Sign language interpreter included in government's daily coronavirus briefing for first time

Will Taylor
News Reporter
The interpreter, provided by the BBC, appeared on the government's online stream of its daily COVID-19 briefing. (Downing Street)

A campaigner has welcomed the inclusion of a sign language interpreter in the government’s online stream of its daily coronavirus briefing.

The move comes as a petition asking for them to be used when emergency announcements are made reached more than 20,000 signatures.

Interpreters have been a common sight in briefings such as Nicola Sturgeon’s daily press conferences, and are seen in some important official televised announcements in the US.

They have appeared on services like the BBC News channel already, and earlier on Thursday minister Penny Mordaunt said the corporation had allowed the government to show their interpreter on social media streams.

Deaf journalist and campaigner Liam O’Dell tweeted the move was a sign of progress but also noted that the BBC News channel seemed to be the only broadcaster displaying the interpreter on television.

The petition called for the interpreters to be available “alongside any emergency announcements” to “allow members of the deaf community to access information in their preferred language”.

A response from the culture department on 13 May said it was “not possible to safely include” an interpreter due to Public Health England (PHE) guidelines.

The department said it would require more staff to be present in Downing Street, “a historical site with limited space”.

“Everyone in government continues to practice social distancing, which means staying two metres apart where possible, and journalists are currently attending the daily briefings remotely rather than in person in order to prevent unnecessary risk,” the department added.

“Having an interpreter physically attend, along with any additional staff required to facilitate broadcast of the interpretation, contradicts the PHE guidelines, and potentially puts them and others at risk.

“For these reasons the government believes that it is right to limit the number of people present in the daily briefings to protect all those who must be present from additional risks.”

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