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Mon, 13 July 2020

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Public gets chance to ask coronavirus questions as Number 10 opens up daily press briefing

Public gets chance to ask coronavirus questions as Number 10 opens up daily press briefing

The daily press conferences see ministers and officials quizzed on the response to Covid-19.

2 min read

Members of the public will be given the chance to ask questions at the daily Downing Street coronavirus press conferences.

Number 10 said the Government had “asked a lot of the public” during the pandemic as it confirmed plans to save a slot at the daily media briefings - usually reserved for journalists - for queries from the public.

The move comes amid tension between Downing Street and some media organisations over coverage of its handling of the Covid-19 crisis.

Number 10 this weekend angrily pushed back at a Guardian story about the role of senior adviser Dominic Cummings in meetings the Government's top scientific advisory committee by saying: “Public confidence in the media has collapsed during this emergency partly because of ludicrous stories such as this.”

From now on, one question from a member of the public will be answered at the briefings - with the Number 10 saying the process of putting forward questions would be “managed independently by an independent polling firm” with speakers not given advance access to their contents.

Explaining the move, the Prime Minister’s spokesperson said: “Coronavirus is the biggest health crisis the UK public has faced in a generation. 

“We know people across the UK are making significant sacrifices every day in order to stay at home and protect the NHS. We recognise the huge disruption that is having on their lives, jobs and businesses.

“So it’s absolutely right that the public have a chance to put their questions on the virus and the measures that we’ve put in place directly to the government and to its experts.”

The daily updates see Cabinet ministers, usually flanked by senior scientific advisers, field queries on their response to the pandemic, and the public will be given until midday every day to submit a question via the official Government website.

If chosen, they will be given the choice of either recording their question as a video message or having it read out at the briefing.

Asked whether the latest move meant the Government was hoping to get better questions than those provided by journalists, the spokesperson said: “As I say, we’ve asked a lot of the public during this crisis and this is an opportunity for them to put questions to ministers and experts.

“I think it’s important to stress... the Government is not involved in choosing the questions. That is being done by an independent polling firm.”

Read the most recent article written by Matt Honeycombe-Foster - Matt Hancock says 100 local coronavirus outbreaks being tackled every week

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