The Muslim Council of Britain has urged communities to “take all practical precautions” before returning to mosques, despite the announcement covering the reopening of places of worship in England.
Secretary general Harun Khan said the MCB had produced a nine-step guide to reopening mosques safely.
The guidance urges mosque leaders to exercise caution when preparing for reopening, as well as reminding individual Muslim community members of the importance of deciding for themselves whether it is safer for them to remain home to pray and attend online services, rather than being physically present in the mosque.
Khan pointed to Office for National Statistics data from last week which revealed Muslim communities have been “hit hardest” by the Covid-19 pandemic. He said that with “the risk of a second wave ever-present” it was “imperative that the preservation of life is at the forefront of the minds of mosque leaders and Muslim community members in the coming weeks”.
Former chief scientific adviser to the government Sir David King has been speaking to the BBC, saying that easing the two-metre rule in indoor venues could put people at “much greater risk” of catching coronavirus.
King, who chairs the Independent Sage group of scientists, told BBC News:
It sounds alright if you’re out of doors and you do keep that one-metre distance apart. But if you’re indoors you’re at a much greater risk because you’re sitting in proximity to other people, you’re not wearing masks if you’re in restaurants and pubs and the level of viral infection in the air could well be quite high.
Wrapping up, Johnson says our understanding of the virus has changed – and our ability to fight it.
He says test and trace can be a real game-changer.
The virus is the same, and just as dangerous. But we are better at dealing with it. That should be giving people more confidence, he says.
He ends with the slogan: stay alert, follow the guidance and save lives, he says.
And that’s it. The press conference is over.
Q: Your new son will never have to face the inequalities facing other children that have been exacerbated by this crisis. What are you doing to help those children?
Johnson says he understands the problem. He wants to get more children back into school. That is about social justice, he says.
He says there are parts of the country that need more investment in schools and rural broadband.
And he says he wants to see more one-to-one tutoring.
Q: Can people go on foreign holidays if they are willing to observe quarantine?
Johnson says the current advice says people should not go abroad unnecessarily. But that is being reviewed.
And Britain is a fantastic country to visit, he says.
Q: Are you confident that the test and trace system is working properly?
Whitty says test and trace is already making a contribution. But he is concerned that people with symptoms are not getting tested. And he wants people to engage seriously with it.
He says it is improving every day and will get better over the summer.
Q: [From Macer Hall from the Daily Express] How long will it be before we see the back of hand sanitisers?
Vallance says he cannot put a time on this. Either it will go away, which he does not think is likely, or there will be therapeutics. We are on the way with that, he says. And vaccines are being explored.
He says he is “optimistic” that some of these measures will work.
Whitty says he would be “surprised and delighted” if we were not still going through this in the winter and the spring.
But he says he is very confident that, in the long term, science can beat infectious diseases.
Q: [To the PM] What are you most looking forward to?
Johnson says he would like to go to the theatre, to the Globe in London. He would like to go to a restaurant. He would like to get his hair cut.
This is as far as we can go for now, he says.
But he says today’s package is not the summit of his ambition.
He says people must not overdo it.
Vallance says the package of measures is reasonable.
If there are outbreaks, you need to address them, he says.
Measuring and monitoring will become an important part of this, he says.
Johnson says he can’t wait to go to a pub or restaurants. He wants to see people going out, “bustle and activity”.
But he also wants to see people staying alert and following the guidance.
Whitty says there will be second spike if people ignore mitigation measures
Q: [From Sky’s Sam Coates] Why are the devolved administrations not following you? Are they just glumbuckets? Or are not convinced by the science?
Johnson claims he has been even-handed in how he has set this out. He has stressed the need to be cautious, he says. He has emphasised the mitigations.
All four chief medical officers agreed the change in the alert level from four to three, he says.
He says there is far more “harmony” between the four nations than people assume.
Q: [To Whitty and Vallance] Do you support the whole package? Did Sage fully approve the whole package of changes?
Vallance says two metres is safer than one metre if it is unmitigated.
But, if you add mitigations, one metre can be equivalent risk to two metres, he says.
He says Sage is not a decision-making bodies. It gives advice to all four nations.
Whitty says, if people do not take the mitigation seriously, if they just hear a distorted version of the advice, “yes, we will get an uptick for sure”.
As for whether he is comfortable, he says this is a balance of risk. It is a reasonable balance of risk. But it is not risk-free, he says.
He says it is the job of advisers to give advice.
And he says he has worked in lockstep with his fellow chief medical officers. It is perfectly reasonable for different nations to take different approaches, he says.
But he says it would be wrong not to accept that there is a “shared underpinning” to what is happening.
Johnson says this package should be positive for business, because it combines reopening with caution.
Whitty says we will be living with this virus for a very long time.
In the winter measures might have to be reintroduced, he says.
But, over time, the medicine available may change. And our understanding of what counter-measures work may change, he says.
“It is going to be a long haul,” he says.
Vallance says it is “extremely unlikely” that the virus will burn itself out and disappear.
He says a vaccine might appear. You can be “moderately optimistic” that one of the many vaccine projects might work.
And treatments may become available, he says. He says he hopes this will become a manageable disease.
Whitty says people should still stay two metres away from others where possible
Q: [From the BBC’s Laura Kuenssberg] You are taking a risk. Will you take responsibility if it goes wrong?
Johnson says he wants to stress the need to be cautious.
Yes, of course he takes responsibility for these decisions, he says.
Q: [To Whitty] You said the two-metre rule should stay. Have you changed your mind?
Whitty says that was an answer at one of these press conferences when he probably went further than planned. But the advice on two metres remains, he says. He says the one metre plus rule is for when two metres is not possible.
Q: Why is there a problem with meat processing factories?
Vallance says the meat itself does not produce a risk.
But the environment is a difficult one. It is cold, which the virus likes. And it is loud; people might be shouting. And workers might be close together.
Whitty says it is often the social environment around work that poses the risk.