Coronavirus press conferences have become part of Britain’s daily routine – with scientists, MPs and the Prime Minister updating the public on the fight against coronavirus. Figures on cases and deaths, new rules on lockdown and updates on the Government’s track and trace app have dominated the schedule during the lockdown.
Is there a coronavirus daily briefing today?
The Government has now made a move away from the seven-day schedule to a five-day schedule – stopping conferences at the weekend.
This has begun this weekend, meaning today and tomorrow there are no press conferences from Downing Street.
Announcing the move to five-a-week briefings, Mr Johnson’s spokesperson said: “We will carry on doing the press conferences on weekdays and ministers will also continue to provide regular updates to Parliament and conduct a wide range of media interviews.
Read More: Coronavirus POLL: Should Boris introduce regional lockdowns? VOTE
Daily briefing: There is no daily briefing today – with weekend conferences scrapped
“The PM will do a press conference every week. It’s possible he could do more.
“We are absolutely committed to keeping people updated and we will be continuing to do this through regular press conferences, also through information campaigns, media interviews and parliamentary updates.”
Asked why the briefings were being cut back from seven to five a week, Mr Johnson’s official spokesperson said: “It is just a fact that numbers viewing at weekends do tend to be significantly lower.”
The next coronavirus press conference from Downing Street will take place on Monday, June 8 at 5pm.
Daily briefing: Experts like Professor Chris Whitty update the public each day on the UK’s battle against COVID-19
Daily briefing: On Friday Matt Hancock announced new rules on face coverings in hospitals
When asked if the change hails a new approach to the crisis as daily numbers of cases decrease, Mr Johnson’s spokesperson said: “We have moved into a new phase of the pandemic response.
“We’ve obviously taken some cautious steps, easing social distancing measures.
“Schools are now open to more pupils and you are seeing a careful easing in the rules around social contact and also some aspects of non-essential retail have reopened.
“We are moving into a different phase of the response, but in terms of the pandemic and the government’s response, it continues to be the absolute priority for every department across Whitehall.”
This comes as fears over the coronavirus reproduction rate in parts of England grow, with new data suggesting the R-value is now around one in the North West.
The value used by the Government remained between 0.7 and 0.9 for the UK as a whole, though the figure has a two to three-week lag, meaning it does not account for the latest easing of the lockdown.
But a separate report from Public Health England (PHE) and Cambridge University, which estimates what the value is currently, puts the North West on 1.01 and the South West on 1.00.
Mr Hancock said that new figures on the R-rate confirm “there is a challenge in the North West of England to address and, to a lesser degree, in the South West of England”.
Daily briefing: The R-rate has decreased thanks in part to social distancing measures
He said the Scientific Advisory Group on Emergencies (Sage) believes the R is below one across the UK but the Government wants to “increasingly have an approach in tackling local lockdowns where we spot a flare-up”.
Labour-led Tameside Metropolitan Borough Council in Greater Manchester has advised schools to delay their wider reopening until at least June 22 because of the infection rate.
The council’s director of public health, Dr Jeanelle de Gruchy, wrote to headteachers strongly advising them against admitting more pupils until there is further assurance that the “rate of infection is reducing and R is firmly below 1”.
The R-rate determines the rate of infection – referring to the average number of people an infected person is expected to pass the virus on to.
For example, if the R-rate was three, this would mean each infected person would pass the virus on to three more people.
If the R-rate is above one, the virus is likely to spread quickly through populations.
The Government’s aim is to keep the rate below one, to lessen the spread and alleviate pressure on the NHS.
A range of data is used to calculate the R-rate, such as ICU admissions, hospital admissions, deaths and positive tests.
However, it takes two to three weeks for changes in the R rate to be shown in this data, given the timeframe between infection and the need for treatment.