NEWS
20/02/2021 07:33 GMT

Seriously, What Happened To 'Three Coronavirus Press Conferences A Week'?

Downing Street made the promise in January – but we've only had three in the last two weeks.

Stefan Rousseau - WPA Pool/Getty Images
Boris Johnson, Chris Whitty and NHS chief executive Simon Stevens leave after attending a Covid-19 briefing in Downing Street.

The government has failed to deliver on its promise to hold at least three press conferences a week to update the nation on coronavirus

Last month amid rising Covid-19 deaths and cases, Downing Street announced the return of regular press conferences with the latest news on the pandemic – saying they would take place “for the next few weeks”.

It came after plans were shelved for daily televised White House-style lobby briefings, where journalists would be able to question the PM’s spokesperson.

But Downing Street has recently fallen short on its pledge – depriving the nation not only of Covid updates but also of Boris Johnson’s metaphors, requests for journalists to “unmute” and of course, Professor Jonathan Van-Tam.

This week only one press conference has been held: on Monday, when Boris Johnson refused to guarantee that this would be Britain’s final lockdown, just minutes after saying the exact opposite. Number 10 has confirmed no press conferences on coronavirus will be held on Friday. 

Only two Covid-19 briefings were held the week before: one led by health secretary Matt Hancock on February 8 and the other by the prime minister on February 10.

In total, only five Downing Street press conferences have been held this month – a significant decrease from the month before, which saw 11. 

In response, No.10 said it had hosted regular briefings throughout the pandemic and pointed to the prime minister’s trips this week – including to a mass vaccination centre in south Wales where he awkwardly joked about feeling like OJ Simpson. 

The Downing Street press conferences have been a regular fixture in the UK’s pandemic response. 

Between March and June, the briefings were held on a daily basis alongside data on deaths, infection rates and other measures.

In the beginning, journalists packed closely together into the room but as the epidemic grew, the lecterns were moved apart and reporters had to ask questions via video link. 

In late June, Downing Street announced the press conferences would no longer be every day but only for significant announcements. 

Although the number of cases, deaths, R rate and hospital admissions has fallen since the third nationwide lockdown was announced in early January, there is still a long road ahead.

Official figures show the number of daily Covid-19 positive cases are still double those in late June and the daily death rate is still 10 times more than during that period. 

The prime minister has also been warned that the NHS will be “at full capacity” for at least another six to eight weeks.

The next Downing Street coronavirus press conference is expected to take place on Monday February 22, when Boris Johnson will reveal his plan to lift England’s third lockdown.

A government spokesperson said: “Throughout the pandemic, we have hosted regular ministerial press conferences, ensuring the media and public are kept up to date with the challenges being posed by the spread of the coronavirus and the measures we are taking to protect lives and livelihoods.”