Government to hold daily coronavirus press conferences as BEIS starts ventilator drive

Prime minister to lead daily briefings alongside officials in effort to ensure clarity of government plans


Photo: PA

Daily press conferences are to take place from today outlining the government’s response to the coronavirus crisis amid criticism of its communications strategy.

The prime minister will also hold talks with industry leaders in a bid to persuade them to start making desperately-needed ventilators to help hospitals treat those struck down by the illness.

The announcement of the daily briefings came after health secretary Matt Hancock was forced to deny that the government wanted 60% of British people to contract the Covid-19 virus to ensure "herd immunity" against the outbreak, while plans to isolate the country's over-70s for four months were also leaked rather than being officially announced by ministers.


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A Downing Street spokesperson said: "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.

"At all times we will be led by the science to bring forward the right responses at the right time to this global pandemic."

Boris Johnson will chair another meeting of the government's emergency COBRA committee on Monday, with discussions set to centre around isolating the elderly and vulnerable and banning mass gatherings of people.

On demands for industry to commit to producing ventilators for the NHS, a No.10 spokesperson said: "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.

"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."

Conservative MPs, including Andrew Griffiths, who before he became MP for Arundel and South Downs was the prime minister’s business adviser, have tweeted out a call for businesses to contact the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy if they feel they have any capabilities that could be used to help produce ventilators.

“We are calling for a national effort for ventilator production,” said Griffiths. “If your company might have the capabilities to manufacture ventilators at scale call the BEIS business support helpline on 0300 456 3565 after 10.00 am this morning. It will be busy – and please no time-wasters.”

Other MPs, including health minister Nadine Dorries, who has herself been diagnosed with Covid-19, said a dedicated team of officials was being put in place to receive calls this morning.

CSW has contacted BEIS to ask for more information about the team that has been put together to deal with the inquiries.

The government is also considering how to support other businesses as demand falls across the economy, transport secretary Grant Shapps said.

On the BBC Radio 4 Today programme this morning, he said the government would be holding an aviation summit with airlines, and would feed the responses into the economic and business response committee being formed in government, chaired by the chancellor Rishi Sunak. The committee will be looking at what measures “can and should be taken”, Shapps said, while discussions were also planned with rail companies over possible changes and support for the firms.

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