Departments go quiet amid mourning for Prince Philip

Government will not make public announcements or issue press releases unless they are necessary for public safety
Photo: BRIAN HARRIS/Alamy Stock Photo

Government departments have suspended most of their media operations as the UK observes a national period of mourning following the death of Prince Philip last week.

All press conferences, including coronavirus briefings, have been cancelled until Sunday 18 April and government bodies will not publish press releases other than those required for public health messaging.

Ministers will meanwhile not appear in media interviews during the eight-day mourning period, which was announced following the Duke of Edinburgh’s death last Friday.

However, public services and the government response to the coronavirus pandemic will continue as usual.

Government buildings must fly Union flags at half mast until the mourning period ends at 8am on Sunday. Businesses wanting to “pay respects” have been advised to follow the guidance on flag-flying issued by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport last month.

Cabinet secretary Simon Case wrote to officials on Friday evening telling them about the mourning period and sharing the letter of condolence he had sent to the Queen on behalf of the civil service.

“We hope that it will be of comfort to Your Majesty that His Royal Highness will be remembered with enormous affection and respect by all in every walk of life for his devoted service to the nation,” the note read.

“The Duke was a remarkable man who personified duty to Sovereign, nation and Commonwealth. We extend to Your Majesty our deepest sympathy at this time.”

Elsewhere in the internal memo, Case, who spent two years as head of the royal household for Prince William, Prince Philip’s grandson, said the Duke had been a “unique figure in our national life”.

“During nearly 75 years of marriage at the Queen’s side, he served our monarch with unstinting dedication and loyalty,” he said.

He added that it would be a “matter of profound regret to members of the civil service that, owing to Covid-19 restrictions, this moment cannot be marked as it might at other times”.

“It is of course important that we all continue to comply with the Covid guidance and regulations,” he said.

Guidance issued by the Cabinet Office over the weekend reads: “The government understands that this is a difficult and sad time for many, and that members of the public will wish to pay their respects.”

But the guidance urges members of the public not to visit royal residences or gather in public to mark the Duke’s death, to reduce the risk of spreading Covid-19.

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