Boris Johnson or one of his senior ministers will hold daily press conferences to update the public on the fight against the coronavirus (Covid-19) outbreak, Downing Street has said.
The Prime Minister will address the media over the pandemic today alongside chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty and chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance.
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.
Number 10 announced the plans to hold televised daily briefings after Johnson received criticism over an apparent lack of transparency in the fight against coronavirus.
He also came under fire after ministers and advisers allegedly briefed selected journalists over plans to tackle the crisis.
ITV political editor Robert Peston revealed on Saturday that the elderly could be instructed to stay in strict isolation for up to four months in a story citing a “senior government source”.
Later that evening, a comment piece by Health Secretary Matt Hancock outlining the Government’s plans was published behind the Telegraph’s online paywall. It was soon afterwards made free-to-read.
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, Number 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 spokesperson 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.”
The move came as the number of patients who have died in the UK after testing positive for the virus reached 35 on Sunday.
Johnson’s address today is also 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.
Hancock has suggested a decision could be made during the committee over whether to ban mass gatherings to aid the fight.
He also said on Sunday, in response to Peston’s scoop, 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.
Picture: Reuters/Simon Dawson/Pool