Minister complains journalists are trying to catch them out over coronavirus rules

Business secretary Alok Sharma

Business secretary Alok Sharma - Credit: BBC

Business secretary Alok Sharma has accused the media of engaging in a “gotcha” style of journalism when it comes to quizzing ministers about the latest regional and national coronavirus regulations.

It comes after Boris Johnson and a junior minister could not properly explain what the latest restrictions are for the north east of England.

Speaking to BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, Sharma said: “There is an element of slightly ‘gotcha’ about this in terms of this line of questioning. You are a flagship programme when it comes to serious news and it is not a quiz show.”

Asked whether he thought that calling on ministers to explain what their coronavirus regulations were was as “trivial as a quiz question”, he said: “No, absolutely not. But what I’m saying to you is that what is important is if people want to understand the precise restrictions that they have in areas which are more restricted, then they should go on to the (local authority) websites.

“I’ve set out clearly to you, I hope, what the overall message is – which is this rule of six indoors and outdoors, wash your hands, cover your face, make sure you maintain social distancing – and I think people understand that.

“The issue always comes with what happens in my local area and the best way you can find that out is go on to those websites and find out.”

Labour shadow health minister Alex Norris criticised Sharma’s deflection of the questioning.

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Norris said: “The prime minister should understand the rules he is asking huge numbers of people to follow. That’s not a gotcha, that’s just basic government competence.”

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