Coronavirus: Experts give instant reaction to Foreign Secretary's press conference

30 March 2020, 18:47 | Updated: 30 March 2020, 18:54

By Fiona Jones

Medical and foreign affairs experts give their instant reaction to today's daily coronavirus press conference.

"We expect this to get worse over the next couple of weeks," chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance announced in today's press conference led by Dominic Raab.

Giving his instant reaction, Doctors Association chair Dr Rinesh Parmer explained that things will begin to look up when doctors hear about the R number (reproductive number) from Sir Patrick Vallance.

If Sir Patrick announces the R number has dropped below one, it would mean "we are not transmitting the infection further and would signal the start of coming to some sort of normality and seeing the end of the pandemic."

Meanwhile concerns remain for doctors who do not have access to adequate personal protective equipment (PPE) that meet the standards set out by the World Health Organisation, said Dr Rinesh Parmar.

"That's a real problem we're still seeing on the frontline day in, day out."

Dr Parmer called it "disappointing" that a week down the line from when Boris Johnson and Matt Hancock gave a promise to the NHS staff that they would fix the distribution issues, "they haven't really kept up with their bargain."

"The need to put the correct emphasis on getting the PPE to the frontline of the NHS," he said.

Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab announced in today's press conference that measures are being taken to get Brits stranded abroad home.

This includes:

- partnership between the government and commercial airlines to fly home stranded British travellers
- government chartered flights to get people home from priority countries this weekend and next week
- up to £75 million of government funding pledged to bring UK travellers back home.

Foreign Affairs Select Committee chair Tom Tugendhat says he is relieved the government are putting these measures into place.

"I'm glad the government is making a move on that, so calling on the airlines to operate charter flights back to the UK is really important. We've got an absolute crisis for many families in various parts of the world," the MP said.

"In India and some other places people have gone out with a week or two or three of medicine and now finding themselves isolated and are unable to get their medicine back."

LBC's Eddie Mair had heard people reportedly having to pay £40,000 to return home and asked if the MP was satisfied British citizens wouldn't find themselves out of pocked with the new measures.

"Nobody's arguing people should get a free flight home if they've chosen to go abroad, but it isn't reasonable either to say that in a time of national crisis like this people should be paying tens of thousands of pounds," Mr Tugendhat said.

"The important thing to remember is these are British people who through no fault of their own have found themselves stuck in parts of the world where they are unable to access the sort of services we would expect."