Highlights from the UK government’s press briefings

22nd February 2021

Today, in the House of Commons, Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced a four-step roadmap to ease restrictions across England. You can read the full roadmap here.

Below are the key highlights from this announcement:

  • Johnson outlined four steps for easing the lockdown restrictions. Before proceeding to the next ‘Step’ of the plan, the government will examine data to assess the previous ‘Step’s’ impact. This assessment will be subject to four tests:
  1. The vaccine deployment programme continues successfully
  2. Evidence shows vaccines are sufficiently effective in reducing hospitalisations and deaths in those vaccinated
  3. Infection rates do not risk a surge in hospitalisations which would put unsustainable pressure on the NHS
  4. The government’s assessment of the risks is not “fundamentally changed” by new variants of COVID-19
  • Johnson noted that there would be a minimum of five weeks between each ‘Step’:
    • Step 1, part 1: From 8 March: As before, people can leave home for work if they cannot work from home and to escape illness, injury or risk of harm, including domestic abuse.
    • Step 1, part 2: From 29 March
    • Step 2: At least five weeks after Step 1, and no earlier than 12 April: People should continue to work from home where they can, minimise domestic travel where they can.
    • Step 3: No earlier than 17 May: The government will continue to advise the public to work from home where they can
    • Ahead of Step 4, as more is understood about the impact of vaccines on transmission and a far greater proportion of the population has been vaccinated, the government will complete a review of social distancing measures and other long-term measures that have been put in place to limit transmission. The results of the review will help inform decisions on the timing and circumstances under which rules on 1m+, face masks and other measures may be lifted. The review will also inform guidance on working from home - people should continue to work from home where they can until this review is complete.
    • Step 4: No earlier than 21 June
  • Johnson added that four reviews would be set up:
    • Assessment of how long social distancing would need to be retained and how long working from home would have to remain in place
    • An assessment looking at the resumption of international travel
    • A review looking at COVID-status certification. Johnson stated that this would be mindful of concerns regarding exclusion, discrimination, and privacy
    • A review looking at the potential for a safe return of major events
  • The government’s offer of free test kits to workplaces for staff who cannot work at home will be extended to until the end of June. Organisations, including those yet to open, will need to register interest before 31 March. The government will keep this under review as vaccine deployment continues and will investigate how testing could be used to support the recovery.
  • The government’s roadmap mentions that businesses must also continue to take necessary precautions as restrictions ease. The overwhelming majority of the businesses that remained open during the pandemic did so in a COVID-Secure way. The government will update COVID Secure guidance to provide further advice on how businesses can improve fresh air flow in indoor workplaces and introduce regular testing to reduce risk. Local authorities will also continue to offer advice.
  • On vaccines:
    • Across the UK, over 17.5 million people have been vaccinated
    • In England, everyone in the top four priority groups was offered a vaccine by the middle of February
    • Johnson added that the Government will aim to offer a first dose of vaccines to all those in groups 5 to 9 by 15 April
    • Johnson also announced a target of offering the first dose to every adult by the end of July
  • Due to infection rates being relatively similar across England, the government is planning to ease restrictions at the same time across the country.


8th February 2021

In this government press conference, Health Secretary, Matt Hancock, announced that the government is expanding its offer of regular workplace testing to all businesses with over 50 employees in currently open sectors. Hancock urged all eligible employers to take up this offer. Below are the highlights from the rest of the press conference.

  • Hancock added that over 12.2 million people had now been vaccinated
  • He stated that the government had offered a vaccine to every eligible care home and that take-up of the vaccine stood at 93%
  • On the vaccination rollout, Hancock said that the government was on track to offer everyone in priority groups 1-4 a vaccine by 15 February
  • Today, the UK recorded 333 new deaths and 14,104 new cases since yesterday


15th January 2021

Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced this evening that the UK would close all travel corridors from 04:00 GMT on Monday, 18 January, to avoid the spread of new and unidentified strains of the coronavirus in the UK. 

Below are the highlights from the UK Government’s press conference:

  • Johnson mentioned that all arrivals to the UK must have proof of a negative COVID-19 test taken within 72 hours before leaving, a filled passenger locator form and the airline will ask for both before take-off. Those entering the UK will also be required to quarantine for ten days and take another test on day five and wait for proof of another negative result.
  • The UK R-number is between 1.2 and 1.3.
  • On vaccines, Johnson stated that 3.2 million first vaccines have been administered in the UK so far, and almost 45% of over-80s and 45% of care home residents have been vaccinated. Vaccine administration is helping to “steadily protecting those at risk”. The government hopes to have all care homes vaccinated by the end of January.
  • Prof. Chris Whitty, Chief Medical Adviser, cited ONS data suggesting that one in 50 people had COVID-19. He added that the number of COVID-19 infection rates were dropping but emphasised that the number of people entering hospitals and COVID deaths lagged behind the infection rate. He further stated that the vaccine rollout would firstly decrease death rates and then would help to reduce hospitalizations
  • The UK has recorded 1,280 new deaths and 55,761 cases since yesterday.


