There were connection issues during Boris Johnson’s virtual announcement to the House of Commons on Monday afternoon, during which he confirmed the UK’s next steps as the nation prepares to come out of lockdown on 2 December.
The interruption saw Mr Johnson, who is isolating after coming into contact with a colleague who tested positive for Covid, carry on speaking from the screen on which he appeared, but with no sound playing.
Laughter erupted from MPs present in the Commons following the technical issues, with Commons Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle asking Mr Johnson: “Have you pressed the button prime minister?”
He added: “I think we're just going to have to stop for a moment so we can have it checked.
“We're just checking the sound prime minister, we lost your answer. Have you pressed the button by mistake prime minister? It's not our end prime minister, it could well be yours.”
Mr Johnson could then be seen moving out of shot on-screen before Sir Lindsay eventually moved to suspend the Commons for three minutes.
While the technical issues were resolved, Matt Hancock, the health secretary, began answering questions on behalf of the prime minister.
Before he cut out, Mr Johnson confirmed that the coronavirus lockdown enforced in England will be lifted, and not extended, on 2 December. Although new measures will be introduced.
He said that while he cannot say that “Christmas will be normal this year”, the government is working with the necessary people on a “special time-limited” ease of Covid-19 restrictions during the Christmas period so families are permitted the opportunity to celebrate.
The prime minister also revealed that in the next round of coronavirus measures, mass community testing will be enforced to allow people who test negative for the virus more freedom to meet up with others.
So-called “freedom passes” are set to become the reward for areas forced to retain the toughest restrictions when the lockdown ends on 2 December – as Mr Johnson announced Covid measures would likely last in the UK until next March.
MPs were told there would be a “six-week surge of testing” in all tier 3 areas as the Operation Moonshot programme is expanded from its successful trial in Liverpool.
“If it works we should be able to offer those who test negative the prospect of fewer restrictions - for example, meeting up in certain places with others who have also tested negative,” Mr Johnson said.
After another short break, the prime minister finally reappeared on screen to resume taking questions from fellow MPs. He immediately rebutted Sir Lindsay’s claim the technical issue was his fault.
“For the record,” the prime minister said, “the problem does not appear to be on our end so I hope people - viewers - will not think I am in anyway trying to avoid scrutiny by honourable members.”
Mr Johnson will give a televised address this evening, at 7pm, to confirm the UK’s Covid measures after 2 December.