Bromley Magistrates Court and Woolwich Crown Court will remain open during the Covid-19 pandemic for "essential face-to-face hearings", the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) has said.

On Friday, it was announced that 157 "priority" court and tribunal buildings, representing just over 40% of the 370 Crown, magistrates', county and family courts across England and Wales, will remain open to "maintain a core justice system focused on the most essential cases".

A further 124 court and tribunal buildings, which will remain closed to the public but open to court staff, the judiciary and those from other agencies, will support video and telephone hearings and help progress cases without hearings.

All other courts and tribunals will close temporarily.

The changes, which were agreed between HM Courts and Tribunal Service (HMCTS) and the judiciary, will come into effect on Monday and "will be kept in place for as long as necessary to comply with Government and public health advice and will be reviewed regularly", the announcement said.

The media and members of the public will be able to attend priority court hearings in person, if safe to do so in line with Public Health England guidance - but, where this is not possible, "judicial consideration will be given to them joining a hearing remotely" or being provided with a transcript of the hearing.

In a statement, Lord Chancellor Robert Buckland said: "We are facing an unprecedented challenge and the Government's absolute priority is to save lives and protect the NHS.

"With each part of our justice system - from police to probation - dependent on one another, it is vital that we keep our courts running.

"This will only be done while ensuring the safety of the public, judges, legal professionals, staff and all those attending hearings and I'd like to thank everyone for their extraordinary efforts so far."

The Lord Chief Justice Lord Burnett said: "An extraordinary amount of hard work has gone into keeping our justice system functioning.

"Technology is being used creatively to ensure that many cases can continue.

"Not everything can be dealt with remotely and so we need to maintain functioning courts.

"These temporary adjustments to how we use the court estate will help ensure that we can continue to deal with work appropriately in all jurisdictions whilst safeguarding the well-being of all those who work in and visit the courts."

Amanda Pinto QC, chairwoman of the Bar Council, which represents around 17,000 barristers in England and Wales, said: "In the face of this extraordinary pandemic, it makes sense to consolidate our constrained resources to keep the justice system on track.

"It is in the public interest that justice keeps going and in the circumstances we welcome the use of remote hearings.

"With much court and tribunal business now being conducted remotely, we hope that keeping fewer court buildings open will ensure essential work can continue without risking the health of those attending court."

Ms Pinto added that, where courts did remain open, "it remains absolutely crucial that no corners are cut when it comes to hygiene and that all proper precautionary measures are in place to limit the spread of Covid-19".

She warned, however, that "these measures will inevitably make access to justice harder for some people", especially where "court closures in recent years have already restricted local access to courts".

Ms Pinto said: "At the end of this crisis, justice must remain strong and intact and our legal professions must survive to continue to represent the public."