4th January 2021

Prime Minister Boris Johnson addressed the nation this evening and announced a seven-week national lockdown in England. Earlier today, the Scottish government announced a nationwide lockdown too. Below are the highlights from tonight’s address. The guidance issued by the government, and which applies only in England, can be read in full here.

  • Government guidance details that one must not leave or be outside of one’s home except where one has a ‘reasonable excuse’. A ‘reasonable excuse’ to leave home includes:
  • Work:
    • For work purposes where it is unreasonable to do the job from home – this includes people who work within critical national infrastructure, construction or manufacturing that requires in-person attendance
    • Employers and employees should discuss their working arrangements, and employers should take every possible step to facilitate their employees working from home, including providing suitable IT and equipment to enable remote working
  • Volunteer: To provide voluntary or charitable services
  • Essential activities: To buy things at shops or obtain services or to do these on behalf of a disabled or vulnerable person or for someone who is self-isolating
  • Education and childcare: For education, childcare, and supervised activities for children where they are eligible to attend.
  • Meeting others and care: Visit people in your support bubble, provide informal childcare for children under 14 as part of a childcare bubble, to provide care for disabled or vulnerable people, to provide emergency assistance, attend a support group, for respite care
  • Exercise: Continue to exercise alone, with one other person, or with your household or support bubble. This should be limited to once per day while maintaining social distancing
  • Medical reasons: For medical reasons including to get a COVID-19 test, for medical appointments and emergencies
  • Harm and compassionate visits: To be with someone who is giving birth: avoid injury or illness, escape risk of harm (such as domestic abuse), to visit someone who is dying or someone in a care home or to accompany them to a medical appointment
  • Animal welfare reasons: To attend veterinary services
  • Communal worship and life events: To attend a place of worship: a funeral, a burial ground, remembrance garden, wedding ceremony
  • Breaking the rules:
    • Fixed Penalty Notice of £200 for the first offence, doubling for further offences up to a maximum of £6,400
    • If you hold, or are involved in holding, an illegal gathering of over 30 people, the police can issue fines of £10,000
  • The UK COVID-19 Alert Level will move from Level 4 to Level 5, meaning that there is a risk of healthcare services being overwhelmed


24th December 2020

Today, the UK and the EU struck a post-Brexit, free trade deal. This deal, which will apply from 1 January 2021, will be provisional until it is ratified by the UK Parliament (MPs to vote on 30 December 2020) and the EU member states.

Below are the highlights from the UK Government’s press conference:

  • Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, said that this “Canada-style” deal, which is worth more than £660billion a year, will “protect jobs across this country” by allowing goods to be sold “without tariffs and without quotas” in the EU market.
  • He added that from 1 January 2021,, the UK would be outside EU customs union and single market. The UK laws would be made solely by the British parliament, and the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice (ECJ) will come to an end.
  • On fisheries, he said that the UK’s share of fish in its waters “will rise substantially, from roughly half today to closer to two-thirds in the next 5.5 years”.
  • Ursula von der Leyen, the European Commission’s President, said that the competition would be “fair” and the “EU standards will be respected”. She added that the UK and the EU would continue cooperating in areas of mutual interest – climate change, energy, security and transport.
  • On being asked where the UK and EU compromised the most, Johnson said that Britain wanted “complete control” of fisheries from the get-go and the EU wanted a longer transition period. But the two sides eventually agreed to a “reasonable” compromise on these issues.
  • Johnson mentioned that there is a clause in the deal that says that if either country feels that they are being undercut by the other, they can, subject to independent arbitration, impose tariffs to protect their consumers and businesses.
  • As the UK won’t be a part of the Erasmus scheme anymore, Johnson said that a new initiative called the Turing scheme was put into place for UK students to go to best universities around the world.
  • On security, Johnson said that the deal protects the ability to share information across the continent.


19th December 2020

This evening, Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced tougher restrictions for large parts of South East England with a new Tier 4: ‘Stay at Home’ alert level. This decision follows a rapid rise in infections attributed to the rapid spread of a new variant of COVID-19.

Below are the highlights from the rest of the government’s briefing.

