- The UK govt is facing new allegations that employees violated the country’s restrictions by throwing lockdown-breaking parties last Christmas.
- The Christmas party charges are the latest in a long line of allegations against Johnson and government officials for rule-breaking and ethics infractions.
In the United Kingdom, tighter limitations to combat the coronavirus went into effect on Friday, as the government faced new charges that officials broke the constraints they had imposed on the country with lockdown-breaking parties last Christmas.
Face masks are once again required in indoor public venues in England, thanks to steps introduced this week by British Prime Minister Boris Johnson to combat the spread of the new omicron virus type. Starting next week, vaccination cards will be required for nightclubs and other events, and citizens will be advised to work from home if at all feasible.
The rapid spread of Omicron in the United Kingdom has shattered the government’s hopes. Omicron spreads faster than the currently dominant delta form and is likely immune to current vaccinations. It’s yet unclear whether it creates more severe or lesser COVID-19 cases.
In addition to the new limitations, the British government is offering everyone aged 18 and up a third booster dosage of the vaccine in an attempt to curb the virus’ spread.
Many people are unhappy with the reinstatement of restrictions, and reports of apparent rule-breaking by government employees during last winter’s tight lockdowns have fueled opposition to the current measures.
The government had asked Britain’s most senior civil servant to look into several gatherings, including one on Dec. 18, 2020, at the prime minister’s 10 Downing St. offices, where staff reportedly enjoyed wine, food, games, and festive gift exchange at a time when most social gatherings were prohibited due to pandemic regulations.
According to multiple media reports, director of Communications Jack Doyle, one of Johnson’s most senior aides, was said to have attended the Dec. 18 party and presented awards to staff members. He was the deputy communications director at the time.
In his current position, Doyle is in charge of the government’s public pronouncements regarding the party claims. For several days, Johnson’s staff denied a party and asserted that all rules had been followed.
The story crumbled when a leaked video showed senior staff members joking about the claimed party. Allegra Stratton, the video’s most senior officer, apologized and quit on Wednesday.
“It’s been a terrible week for the government,” UK small business minister Paul Scully said on Friday, adding that the probe needed to “get to the bottom” of the claims.
“We want to see beyond a shadow of a doubt that no regulations were broken,” Scully told the BBC. “That’s what the assurances to the prime minister have been, and that’s what I’ve heard.” “I was not present. I’m not sure.”
The Christmas party charges are the latest in a long line of allegations against Johnson and government officials for rule-breaking and ethics infractions. Britain’s electoral watchdog fined the prime minister’s Conservative Party 17,800 pounds (US$23,500) on Thursday for failing to keep a proper record of money from a donor to restore Johnson’s official residence.
The opposition Labour Party’s health spokesman, Wes Streeting, said the barrage of complaints had eroded trust in the administration during a public health crisis.
“It’s his untrustworthy personality, his disorganization, and his dishonesty, which is weakening trust in public health initiatives,” Streeting said.
“Boris Johnson’s character and behavior begin to undermine a whole series of things,” Streeting said, “including the system of standards in Parliament, the way the law is applied in the country, and, most importantly, whether the government can get its message about public health across at a critical time.”
Source: Global News
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