With the UK starting to ease lock down restrictions and reducing social distancing down to one metre so that pubs, restaurants and other hospitality venues can reopen, the government has announced that they are scrapping their daily coronavirus briefings with Tuesday's confirmed as the last.

A spokesperson from Downing Street announced in a statement released on Tuesday afternoon

From today, the press conferences will no longer be daily. We’ll continue to hold press conferences to coincide with significant announcements, including with the PM. We will be publishing all of the data which has previously been included in the press conference slides on gov.uk every week day.

The briefings have been broadcast at 5 pm every day since the Covid-19 pandemic began and were intended to be a forum for both the press and the public to ask the government questions about the crisis and what steps were being taken to return life to normal. However, they soon came under scrutiny due to the rolling cast of ministers and advisers delivering mixed messages and attempting to avoid commenting on major topics. Initially, they were an important part of everyday life, with seemingly everyone tuning in to see what the government had to say but slowly they became more and more irrelevant, to the point where only one person, mostly Matt Hancock and Dominic Raab, was holding the talks and almost no one was tuning in.

All in all, the entire spectacle, which often felt more like a badly conceived game show and than an actual government address is unlikely to be missed but we would be lying if we said that it didn't provide us with some highlights. So, on this momentous day, let's look back and some of the briefings finest, or should we say, worst moments.

Priti Patel quotes an impossible number

We really couldn't start this anywhere but than with possibly the strangest moment of all the coronavirus briefings combined. Dating back to 11 April, home sectary Priti Patel stood at the podium and boldly claimed that:

Through the governments ongoing monitoring and testing programme, as of 9am today there have been: 300,000; 34; 974,000 tests carried out

That's a number that were not even sure how to say, let alone spell out and it rightfully became a meme within itself.

The day that didn't exist

It wasn't just testing figures that the government were getting wrong. It was dates too. Back on May 17, England's deputy chief medical officer, professor Jonathan Van-Tam was asked why the government didn't impose quarantine onto international travellers sooner. He then replied by saying:

On the question of quarantine: why didn't we do it previously? And we're talking subject to ministerial announcements about maybe doing it now. Um, well my recollection is we did do it before.

On the 29th of February and then I think on the 30th of February we announced that travellers returning from the hotspots of Wuhan. They had to self-isolate at home for 14 days.

For those keeping score, 30th February is a day that definitely, 100 per cent, does not exist.

Robbie Savage makes a bizarre cameo

Beyond the odd appearance by Boris Johnson, the briefings were really starved of star power so in order to give proceedings a little bit of glitz and glamour, former footballer, turned pundit and coach, Robbie Savage made an appearance and much to everyone's bemusement and asked a pretty good question and held the government to account.

Boris Johnson forced to admit that his new guidelines were vague

On 10 May, the government introduced new guidelines to the public which weren't exactly that clear or obvious, with left many thinking that everything was just staying the same, which it essentially was. Seeking to get to the bottom of this a woman named Pooja from Solihull, Birmingham asked the prime minister:

Yesterday, you left the country with more questions than answers. When lockdown initially started you very specific about what needed to shut down and when.

Why have you been so vague about who can start back at work and which businesses can reopen this week? When will the British public receive further clarity on this?

Johnson's reply was to basically say that they were still telling people to 'stay at home' which is probably what they should have said in the first place and just like that Pooja became a national hero.

Grant Shapps faces the music

As the debacle surrounding Dominic Cummings breaking lockdown (more on that soon) became a national news event, the government did their best to distract from what was going on by wheeling out transport secretary Grant Shapps to hold the briefing. In true 'The Thick of It' fashion, Shapps tried his best not to talk about Cummings but was only left creating a bigger fiasco for the government.

The Dominic Cummings debacle

As the Dominic Cummings saga turned into a national outrage, Boris Johnson attempted to set things right but possibly made the situation worse. Speaking on Sunday, May 24, the prime minister was asked if he was aware that his top adviser had made the journey from London to Durham after testing positive for coronavirus. Rather than give a straight yes or no, he said:

What I can tell you is that, when you look at the guidance and the childcare needs at the time, it was reasonable of him to self isolate as he did for 14 days or more with his family where he did.  I think that was sensible and defensible and I understand it.

