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Coronavirus: Boris Johnson announces ‘support bubbles’ for single adults and confirms zoos can reopen from June 15





The Prime Minister has announced that adults living alone or single parents with children under 18 will be allowed to form a ‘support bubble’ with one other household from next week.

It means they can spend time in each other’s homes without social distancing.

But you cannot switch bubbles, or connect with others, Boris Johnson told the nation tonight (Wednesday).

Prime Minister Boris Johnson
Prime Minister Boris Johnson

He said the measure was designed to help the loneliest in society.

Mr Johnson also announced that zoos and wildlife parks will be allowed to open from Monday June 15 - the day non-essential retail outlets are able to reopen if they have appropriate social distancing measures in place. This will come as a relief to places likes Shepreth Wildlife Park, which had warned it faced great financial difficulties feeding its animals while there was no income coming in.

He said they must ensure “visitor numbers are managed and safeguards put in place”, including “keeping indoor areas such as reptile houses closed and facilitating social distancing”.

And the Prime Minister also said the aim was for all schools to return in September “provided the progress we are making continues”.

Announcing the measures for single adults, he said: “From this weekend, we will allow single adult households - so adults living alone or single parents with children under 18 - to form a ‘support bubble’ with one other household.

“All those in a support bubble will be able to act as if they live in the same household - meaning they can spend time together inside each others’ homes and do not need to stay 2 metres apart.

“I want to stress that support bubbles must be exclusive - meaning you cannot switch the household you are in a bubble with or connect with multiple households. And if any member of the support bubble develops symptoms, all members of the bubble will need to follow the normal advice on household isolation.”

He described this as a “targeted intervention to limit the most harmful effects of the current social restrictions”.

But he stressed: “It is emphatically not designed for people who don’t qualify to start meeting inside other people’s homes - that remains against the law.”

Those who are shielding - those most at risk from the coronavirus - cannot yet form a support bubble, he said.

The Prime Minister confirmed there have been a further 245 coronavirus deaths in the UK, taking the UK death toll to 41,128.

Earlier, former government advisor Prof Neil Ferguson, from Imperial College London, told a committee of MPs lives could have been saved if the lockdown had happened earlier than March 23.

“Had we introduced lockdown measures a week earlier, we would have reduced the final death toll by at least a half,” he said.

“So whilst I think the measures, given what we knew about this virus then, in terms of its transmission, were warranted... certainly had we introduced them earlier, we would have seen many fewer deaths.”

Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s speech in full

Good evening, two weeks ago, I set out the progress we as a country have made against our five tests for adjusting the lockdown, and the measures we could introduce as a result.

And today, I want to update you again on those five tests and set out some further changes we can now make.

A slide from Boris Johnson's press conference on June 10, 2020
A slide from Boris Johnson's press conference on June 10, 2020

The five tests are designed, as you know, to ensure that any changes to the lockdown are careful, proportionate, and safe.

They combine analysis of the latest data on the spread of the disease with assessments of how well we are placed to meet the operational challenges posed by the virus.

We must do everything in our power to avoid a second peak of infection that overwhelms the NHS - because that would lead to more lives lost, more families in mourning, and more disruption to our economy and way of life.

A slide from Boris Johnson's press conference on June 10, 2020
A slide from Boris Johnson's press conference on June 10, 2020

Our first test is to protect the NHS’s ability to cope, so that we are confident that we are able to provide sufficient critical care and specialist treatment right across the UK.

It’s thanks to the efforts of those working in the NHS that we can still be confident the NHS can cope.

On 7 June, 443 people were admitted to hospital with coronavirus in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, down from 628 two weeks earlier, and down from a peak of 3,431 on 1 April.

And on 9 June, 492 patients with coronavirus were in mechanical ventilation beds in the UK, down from 848 two weeks earlier, and down from a peak of 3,301 on 12 April.

So that means we are still meeting the first test.

A slide from Boris Johnson's press conference on June 10, 2020
A slide from Boris Johnson's press conference on June 10, 2020

Our second test is to see a sustained and consistent fall in the daily death rates from COVID-19 so we are confident that we have moved beyond the peak.

And of those who have tested positive for coronavirus, across all settings, I am sad to say that 41,128 have now died. That’s an increase of 245 fatalities since yesterday.

As measured by a 7-day rolling average, the UK daily death rate now stands at 200, down from 300 two weeks ago, and down from a peak of 943 on 14 April.

So the death rate has continued to fall, and so the second test is still being met.

A slide from Boris Johnson's press conference on June 10, 2020
A slide from Boris Johnson's press conference on June 10, 2020

Our third test is to receive reliable data from SAGE showing that the rate of infection - the number of people catching Covid - is decreasing to manageable levels across the board.

In total, 290,143 people have now tested positive for coronavirus, which is an increase of 1,003 cases since yesterday.

The seven-day rolling average of new positive cases found through testing is now 1,419, down from 2,416 two weeks ago, and down from a peak of 5,195 in the first week of May.

In a moment, Sir Patrick will talk us through SAGE’s latest assessment of the R and other evidence on infection rates.

Based on the various data available, the government is satisfied the third test is being met.

A slide from Boris Johnson's press conference on June 10, 2020
A slide from Boris Johnson's press conference on June 10, 2020

Our fourth test is that we must be confident that the range of operational challenges, including on testing capacity and Personal Protective Equipment, are in hand, with supply able to meet future demand.

Yesterday 170,379 tests were carried out or posted out across the UK, compared to around 12,000 at the start of April. The total now stands at 6,042,622.

Tomorrow the Health Secretary will provide an update on how NHS Test and Trace is performing.

