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24 May 2020

Daily briefing with Boris Johnson and Stephen Powis – PM believes that Dominic Cummings 'has acted responsibly, and legally, and with integrity'

Summary

Prime Minister Boris Johnson includes a number of key points in his speech, beginning 'by answering the big question that people have been asking in the last 48 hours'. […] 'is this government asking you – the people, the public – to do one thing while senior people here in government do something else?' He says 'it is because I take this matter so seriously and frankly it is so serious' that he had extensive face-to-face conversations with Dominic Cummings today. Johnson thinks that 'he followed the instincts of every father and every parent. And I do not mark him down for that'. He says some of the allegations are 'palpably false'. Boris Johnson believes that 'in every respect he has acted responsibly, and legally, and with integrity, and with the overwhelming aim of stopping the spread of the virus and saving lives'.

He updates on the daily figures. He will set out a detailed assessment of progress against the five tests, but says 'today I can confirm that I do believe we will be in a position to move to step 2 of our plan'. Part of step 2 is a phased reopening of schools. He announces his intention to continue as planned from 1 June 2020, beginning with early years settings and reception, Year 1 and Year 6 in primary schools. Then from 15 June, the intention is for secondary schools to provide some contact for Year 10 and Year 12 students, with up to a quarter of students in school at any point. The government is taking 'a deliberately cautious approach'. It has had a constructive period of consultation with schools, teachers and unions. The Department for Education (DfE) will engage with unions, local authorities and school leaders in the coming days. The final decision will be taken as part of the formal review into lockdown measures required by law by Thursday [27 May]. Boris Johnson will continue to consider all the evidence but thinks it is important to be clear about the government’s intentions so that teachers and parents can plan. He acknowledges that opening on 1 June may not be possible for all schools. He says detailed guidance has been published that sets out a range of protective measures, and all children and staff and their families will have access to testing. He closes by stressing that 'we are making good progress' but 'that progress is conditional, provisional'.

Key points in the Q&A include the following. On the first question from the public about the global response, Boris Johnson describes how countries scrabbled to get their share of very scarce resources like personal protective equipment (PPE) and 'a real fight took place across the world as we tried to protect our own populations'. You could see this was a global problem that produced a national response. But he says this government wants to see a more international approach. Almost all questions from the media focus on Dominic Cummings and whether he broke the lockdown rules. In answering these questions, Boris Johnson repeats previous comments and says he thinks what they did was 'totally understandable', there is guidance about that difficulty, and that any father or parent would understand what he did. In a later response, Johnson says he gets why people might feel 'so confused' and 'so offended' by the idea that it was one thing for people here and another for others, but having looked at what happened and Cummings' intentions, thinks most people will understand. He later says the advice remains unchanged and that is that if you have symptoms then you should self-isolate for 14 days and that is what Dominic Cummings and his family did.

Source(s)

Gov.uk speech