Coronavirus: Boris Johnson To Hold Daily Press Conferences As Crisis Deepens

Downing Street had faced torrent of criticism over "confusing" and "dangerous" anonymous briefings to Sunday newspapers.

Boris Johnson or a senior minister will hold daily press conferences to update the public on the coronavirus crisis, Downing Street has confirmed.

The prime minister will take part in the regular televised address alongside chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty and chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance, the two senior experts leading the UK’s fight against Covid-19.

The death toll has hit 35 and there are 1,372 confirmed cases, the Department of Health and Social Care revealed on Sunday.

Anxiety had been growing that Number 10′s “drip feed” communications strategy was “confusing” and lacked transparency, with opposition MPs appealing for Johnson to begin “the explain stage”.

It follows media reports in which ‘senior government sources’ briefed vital information about Number 10′s response to the rapidly-spreading disease to select media outlets.

They included details about about future plans for the over-70s to self-isolate as long as four months and drafting in the army to guard hospitals and supermarkets.

Now Number 10 has said the PM or a “senior” minister will face scrutiny and host a briefing in Westminster every day.

“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.”

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 (right) and Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty (left) arrive at the Cabinet Office, Whitehall, London, for a meeting of the Government's emergency committee Cobra to discuss coronavirus.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock (right) and Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty (left) arrive at the Cabinet Office, Whitehall, London, for a meeting of the Government's emergency committee Cobra to discuss coronavirus.
PA

Measures could include closing schools, banning mass gatherings and asking bars and restaurants to temporarily shutdown in the coming weeks.

Health secretary Matt Hancock said on Sunday that over-70s could be told “in the coming weeks” to stay at home 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.

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.

Johnson 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.”