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Downing Street press conferences on the Covid-19 crisis will no longer take place at weekends because of low TV ratings, No.10 has revealed.
In the first big sign that Boris Johnson is winding down the constant updates, they will take place on weekdays only as the government moves into a “different phase” of the fight against the virus, his spokesperson said.
The PM will lead the televised briefings once a week, but could decide to appear more regularly, and ministers and government medical and scientific advisers will still attend.
Asked to give a reason for the change, the spokesman said: “It is just a fact that the numbers of people viewing at weekends do tend to be significantly lower.”
“The PM will do a press conference every week, it’s possible he could do more.
“We are absolutely committed to keeping people updated, we will be continuing to do this through regular press conferences. media interviews and parliamentary updates.”
The daily No.10 briefings have become a regular fixture in the UK’s response to the pandemic, with members of the public allowed daily questions as well as journalists.
Some of the weekend press conferences have been used for less high profile cabinet ministers, although it was on a Saturday that communities secretary Robert Jenrick famously announced an emergency 24-hour plan to import PPE from Turkey. The import was eventually subject to delays and red tape.
However, some of the Sunday briefings have proved popular and when Johnson made his address to the nation on his easing of lockdown last month, more than 27.5 million people tuned in.
The broadcast on the new ‘road map’ out of the crisis was one of the most-watched television broadcasts in British history, surpassing the audience figures for the 2012 Olympics opening ceremony and the wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton.
Put to him that the shift appeared to be a stepping down of the government’s messaging, the prime minister’s spokesman replied: “We have moved into a new phase of the pandemic response.
“We have obviously taken some cautious steps with easing the social distancing measures, more schools are now open to more pupils, and you are seeing more easing in the rules around social contact.
“So we are moving into a different phase of the response but in terms of the pandemic it continues to be the absolute priority for every department across Whitehall.”
Ratings figures for BBC One and the BBC News channel showed that Saturday’s press conference pulled in 2.1m viewers, while Sunday had 2.5m and Monday 2.8m.
This article originally appeared on HuffPost.