workers.
  • Eustice spoke to the retail sector: there is more than enough food to go around, and our food supply chain is able to expand production to cope with increased demand.
  • In the last week sales of some food have increased significantly, and manufacturers have produced around 50 per cent more than they usually would.
  • The challenge our retailers have faced is keeping shelves stocked throughout the day in the face of increased purchasing behaviours.
  • The government has taken steps to set aside rules restricting delivery to stores and relaxed restrictions on drivers’ hours so that more goods can be delivered to stores every day. The government has also set aside competition laws so that supermarkets can coordinate their efforts locally, sharing staff, delivery vehicles and coordination store opening times.
  • The government has also waived the plastic bag charge for online purchases to speed up deliveries
  • Supermarkets are recruiting more staff, protecting shopping time for older and vulnerable people and limit shopping hours so that they have more time to restock.
  • But we need every citizen in this country to play their part too.
  • Some supermarkets have put in place purchase limits on some items to ensure that there is fair trading and that their shelves remain stocked for longer

Helen Dickinson, CEO of British Retail Consortium

  • Dickinson really wanted to reassure everybody that people right across the food industry, from growers, packers, producers, distributors, drivers and the people at the frontline in our stores are doing everything they can to make sure that we have the food that we all need.
  • It’s almost like we are seeing basically like a peak in demand like at Christmas, without the four-month build-up in planning that you would normally have in advance.
  • There is plenty of food in the supply chain – the issue is around people and lorries, so getting food right into the frontline onto shelves – which is why we’ve seen shortages in areas across lots of different lines in different areas of the country.
  • The key is being able to act quickly.
  • We need to encourage people to be considerate in what they buy – there is now £1bn worth of more food in people’s houses than there was three weeks’ ago so we should make sure we eat some of it and be considerate.

Professor Steven Powis NHS medical director

  • Powis made a plea on behalf of colleagues in the NHS: it is incredibly important that they, too, have access to food and those essential supplies that they need.
  • He referred to the video on social media of Dawn, the critical care nurse, who was in tears at the end of the long shift because she couldn’t get access to the supplies she needed and asserted that we should be ashamed that that has to happen.
  • These are the people that we will all be relying on more than we ever have done in the weeks ahead.


Boris Johnson

  • Johnson opened by thanking everyone who is being forced to do something differently today: to close a business, didn’t visit their mother on mother’s day, thank you for your sacrifice.
  • The government will be standing behind British business, workers, employees, the self-employed throughout this crisis.
  • The reason the government is taking these unprecedented steps is that we have to slow the spread of the disease and save thousands of lives.
  • The government now has to take special steps to protect the particularly vulnerable, and shield those with serious conditions, around 1.5m people in all.
  • This shielding will do more than any other single measure that that the government is setting out to save life.
  • He added that we have to do more to make sure that the existing measures we are taking are having the effect that we want.
  • Johnson stated that he wants people to be able to go to parks and open spaces, its crucial for mental and physical wellbeing, but please follow the advice. Don’t think fresh air automatically provides immunity, you have to follow the social distancing advice. Even if you think you are not vulnerable personally, there are plenty of people you could infect and whose lives could be put in risk.
  • He stated that the government will keep the implementation of these measures under constant review and will bring forward further measures if necessary.
  • Each and every one of us is doing our bit in following this advice.

Robert Jenrick, Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government

  • Outlined the shielding measures being brought forward.
  • He stated that we owe it to the frontline workers and the vulnerable in society to stay at home and protect the NHS.
  • He reiterated that the government’s response from the outset has been guided by scientific guidance
  • Jenrick stated that the government has to go further today and shield the most clinically vulnerable people to help save their lives.
  • The NHS has identified 1.5m in England who face the highest risk of being hospitalized by the virus.
  • The NHS will be contacting these people urging them to stay at home for a period of at least 12 weeks including people with severe respiratory conditions, specific cancers, those who have received organ transplants. The full list of conditions and related press release can be found here, and further guidance here.
  • If you are one of these people you are not alone, and the government will be with you throughout. This is how it is going to work:

o   This week the NHS will contact people by letter and will be followed up by possible via text and phone call asking ppl not to leave home at all, to avoid face to face contact for 12 weeks

o   Others in the household will not be required to adopt these protective shielding measures however they must follow Public Health England (PHE) guidance on social distancing

o   Carers, both formal and informal, can continue to visit but they must follow the additional measures set out by PHE

o   For people who don’t have support in place around them, the government will be creating a network of local hubs covering the whole country. This will require a major national effort in a short period of time.

o   Medicines will be delivered by community pharmacies

o   Groceries and essential household items will be delivered by local councils and food distributors and supermarkets. These parcels will be left on the doorstep

  • Members of armed forces are already supporting this effort.
  • The letters should start to arrive from Tuesday this week.
  • Many people at home will want to volunteer once it is established and there will be opportunities to do so.
  • He added that we need to remember our neighbours when we shop, pick up the phone to loved ones, display acts of kindness.
  • Whilst more people will be required to be by themselves at home, lets guarantee that they are never alone.

Jenny Harries, Deputy Chief Medical Officer for England

  • This is a hugely complex task clinically to identify these individuals. Asking them to take themselves out of society for 12 weeks is no small ask. And the measures announced recognize that difficult balance
  • In doing that Harries stated that they have worked with the Royal College of General Practitioners, with NHS Digital, with the medical Royal Colleges and with secondary care clinicians and they will continue to work with them over the next week or two whilst individual lists are refined.
  • For any of the public listening who might be in this group, because those identifying the relevant people want to be as inclusive as possible, they might overestimate the number of individuals and there will be the opportunity in due course to discuss their individual conditions going forward. It is possible that an individual might receive a digitally constructed letter, but we recognize that the person at the end of the digital number is an individual living their lives and their condition changes.
  • She added that whilst these individuals are being asked to be firmly isolated, many of them have very complex conditions and Harries wanted to assure them that the normal services they receive will continue and on an individual basis they will either receive care at home though more virtual means or arrangements will be made to bring them into clinical areas where they can be managed.