Daily Downing Street press conferences scrapped by the Government

The daily Downing Street coronavirus press conference is to be scrapped in favour of ad hoc briefings, the Government has announced.

Briefings will instead take place to “coincide with significant announcements”, according to a Government spokesman.

It follows the decision earlier this month to cut the weekend question and answer sessions due to viewing figures being “significantly lower” on Saturdays and Sundays.

Number 10 has been holding the question and answer sessions, which were reformatted to incorporate questions from the public, since March 16 as the coronavirus outbreak moved swiftly through the UK.

The events looked to be being wound down, however, with Cabinet ministers appearing on their own in recent weeks, no longer flanked by medical and scientific experts.

A Government spokesman said on Tuesday: “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 Prime Minister.

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

Coronavirus Harries
Deputy chief medical officer, Dr Jenny Harries, made her first press conference appearance in three weeks on Monday (Andrew Parsons/10 Downing Street/Crown Copyright)

Prime Minister Boris Johnson is expected to lead Tuesday’s press conference, the last of the daily events, after announcing an easing of the lockdown in the House of Commons.

Revealing changes due to come into force on July 4, Mr Johnson said social distancing would be cut from two metres to “one metre plus”, while pubs and restaurants will also be allowed to reopen.

The press conferences, which took place at 5pm on weekdays, saw some blockbuster moments.

Following revelations that his chief aide Dominic Cummings had driven 260 miles during the lockdown, Mr Johnson decided to front the press conference on Sunday May 24 to defend the Number 10 adviser.

Reports later followed that England’s chief nursing officer, Ruth May, was stood down from appearing at one of the briefings when she refused to support Mr Cummings’ decision to take his family to stay on his parents’ farm in County Durham.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps was forced to deny the reports during the June 12 press conference.

This month saw Cabinet ministers appearing on their own often at the afternoon briefings, taking questions without expert support.

Deputy chief medical officer Professor Jonathan Van-Tam last appeared at a briefing on May 30, while Dr Jenny Harries, deputy chief medical officer for England, made her first appearance in more than three weeks on Monday.

When it was put to him last week that there were some questions that medical experts would be more equipped to answer than ministers, Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said: “Well, you haven’t tried me on a question I can’t answer yet but I am happy to be proved wrong.”

Mr Raab added that the experts were “important” and that viewers would still see them but “perhaps not on a daily basis”.

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