PM statement on coronavirus: 17 March 2020

Four new implementation committees focusing on health, public sector preparedness, economy and international response, will feed into a new daily C-19 meeting, which will be chaired by the Prime Minister.

The Prime Minister will continue to chair regular UK COBR meetings to take strategic decisions and review overall progress in the campaign to contain, delay and mitigate coronavirus. The additional daily C-19 meeting of key ministers and officials will monitor progress and refine the measures agreed by COBR. The chairs of the implementation committees - the Chancellor, the Health Secretary, Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster and the Foreign Secretary - will attend the daily C-19 meeting.

The Prime Minister has been clear that countering this pandemic will require significant national effort from government, businesses, charities, communities and citizens across the UK. The implementation committees will regularly meet with key representatives from relevant sectors to inform their decision making.

Recognising coronavirus presents unique challenges economically, internationally and across a wide range of sectors, the four implementation committees are:

  • Healthcare: chaired by the Health Secretary to focus on the preparedness of the NHS, notably ensuring capacity in the critical care system for those worst affected, the medical and social package of support for those to whom we will be providing the new shielding regime
  • General Public Sector: chaired by the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster to look at preparedness across the rest of the public and critical national infrastructure, excluding the NHS
  • Economic and Business: chaired by the Chancellor, with the Business Secretary as deputy chair, to consider economic and business impact and response, including supply chain resilience. It will also coordinate roundtables with key sectors to be chaired by relevant Secretaries of State
  • International: chaired by the Foreign Secretary, to consider our international response to the crisis through the G7, G20 and other mechanisms, including like-minded groups, and the UK five-point plan

Civil servants and the UK’s leading experts will continue to support the government’s efforts and contribute to our approach, which is led by the best scientific advice.

PM statement on coronavirus: 17 March 2020

"I want to go through our overall plan for beating this new coronavirus.

First, we must stop the disease spreading to a point where it overwhelms our NHS. Every country in the world has the same problem.

This is a disease that is so dangerous and so infectious that without drastic measures to check its progress it would overwhelm any health system in the world.

I have used the Italian health system, it is excellent, and the problem is not the health system, it’s the numbers of sufferance.

That is why we announced the steps yesterday that we did – advising against all unnecessary contact – steps that are unprecedented since World War 2.

They will have an effect on the spread of the disease.

The shielding of vulnerable groups will also reduce suffering, and I want to thank everybody at this stage for what we’re all doing to follow this advice.

I stress that although the measures announced are already extreme, we may well have to go further and faster in the coming days to protect lives and the NHS.

Secondly, we are doing all we can and as quickly as we can to increase the capacity of the NHS. That means more testing, more beds, more ventilators and more trained staff. It means greater support for NHS and other staff. And it means much better data and much better technology.

Third, we must do all we can to boost science and research. We must study this disease, test drugs that already exist and have been through medical trials to see what helps treat severe cases, and search for a vaccine. Fourth, we must act like any wartime government and do whatever it takes to support our economy. That’s the main purpose of this press conference this afternoon.

We must support millions of businesses and tens of millions of families and individuals through the coming months. And to do that the government machine must and will respond with a profound sense of urgency. Thousands of brilliant officials are already working round the clock but we must do more and faster. The Chancellor will be saying much more about this in a moment, with further announcements in the coming days.

Fifth, we will need to strengthen other public services that will be under great pressure from the direct and indirect effects of the disease, such as the effects of staff shortages, and from the economic pressures. All institutions will be under great pressure and we will therefore invest hugely in the people that we all rely on, and again I want to thank all our public servants for what they are already doing.

Ultimately, to beat this crisis we will need a combination of better science, technology, medicine, data, government operations, economic support, learning from other countries and social support. As time goes on we will learn more and more about the disease and the effects of our actions. And while we need national unity, we also need international cooperation. And although we now need to impose physical distance between ourselves, we must at the same time have closer social support for each other.

Yes this enemy can be deadly, but it is also beatable – and we know how to beat it and we know that if as a country we follow the scientific advice that is now being given we know that we will beat it.

And however tough the months ahead we have the resolve and the resources to win the fight.

And, to repeat, this government will do whatever it takes."