Coronavirus daily briefings to end after today, No 10 announces

The Independent – UK
Andrew Woodcock
2020-06-23 13:12:00

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Daily televised Downing Street coronavirus briefings are to end after this evening, with prime minister Boris Johnson leading the last one alongside chief medical officer Chris Whitty and chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance.

The daily conferences have taken place throughout the Covid-19 outbreak, with the first few taking place in the presence of journalists, but soon switched to virtual questioning via video call, featuring queries from the public.

But shortly after Mr Johnson’s announcement of lockdown relaxations in the House of Commons, a No 10 spokesman announced: “From today, the press conferences will no longer be daily. We’ll continue to hold press conferences to coincide with significant announcements, including with the PM.

“We will be publishing all of the data which has previously been included in the press conference slides on every week day.”

The briefings have allowed scrutiny of every step of the government’s response to the outbreak, from PPE supply to social distancing and testing and have made national figures of Prof Whitty and Prof Vallance.

And they have been the forum for a sequence of ministerial gaffes, from Mr Johnson’s comment that he had shaken hands with people at a hospital treating coronavirus patients to Priti Patel stumbling over the figures of daily infections and saying that she was “sorry if people feel there have been failings” in the supply of protective equipment to NHS staff.

The Independent revealed that experts appearing at the conferences were asked by political advisers in advance for their position on the sensitive issue of Dominic Cummings’ lockdown breaches, after deputy chief medical officer Jonathan Van-Tam made clear that the rules applied to the No 10 aide as much as anyone else.

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