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Statement from the Secretary for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport on Coronavirus (COVID-19): May 20, 2020

Press conference on the coronavirus (May 20, 2020)

Hello and welcome to today’s briefing. I am happy to be joined by Steve Powis – the National Medical Director for NHS England.

First, I want to update you on the latest data on the coronavirus response.

  • 2,962,227 coronavirus tests have now been carried out in the UK, including 177,216 tests carried out yesterday;

  • 248,293 people have tested positive, an increase of 2,472 cases since yesterday;

  • 9,953 people are currently hospitalized with coronavirus, down 13% from 11,443 at this time last week.

And sadly, of those who have tested positive for coronavirus, across all settings, 35,704 have now sadly passed away. This is an increase of 363 deaths since yesterday. Of course, my thoughts go out to all the families of those people who have been affected by this.

Before I start questions from the public and the media, I just want to remind people of the details of the next phase of our fight against the coronavirus.

First, in order to track our progress, we are establishing a new COVID Alert Level system, with five levels, each tied to the level of threat posed by the virus.

The alert level will be based primarily on the R-value and the number of coronavirus cases.

And in turn, this level of alert will determine the level of social distancing measures in place.

The lower the level, the fewer the measurements; the higher the level, the stricter the measures.

During the entire confinement period which began on March 23, we were at level 4.

Thanks to the hard work and sacrifice of the British people in this lockdown, we have helped bring the R level down and we are now able to start moving to level 3, in careful steps.

We have set out the first of three steps we will take to carefully change the measures, gradually ease the lockdown and start allowing people to return to their normal lifestyles – but above all while avoiding what would be a disastrous second peak that overwhelms the NHS.

After each step, we will closely monitor the impact of that step on R and the number of infections, along with all available data, and will only move on to the next step when we are confident that it is safe. to do.

Stage 1 – as the PM announced this week:

  • Those who cannot work from home should now speak to their employer about the possibility of returning to work.
  • Now you can spend time outdoors and exercise as often as you like.
  • You can meet someone from outside your household in a public place outside as long as you stay 2 meters apart.

Having taken the first step in carefully adjusting some of the measures and our advice to people on what to do, we have also updated what we are asking people to do, i.e. stay alert, control the virus and save lives.

Yes – staying alert, for the vast majority of people, always means staying home as much as possible. But there are a range of other measures we advise people to take.

People should remain vigilant by:

  • work from home if you can;
  • limit contact with other people;
  • keep distance if you go out – 2 meters distance if possible;
  • wash your hands regularly;
  • wear a face covering when you are in enclosed spaces where it is difficult to be socially distanced – for example in some shops and on public transport;
  • and if you or anyone in your household has symptoms, you should all self-isolate.

Because if everyone stays alert and follows the rules, we can control the coronavirus by keeping the R low and reducing the number of infections.

This is how we can continue to save lives and livelihoods, as we as a nation begin to recover from the coronavirus.

Over the past few months, we have all understandably focused on the enormous health implications of this pandemic.

But I would now like to take stock of some of the crucial work that is going on behind the scenes to support and protect the things that give added meaning to our lives – such as sport, art, tourism and our charities, music and theatre.

And when we look back on the coronavirus, one of the things we will remember is the incredible contribution made by so many people.

To show our national gratitude to these everyday COVID heroes, we are announcing today that we are postponing Her Majesty The Queen’s Birthday Honors List until the fall so they can be recognized and celebrated.

And as the Prime Minister said today, I am delighted that Her Majesty The Queen has endorsed Captain Tom Moore’s knighthood, in recognition of his outstanding achievement in raising nearly £33million for charities NHS charities.

Captain Tom set a generosity marker, and the audience matched it.

Incredibly, it looks like Brits and businesses have now contributed over £800million – through national fundraising campaigns alone – and much more has obviously been raised locally.

While the British people gave generously of their time and money, the government sought to support them every step of the way. We have promised to match every penny raised by the BBC’s Big Night In campaign and, after a fantastic public response, I am delighted to announce today that over £70m is now being donated by Comic Relief, Children In Need and the National Emergencies Trust to frontline charities.

This is on top of the hundreds of millions of pounds we have already announced for charities who do vital work supporting people with mental health issues, helping victims of domestic abuse and ensuring that hospices can continue to care for families in these most difficult circumstances.

And today I am pleased to confirm that the Government’s support program dedicated to small and medium-sized charities – the Coronavirus Community Support Fund – will open for applications this week.

Initially there will be a £200m tranche of government funding and this will be administered by the National Lottery Community Fund and will focus on charities which we may not know nationally but which are a lifeline for communities at the local level.

On top of that, I can also announce that we are freeing up £150m of dormant accounts to help social enterprises secure affordable credit for financially vulnerable people and support charities tackling youth unemployment.

Our charities large and small have truly been at the forefront of the national effort to beat the coronavirus. And together it all adds up to a multi-billion pound boost for UK charities.

I know people are also hungry for news about the return of live sports and arts. The last few months have been strange without them, and our calendars strangely bare.

Finding creative, crowd-free ways to navigate the coronavirus is the biggest challenge for our recreation and recreation sectors right now.

So this week, I’m setting up a renewal task force that will help them bounce back. It will be made up of the brightest and best from the creative, technological and sporting worlds. They are experts in their fields and they will advise me on how to find new and different ways to get their industries back up and running. They include:

Alex Scott, a former Lioness and Olympian, and now an award-winning entertainer. It will help us think about how we can safely restore sport in a way that works for clubs, players and supporters.

Likewise, Lord Grade, former chairman of the BBC and ITV, will explain how we can relaunch and prosper our creative and media industries.

Tamara Rojo, Artistic Director of English National Ballet, will give us ideas on how we will start to get our arts scene back on its feet.

And Martha Lane Fox, well known as the founder of, will advise on how technology can fuel the recovery of all these sectors, but particularly in tourism, as part of the much broader role that it will play in the propulsion of our economy. , as it has already done.

Meanwhile, bit by bit, we are crafting guidance that helps some of the lighter parts of our economy return to a new normal.

So we’ve supported the safe return of TV production, which means our broadcasters are able to keep some of our favorite shows on TV screens, whether it’s Corry or Eastenders.

We’ve helped reopen the country’s tennis and basketball courts and guided elite athletes to safe training – and that in turn will pave the way for the return of live sports behind closed doors in the near future. to come up.

Normal life as we have known it is still a long way off, and the path to get there is narrow.

But those things will come back, when they can safely do so, with the same dynamism and creativity that makes a great performance or a great work of art.

And I really think when they do, and when we get through this crisis together, we’ll appreciate them that much more.