Boris Johnson swapped antique wood panelling for a Tory blue backdrop tonight as he hosted a coronavirus press conference from his new £2.6million briefing room.
The venue for the occasional television appearances has swapped from their former home in 10 Downing Street to a newly refurbished part of No9 after the taxpayer-funded work on kitting it out.
The look and layout of the new room has sparked comparisons with the press conference room used by US presidents in the White House.
And the difference with the previous location was quite clear. Though the Prime Minister was again flanked by a pair of Union Jacks, he entered stage left rather than walking up to the lectern from behind it.
And that lectern has been stripped the ‘Stay Home – Protect the NHS – Save Lives’ guidance. As of today the stay at home guidance has been replaced by a plea to stay local.
Ministers have signed off on a new ‘let’s take this next step safely’ slogan which will appear on Government adverts when the stay at home order is dropped from March 29, according to The Sun.
The room will now be used for all future press briefings. Labour previously branded the hi-tech refurbishment a ‘vanity project’.
New: Mr Johnson in front of flags and a cobalt blue backdrop in No9 Downing Street
Old: the former wood-panelled briefing room in No10 Downing Street
Mr Johnson’s lectern has been stripped the ‘Stay Home – Protect the NHS – Save Lives’ guidance
Boris Johnson has said the new freedoms being enjoyed in England as lockdown eases were the result of the sacrifices made over recent months but warned it was ‘inevitable’ there were more deaths to come.
At a Downing Street press conference, he said it has been a ‘big day for many of us’ with the first chance to see friends and family outdoors since the lockdown was imposed.
‘It’s only because of months of sacrifice and effort that we can take this small step towards freedom today and we must proceed with caution,’ he said.
‘It’s great to see that yesterday we recorded the lowest number of new infections for six months, deaths and hospital admissions across the UK are continuing to fall.
‘That wave is still rising across the channel and it’s inevitable, as we advance on this road map, that there will be more infections and unavoidably more hospitalisations, and sadly more deaths.’
Britain’s daily Covid cases have dropped 13 per cent in a week with 4,654 more infections today, official figures have revealed.
Deaths have risen slightly to 23 — up from 17 last Monday. But the Department of Health’s official fatality toll relies on registrations, meaning day-to-day counts can fluctuate.
Experts would be baffled by any genuine spike in deaths because infection rates have not spiralled out of control since schools in England reopened on March 8. The mammoth vaccine drive, which has now reached 30.4million vulnerable adults, will also save thousands of lives.
Mr Johnson tonight revealed GlaxoSmithKline will support the manufacturing of up to 60million doses of the Novavax coronavirus vaccine in the UK.
The UK vaccines taskforce has signed a deal with GSK to ‘fill and finish’ supplies of the American jab at its factory in Durham starting from May.
Mr Johnson said the move will ‘further boost our vaccine rollout’, which will slow down next month due to a a shortfall of five million AstraZeneca jabs from India.
The ‘fill and finish’ is the completion stage of vaccine manufacturing, preparing vials of the final vaccine and packaging them for distribution and use.
Britain has secured 60million doses of the Novavax vaccine under an advance purchase agreement with the American firm.
The new briefing room in Number Nine Downing Street has drawn comparisons with the daily press briefing room in the White House
The new Number Nine Downing Street press briefing room in pictures released last week
People watching the press conference had views, which they shared on social media
Earlier this month Novavax announced its jab is 86 per cent effective against the Kent variant and 96 per cent against the original Covid.
According to results of phase three trial in the UK, the jab offers 100 per cent protection against severe disease, including all hospital admission and death.
Novavax is due to submit its late stage trial data to Britain’s medical regulator in the coming weeks and approval is expected in May.
Mr Johnson also said the Government will be saying more on travel abroad on April 5.
He said: ‘I think that the most important thing that we’ve got to do right now as we continue to immunise great numbers of people in this country is to protect our country insofar as we can, it’s never going to be perfect, but do as much as we can to prevent the virus coming back in from abroad and new variants coming in from abroad.
‘So, the rules about what you can do, what people can do, to see their families abroad will be governed entirely by the rules that cover travel abroad and people coming from abroad.
‘At the moment, as you know, it’s still forbidden to travel, we’ll be saying a bit more on April 5 about what the global travel taskforce has come up with.
‘Clearly, at the moment there are lots of countries that are on a red list, 35 countries are on a red list, where we have very stringent measures in place for them, for people arriving from those countries.’
He added: ‘We will be saying more about seeing family abroad and travel abroad, but it won’t be until at least April 5.’