Government will start taking pre-recorded questions from the public at coronavirus press briefings

PUBLISHED: 12:26 27 April 2020 | UPDATED: 12:40 27 April 2020

Prime minister Boris Johnson will meet with cabinet to discuss easing coronavirus lockdown restrictions. Photograph: Matt Dunham/PA.

Prime minister Boris Johnson will meet with cabinet to discuss easing coronavirus lockdown restrictions. Photograph: Matt Dunham/PA.

PA Wire/PA Images

The government is to start taking questions from the public instead of journalists at daily coronavirus briefings.

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Under the plan, one question from a member of public will be put forward to ministers during Downing Street press conferences, and the questions will be chosen by an independent polling organisation, not Downing Street.

Participants will need to fill out a form on the gov.uk website, confirm they’re over 18, and write down their question.

The submissions will then go into a draw at midday on the day of the press conference, and the selected questioner will be informed by 3pm, two hours ahead of the usual press conference time.

The selected question will pre-record their message, and if they cannot film it, will have their question read out.

The government insisted that ministers will not see the question before the press conference.

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The move has been met with some positivity. One person tweeted: “I like this. It might be better still if you could read other people’s questions, and upvote them.”

Another wrote: “They’ll probably come up with better ones than the journalists have managed”.

But others expressed concern that Downing Street is trying to avoid scrutiny over its coronavirus response.

“So they can pick the easy ones rather than having to face proper journalists asking proper questions? We really are down the rabbit hole,” said one in response to the news.

Another wanted to know how pollsters would verify audience members. He wrote: “Depends who chooses the question and how ‘public’ the members of the public are surely? Obvs [obviously] attempt to turn the press briefing into Facebook live chats?”

It comes after Downing Street barred Sunday Times journalists from asking questions during Sunday’s coronavirus press briefing because of their critical stance towards the government’s handling of the epidemic.

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