Labour has demanded a Downing Street press conference to explain the situation in Leicester, where lockdown rules are being reimposed after a spike in coronavirus cases.
When he called off the daily briefings last week, prime minister Boris Johnson said that in future press conferences would be held when the government had “something really important to say”.
Shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth said that the situation in Leicester fitted that description, with people demanding answers over claims of delays in reacting to the emergence of new cases and a failure to communicate with local civic leaders.
He said health secretary Matt Hancock should make himself available for a televised press conference to answer questions about the response.
Mr Ashworth said: “The government’s response to the situation in Leicester has left people anxious and confused.
“We support the government’s decision to reintroduce lockdown restrictions. However, there are a number of outstanding questions about how the government intends to implement these restrictions and get the outbreak back under control.
“There is confusion about essential travel and what it means for people who travel to work outside the boundaries. There is also no clarity about what extra resources will be put in place to increase testing capacity and what financial support will be available to businesses.
“The government must take firm leadership on this. This is the first local lockdown. People in Leicester - and across the country - are looking for ministers to take responsibility for this issue.
“Number 10 said the afternoon press conferences would now only take place if the tovernment had ‘something really important to say’. We believe the situation in Leicester meets that criteria. That is why I am urging the health secretary to hold a press conference this afternoon and give the public the answers and reassurance they deserve.”
Televised press conferences took place on a daily basis in 10 Downing Street for around 100 days after the coronavirus pandemic, with ministers including Mr Hancock taking questions from broadcast and printed media as well as members of the public. Weekend briefings were eventually dropped and then last Tuesday Mr Johnson announced they would no longer take place on a daily basis as he set out plans to lift significant elements of lockdown from 4 July.