Covid-19 press briefing 21st September 2020

Monday 21st September 2020 Coronavirus Update 

Professor Chris Whitty and Sir Patrick Vallance held a press conference to stress the importance of controlling the spread of covid-19. Thanks to our colleagues at LCR for sharing this summary from DeHavilland:

Chief Scientific Adviser Sir Patrick Vallance:

  • Reminded people that the way to reduce the spread of the virus was to reduce the number of contacts people met, and avoiding poorly ventilated areas.
  • Said there had been increases in the number of cases in Spain and France, which had led to an increase in hospitalisations, and subsequently deaths.
  • Stated that from July, the prevalence of the virus had increased across all age groups.
  • Said the increase in prevalence was not due to an increase in testing.
  • Cited an ONS study, which estimated that 75,000 people carried the COVID infection and about 6,000 per day were getting the infection.
  • Emphasised that there was “no doubt” that the number of cases was increasing.
  • Believed the epidemic was doubling roughly every seven days – if that continued unabated, then around 50,000 cases per day would be seen by the middle of October.
  • Stated that tackling the ‘doubling rate’ required “speed and action”.
  • Announced that there were cases where people were being re-infected, and highlighted that the antibody immunity response would not necessarily last forever.
  • Stated that only around 8% if people overall had developed said antibodies, which meant the vast majority of the population remained susceptible to the virus.


Following, Chief Medical Officer Professor Chris Whitty:

  • Said that there were significant rates of transmission of the virus across the UK.
  • Announced that every location which had seen falling transmission rates was now beginning to see transmission rates go positive again, adding “this is not someone else’s problem, this is all our problem”.
  • Stated that “the seasons are against us” – autumn and winter benefited respiratory viruses and would probably benefit COVID.
  • Said there was no evidence that the virus was milder this time around.
  • Stated that virus mortality rates were moving up the age-bands.
  • Highlighted that treatment was much better, which would reduce the mortality rate, but not bring it down to insignificant levels.
  • Said there were four ways this virus could affect people’s health in the following ways:
    • Direct COVID deaths
    • NHS was overwhelmed by a huge spike, reducing emergency capacity
    • NHS’s efforts in treating COVID cases would result in a reduction in treatment, prevention, and detection of other illnesses
    • Social and economic impacts of lockdown measures could damage both people’s mental health and their health in indirect ways
  • Stressed that if he was to increase his own risk, he increased the risk to others, including his friends and family – the risk is shared, not individual.
  • Said the population of the UK should increase their hygiene measures such as washing hands, using masks, and avoiding big groups of people.
  • Stressed that “people must self-isolate”.
  • Said “unnecessary links between households” had to be reduced.
  • Stated that the UK must change course otherwise “we will find ourselves in a very difficult problem”.


Adding, Sir Patrick:

  • Stated that good progress was being made on vaccines, and several vaccines were in very late stage clinical testing.
  • Said the Vaccine’s Taskforce had access to a number of those vaccines, across a range of companies and range of vaccine technologies.

Said vaccines were more likely to be made available in the first half of 2021, rather than within 2020.

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