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News & Press: International Trade News

Five things we learned at government briefing (Monday, 30 March), including a ‘no comment’ on China

31 March 2020  
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Shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE) supplies for staff in hospitals was a key theme of yesterday’s (Monday, 31 March) government press conference.

Some 170 million PPE items have been delivered to frontline healthcare services, according to Public Health England director, Yvonne Doyle.

She was speaking alongside foreign secretary Dominic Raab and chief scientific advisor to the government Sir Patrick Vallance at the briefing.

Here are the five main takeaways from today’s briefing.

1. ‘No comment’ on China

When asked whether he had any views on China’s role in the pandemic’s spread, the Foreign Secretary would not be drawn, saying instead that countries needed to come together and “lessons learnt” could be looked at “after the crisis has abated”, with the WHO leading any investigations.

2. Protective items reach frontline

In response to a question about personal protective equipment, Yvonne Doyle said “170 million items” had been delivered across the NHS over the past two weeks.

The number of items coincides with the number of face masks the communities secretary, Robert Jenrick, said were being delivered to the frontline over the weekend.

He also claimed 42.8m gloves, 13.7m aprons, 182,000 gowns, 2.3m eye protectors and nearly 10m items of cleaning equipment were being delivered to NHS trusts and healthcare facilities, the Independent reports.

3. Social distancing message getting through

Sir Patrick Valance said there had been a “dramatic reduction” in social contact since measures were introduced and that this will have a “significant effect” on cases.

He showed a graph highlighting decreased usage of public transport and motor vehicles since the end of February.

4. Growth curve behind Spain and Italy

Sir Patrick said he expects numbers of cases to continue to increase in the coming weeks with the impact of social distancing to be seen in two to three weeks’ time.

However, he said hospital admissions are increasing at a “constant rate”, meaning “we’re not on a fast acceleration at the moment”. The UK was “tracking the same path as France”, with the curve of cases increasing at a slower rate compared with Italy and Spain at the same time of their outbreaks.

It had been reported earlier in the day that the lockdown could last as long as six months.

5. Funds to bring Brits home

The foreign secretary announced a £75m package to bring Brits home from abroad through subsidised tickets on commercial flights and charter flights in partnership with British Airways, Virgin, EasyJet, Jet2 and Titan.