Experts will still appear at coronavirus briefings – but ‘perhaps not every day’

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  • June 15, 2020
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Medical and scientific advisers will continue to appear at the government’s coronavirus briefings – but “perhaps not on a daily basis”.

Dominic Raab was asked about why the weekly appearances by experts have reduced since the beginning of the month.

The foreign secretary, who appeared alone at Monday’s COVID-19 news briefing in Downing Street, said: “Scientists and the chief and deputy medical officers will continue to come and attend these press conferences.

Dominic Raab said politicians will ‘need to answer the judgment calls we make based on the evolving science’

“I think it is also true to say that as we go down the road map and start to talk about the changes we are making, whether it is to business, schools or other areas, we will also bring other independent experts along and make sure we can answer the full range of questions that people have.”

When it was put to him that there were some questions that medical experts would be better equipped at answering than politicians, Mr Raab responded: “Well, you haven’t tried me on a question I can’t answer yet but I am happy to be proved wrong.

“Look, you are right to say the scientists and the medical advisers are important.

“They will continue to attend these press conferences, perhaps not on a daily basis – they’ve got a huge amount of other work to do – and undoubtedly the politicians need to answer the judgement calls we make based on the evolving science.”

It comes after a spokesman for Prime Minister Boris Johnson said there was not an issue in the government’s relationship with scientists amid the coronavirus pandemic.

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Last week, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps denied reports that Ruth May, the chief nursing officer for England, was dropped from the briefings because she refused to defend Dominic Cummings, the PM’s top adviser.

According to reports, she stood down from a briefing when she refused to support his decision to move his family 260 miles to Durham to stay on his parents’ farm during lockdown.

Reports have suggested that England’s chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty and Sir Patrick Vallance, the government’s chief scientific adviser were on “resignation watch”.

Both men appeared alongside the PM at the coronavirus news conference last Wednesday, but other experts have not been seen at them this month.

Professor Jonathan Van-Tam and Dr Jenny Harries, two of the three deputy chief medical officers for England, last appeared on 30 and 31 May respectively.

Professor Stephen Powis, national medical director of NHS England, has featured at one briefing so far this month, having attended eight of them in May.

Asked by reporters at a virtual Westminster briefing if there was an issue between ministers and the scientists, Mr Johnson’s spokesman said: “No – last week you saw, from memory, the chief medical officer, the chief scientific adviser, you saw NHS England’s medical director, you saw Baroness Harding who is in charge of test and trace, you also saw the Health and Safety Executive and a couple of others as well…

“There won’t be an expert there every day but you will still see them.”