As for all the other allegations… I’ve looked at them carefully, and I’m content that at all times, throughout his period in isolation - actually on both sides of that period - he behaved responsibly and correctly with an view to defeating the virus and stopping the spread.

Not exactly what everyone wanted to hear there, prime minister.

The next day Cummings gave a long, ridiculous and quite frankly boring explanation as to why he had made the journey up north which really didn't help anyone. The next day, health secretary Matt Hancock held the briefing where he was asked point-blank by Reverend Martin Poole if the government would be reviewing any fines that had been given to families who had been forced to make travel arrangements during lock down to which Hancock effectively said that he would.

Jonathan Van-Tam disappears after criticising Cummings

Although it now seems like a long-forgotten memory the criticising of Cummings went on for quite some time and even the aforementioned Jonathan Van-Tam joined in on the pile on. In a rare moment of the government criticising their handling of the situation, Van-Tam was asked about his thoughts on what had happened and said:

In my opinion the rules are clear and they have always been clear. In my opinion they are for the benefit of all. In my opinion they apply to all.

Van-Tam was hailed as 'a hero' for his words but mysteriously disappeared after voicing his opinions and hasn't been seen at a briefing since.

Matt Hancock being accused of "fiddling the figures"

Perhaps the most controversial moment of all the briefings was when Matt Hancock claimed that the government, after much dissection, stated that they had successfully carried out 100,000 Covid-19 tests in the UK on a single day.

This proved to be far from the truth, as upon review it was discovered that 40,000 of these tests had just been mailed out to people and hadn't been returned while some people had been tested twice. People were not impressed.

Matt Hancock vs Footballers

Perhaps the most bizarre feud of the entire pandemic so far was Matt Hancock having a grudge with Premier League footballers, who he blamed for not contributing to the effort against the virus by not taking a pay cut. During one press briefing he said:

Given the sacrifices that many people are making, including some of my colleagues in the NHS who have made the ultimate sacrifice... I think the first thing that Premier League footballers can do is make a contribution, take a pay cut and play their part.

This really didn't go down that well at all with players like Wayne Rooney and Gary Neville criticising Hancock for his comments. Eventually, he was proven wrong when dozens of Premier League footballers unveiled a multi-million pound scheme to donate to NHS charities.

Dominic Raab claims that coronavirus cases were so high because the UK was good at counting

In the early days of coronavirus, much was being made of comparing the number of confirmed cases with other countries that had suffered large outbreaks such as Italy. As the UK peaked as having the highest number of deaths in Europe, foreign secretary, Dominic Raab claimed that this wasn't down to the health service being underfunded but because the Office for National Statistics was really good at counting.

We now publish data that includes all deaths in all settings and not all countries do that so I’m not sure that the international comparison works unless you reliably know that all countries are measuring in the same way. And it also depends on how good frankly countries are at gathering their statistics and our own Office for National Statistics is widely acknowledged as a world leader.


And who could forget... Boris Johnson bragging about shaking hands, weeks before he tested positive for Covid-19

Undoubtedly the biggest story and moment from the pandemic was when Boris Johnson tested positive for coronavirus and was subsequently checked into a hospital for treatment. This was after he had bragged to reporters at a coronavirus briefing, back when reporters could still attend them in person, that he had shaken the hands of people who had Covid-19 during a visit to a hospital which he definitely shouldn't have been doing.

So, that was the coronavirus daily briefings. We hardly knew you.

They will reportedly return every once in a while, whenever the government has a big announcement to make regarding the lockdown. However, I think we can all agree that this was possibly one of the strangest pieces of television that many of us have ever witnessed. It started in a flurry of fascination and surrealness but quickly descended into a farce that no one watched, like any good TV show then.

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