Amid party outcry, Britain implores people to obey COVID rules
Britain on Thursday pleaded with people to obey tighter restrictions to slow the spread of the Omicron coronavirus variant after revelations about alleged lockdown parties at Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s residence sparked an uproar against hypocrisy.
Johnson imposed restrictions on England on Wednesday, just hours after apologizing for a video showing staff laughing at a party in Downing Street during a 2020 Christmas COVID lockdown when such festivities were banned at population.
The rules, including the order to work from home, wear masks in public and use passes for vaccines, failed to secure a lockdown, but angered some lawmakers in the clean party of Johnson and the retail and entertainment sectors who have said they are being hammered.
But the revelations of a series of Christmas 2020 rallies – which Johnson’s spokesperson had denied were holidays – sparked widespread anger, mockery and disdain due to the perceived hypocrisy at the heart of British power.
When asked why people – who at the time of the alleged holiday were barred from bidding farewell to dying relatives with COVID – should obey the government, Health Secretary Sajid Javid said the rules are ‘applied to everyone.
âNo one is exempt. No one is above the rules, above the law on this, âsaid Javid, who said he was angry and upset by the video of Downing Street employees joking about how to deflect questions from potential reporters on a lockdown party.
Britain acted, he said, after receiving provisional scientific evidence Omicron is more capable of infecting people immune to COVID-19 and is spreading faster than any other variant studied.
Javid said Omicron could cause around 1 million infections across the UK by the end of the month if transmission continued at the current rate.
Science advisers said Britain could face more than 1,000 to 2,000 Omicron hospitalizations a day if nothing is done – figures that would quickly overwhelm the National Health Service and prevent further treatment for emergency.
“I hope most people will understand that by taking decisive action now, we can potentially avoid acting later,” Javid said. When asked if tougher measures could be imposed in January, Javid replied: âNo. I hope not.”
Some Johnson lawmakers, however, are unhappy with the new measures which they say are again hurting the UK economy during the busy pre-Christmas period.
Downing Street had denied there had been a party and Johnson said he was assured the rallies were not breaking any COVID rules. British media reported a series of Downing Street parties at the time.
Johnson apologized, but faced calls from the opposition for his resignation and was lambasted by the media on Thursday morning.
“One rule for them, new rules for us”, Daily mail, Britain’s most widely read newspaper, said on the front page. The Sun said, “Do what I say, not what Christmas does”.
Britain’s top civil servant, Cabinet Secretary Simon Case, has been commissioned by Johnson to investigate the December 18 rally in Downing Street, attended by around 40-50 people, and other such events .
This is the latest incident in a string of scandals involving members of the Johnson government breaking lockdown rules.
He defended the decision of his close collaborator Dominic Cummings to drive 250 miles from London for childcare as he suspected he had COVID-19 as the British were locked out in 2020 to alleviate the initial wave of illness.
Then-Health Minister Matt Hancock resigned in June after being caught breaking COVID-19 rules by kissing and kissing an assistant in his office, angering his colleagues and members of the public who were living in detention. Read more
Johnson has been criticized for his handling of the pandemic. Britain has recorded around 146,000 deaths from COVID-19, the 7th highest death toll in the world.