You can read the full list of local restriction tiers by area here. You can read Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s speech here.

  • Based on preliminary modelling data, the New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group (NERVTAG) now consider that the new strain can spread significantly more quickly and could increase R by 0.4 or more.
  • New and existing data will continue to be analysed as the UK Government learns more about the variant.
  • As a result of this announcement, the following areas will move from Tier 3 to Tier 4:
    • Kent, Buckinghamshire, Berkshire, Surrey (excluding Waverley), Gosport, Havant, Portsmouth, Rother and Hastings;
    • London (all 32 boroughs and the City of London); and
    • the East of England (Bedford, Central Bedford, Milton Keynes, Luton, Peterborough, Hertfordshire, Essex excluding Colchester, Uttlesford and Tendring).
  • People should not enter or leave Tier 4 areas, and Tier 4 residents must not stay overnight away from home.
  • Where people cannot work from home, they should still travel to work, for example in the construction and manufacturing sectors.
  • In Tier 4, non-essential retail, indoor leisure, indoor entertainment, and personal care sectors must all close.
  • Tighter social contact restrictions will also be introduced, meaning one person can meet with one other person in an outside public space.
  • Rules on support bubbles and childcare bubbles will remain as currently, and communal worship can continue to take place.
  • Johnson said that there is no current evidence to suggest the new variant causes a higher mortality rate, that it affects vaccines and treatments, or that testing will not detect cases.
  • Johnson added that given the risk the new variant poses, the Christmas bubble policy will no longer apply in Tier 4.
  • For Tiers 1, 2 and 3, Christmas bubbles can continue with up to three households able to meet, but for one day only on Christmas Day.
  • People under Tier 1, 2, and 3 restrictions should stay local. People should not travel into or out of Tier 4 areas and those in Tier 4 areas will not be permitted to travel abroad, apart from limited exceptions including work and education.
  • Tier 4 rules will be reviewed on 30 December, as part of the wider review of all restrictions.


3rd December 2020

Please find below highlights from the Prime Minister’s statement on coronavirus. The Prime Minister’s statement can be read in full here.


  • Today, Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced that the UK Government accepted the recommendation from the independent Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) to approve the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for distribution across the UK
  • Johnson added that the UK purchased more than 350 million doses of seven different vaccine candidates
  • Johnson said the UK was the first country in the world to pre-order supplies of this Pfizer vaccine, securing 40 million doses
  • The NHS has been preparing for the “biggest programme of mass vaccination” in the UK’s history and it will begin next week
  • In line with the advice of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation, the first phase will include care home residents, health and care staff as well as the elderly and those who are clinically extremely vulnerable
  • Johnson added that there are logistical challenges to distributing the vaccine:
    • The vaccine must be stored at minus 70 degrees and can only be moved in batches of 975 doses
    • Each person needs two injections, three weeks apart
  • As a result of these challenges, Johnson stated that it would take some months before all of the most vulnerable are protected


26th November 2020

Please find below highlights from Health Secretary Matt Hancock’s statement to the House of Commons on the English tier system this morning. The government has also published a full list of which parts of England will be in which tier from 2 December, the list can be viewed here.


  • Health Secretary Matt Hancock begun his statement by mentioning how the Prime Minister, on 23 November, set out his COVID-19 Winter Plan to suppress the COVID-19 virus and protect the NHS and the vulnerable
  • Hancock announced that on 2 December the government will lift the national restrictions across all of England and the following restrictions will be eased:
    • The stay-at-home requirement will end
    • Non-essential retail, gyms, and personal care will reopen. The wider leisure and entertainment sectors will also reopen, although to varying degrees
    • Communal worship, weddings, and outdoor sports can resume
    • People will no longer be limited to seeing one other person in outdoor public spaces, where the rule of six will now apply
  • The tier system will have three levels ranging from Medium Alert (Tier 1), High Alert (Tier 2), and Very High Alert (Tier 3). The different restrictions within each tier level are explained here.
  • London has been placed into the tier 2 category of restrictions, and the full list of local restrictions by tier area can be viewed here
  • Hancock emphasised that the regulations will require the government to review the allocations every 14 days, with the first review complete by the end of 16 December
  • Hancock reaffirmed the UK-wide arrangements for Christmas, allowing friends and loves ones to reunite and form a Christmas bubble of three households for five days over the Christmas period
  • Hancock added that a postcode tracker will be available for the public to check what rules apply in their local area
  • Health Secretary Matt Hancock stated that with 16,570 people in hospital across the UK and 696 deaths reported yesterday we cannot “flick a switch” and have life back to normal as this would see the NHS overwhelmed.


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