On PPE, we have secured over 150 deals with new suppliers around the world and procured 2.2 billion items of PPE to be manufactured domestically.

Despite the immensely frustrating difficulties we have faced with PPE and testing in the past, this progress means we are now satisfied that the fourth test is being met - though of course we remain vigilant.

A slide from Boris Johnson's press conference on June 10, 2020
A slide from Boris Johnson's press conference on June 10, 2020

Our fifth and final test is that we must be confident that any adjustments to the current measures will not risk a second peak of infections that overwhelms the NHS.

I am grateful to the Chief Scientific Adviser and the Chief Medical Officer for their advice on the measures I am about to set out – and on this basis I can confirm the Government judges we have met the fifth test.

Therefore, the Government is satisfied that all five tests are still being met and we can proceed with the following further adjustments to the lockdown in England.

A month ago I set out our roadmap to recovery and that explained the gradual steps we would take to ease the lockdown, as the data and the evidence allows. The measures it contained were all conditional on continued progress in tackling the virus. We are continuing to follow our roadmap, while adjusting our approach as we need to, as we always said we would.

Although we are tackling this virus as one United Kingdom, it remains the case that the devolved administrations are responsible for lockdown in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. And it is right that they move at the right pace for them, according to their circumstances.

For that reason, the specific measures I am about to set out apply in England only.

First, on retail, shops. This has been the most challenging period for shops and high streets in our history. Never before have all shops been ordered to shut in this way. It has now been 82 days since we asked these shops to close their doors and I know the toll this has taken.

Which is why I am so pleased that, as the Business Secretary confirmed yesterday, we can now allow all shops to reopen from Monday. It is vital that establishments should ensure they are meeting Covid Secure guidelines before they reopen.

That way we can keep staff and customers safe while we get retail going.

A slide from the government press conference on June 10, 2020
A slide from the government press conference on June 10, 2020

Second, on social contact. I know how difficult the past months have been for people cut off from their friends and family.

Last Monday, we relaxed the rules on meeting outdoors so that groups of up to 6 could gather, provided they are socially distant. We did so in the knowledge that transmission of the virus is much lower outdoors, so we could make this change in a safe way.

But there are still too many people, particularly those who live by themselves, who are lonely and struggling with being unable to see friends and family.

From this weekend, we will allow single adult households - so adults living alone or single parents with children under 18 - to form a “support bubble” with one other household.

All those in a support bubble will be able to act as if they live in the same household - meaning they can spend time together inside each others’ homes and do not need to stay 2 metres apart.

I want to stress that support bubbles must be exclusive - meaning you cannot switch the household you are in a bubble with or connect with multiple households. And if any member of the support bubble develops symptoms, all members of the bubble will need to follow the normal advice on household isolation.

We are making this change to support those who are particularly lonely as a result of lockdown measures. It is a targeted intervention to limit the most harmful effects of the current social restrictions. It is emphatically not designed for people who don’t qualify to start meeting inside other people’s homes - that remains against the law.

Unfortunately, we cannot advise anyone who is shielding to form a support bubble at this stage, given their particular vulnerability to the virus. However, I want to say I know how hard it is for those of you who are shielding, and we will say more next week about the arrangements that will be in place for you beyond the end of June.

A slide from the government press conference on June 10, 2020
A slide from the government press conference on June 10, 2020

Third, on outdoor attractions. Because the risk of transmission is lower outdoors, we can open up some more outdoor attractions for people to enjoy this summer.

So from Monday, we will allow outdoor attractions where people can stay in their cars, such as safari parks and drive-in cinemas to open.

I am very grateful to the zoo industry for their cooperation and forbearance, and am happy to confirm that they too can reopen from Monday, provided visitor numbers are managed and safeguards put in place. That includes keeping indoor areas such as reptile houses closed and facilitating social distancing.

Finally, we will allow places of worship to open for individual prayer this weekend. And I hope that will be of some comfort to those of faith who have been unable to go to their place of worship.

As set out in our roadmap, the next set of changes - Step 3 - will not begin until 4 July at the earliest, as the evidence allows.

I know that these changes are only incremental and that some of you, many of you, may be hoping and waiting for more.

I also know that people will once again find anomalies or apparent anomalies in what people can and cannot do.

And as I have said before, I’m afraid that is just inevitable when we are only able to give people a small amount of the freedoms that they usually enjoy.

We will continue to remain cautious and measure the effect of the changes that we make. And as I’ve always said, we won’t hesitate to apply the brakes if that is what the situation requires.

That has meant moving slower than we would have liked in some areas.

A slide from the government press conference on June 10, 2020
A slide from the government press conference on June 10, 2020

It is because the rate of infection is not yet quite low enough, and because we are not able to change our social distancing advice including smaller class sizes in schools, that we are not proceeding with our ambition to bring back all primary pupils at least for some weeks before the summer holidays. Instead we are working with teachers to bring back as many pupils as we can within those smaller class sizes.

We do fully intend to bring all children back to school in September, provided the progress we are making continues, which I hope it will. That is our focus and it is consistent with the approach that has been taken by many other countries in Europe.

In the meantime we must stick to our roadmap.

I urge everyone to continue to show restraint and respect the rules which are designed to keep us all safe. It’s only because of the restraint that everyone, you all have shown so far that we are able to move gradually out of this lockdown.

So please, to repeat what you’ve heard so many times before, stay alert, maintain social distancing and keep washing your hands.

Help control the virus by getting tested if you have symptoms and isolating if you are contacted by NHS Test and Trace.

Then, if we all do that together, we will all save lives and begin to rebuild our country.

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