No 10 announces daily press conferences in coronavirus battle

Boris Johnson or one of his senior ministers will hold daily press conferences to update the public on the fight against the coronavirus outbreak, Downing Street has said.

The Prime Minister will address the media over the pandemic alongside chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty and chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance on Monday.

The first of the daily briefings will come after the PM chairs a Cobra committee meeting expected to focus on plans to shield elderly and vulnerable citizens, household isolation and mass gatherings.

No 10 announced the plans to hold televised daily briefings after Mr Johnson received criticism over an apparent lack of transparency in the fight against Covid-19.

The move also came as the number of patients who have died in the UK after testing positive for the virus reached 35 on Sunday.

Total coronavirus cases in the UK
(PA Graphics)

The PM or a “senior” minister will host each briefing and face scrutiny while being joined by a revolving cast of medical and scientific experts, No 10 said.

“The Prime Minister and this Government are committed to keeping the public informed every step of the way about what we’re doing to fight the spread of coronavirus, when we’re doing it and why we’re doing it,” a spokeswoman added.

“At all times, we will be led by the science to bring forward the right responses at the right time to this global pandemic.”

Mr Johnson had earlier come under fire for ministers and advisers allegedly briefing selected journalists over plans to tackle the crisis.

His address on Monday is expected to come after he chairs an emergency Cobra meeting when further decisions could be taken on moves to stem the spread of the disease.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock suggested a decision could be made during the committee over whether to ban mass gatherings to aid the fight.

A woman wearing a protective face mask walks past Buckingham Palace
A woman wearing a protective face mask walks past Buckingham Palace (Rick Findler/PA)

He also said on Sunday that over-70s could be told “in the coming weeks” to stay at home for a period of up to four months to shield themselves from the virus.

The Cabinet minister also said other severe measures could include police being handed powers to arrest people who are infected but who are not self-isolating.

Bars, restaurants and shops other than supermarkets and pharmacies could be told to shut, he added.

Meanwhile, on Monday morning the PM will ask British manufacturers including the Unipart Group to support the production of essential medical equipment for the NHS.

He will also speak with all the G7 leaders including US President Donald Trump and German Chancellor Angela Merkel to discuss a co-ordinated global response to the pandemic.

“Preparing for the spread of the coronavirus outbreak is a national priority and we’re calling on the manufacturing industry and all those with relevant expertise who might be able to help to come together to help the country tackle this national crisis,” Downing Street said.

“We need to step up production of vital equipment such as ventilators so that we can all help the most vulnerable, and we need businesses to come to us and help in this national effort.”

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