New UK mask rules start as Johnson under fire over parties

Dec 10, 2021, 3:56 AM | Updated: 3:57 am

LONDON (AP) — Tighter restrictions to curb the coronavirus came into force in Britain on Friday, as the government faced new allegations that officials flouted rules they had imposed on the nation with lockdown-breaking parties last Christmas.

Face masks are once again compulsory in indoor public spaces in England under the measures British Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced this week to slow the spread of the new omicron virus variant. Vaccination passes will be needed for nightclubs and large events starting next week, and residents will be told to work from home, if possible.

The emergence of omicron, which is spreading quickly in Britain, has shaken the government’s hopes that vaccinations would be enough to keep the virus in check. British scientists and officials say omicron spreads more quickly than the currently dominant delta variant and likely is more resistant to current vaccines. It is not yet clear whether it causes more severe, or milder, cases off COVID-19.

Along with the new restrictions, the British government is offering everyone 18 and up a third, booster dose of vaccine to try to slow the spread of the virus.

The return of restrictions is unwelcome for many, and revelations of apparent rule-breaking by government officials during tough lockdowns last winter have heightened opposition to the new measures.

The government has asked Britain’s most senior civil servant to investigate several gatherings, including a Dec. 18, 2020, event at the prime minister’s 10 Downing St. offices, where staff reportedly enjoyed wine, food, games and a festive gift exchange at a time when pandemic regulations banned most social gatherings.

Multiple media outlets reported Friday that one of Johnson’s most senior advisers, Director of Communications Jack Doyle, attended the Dec. 18 party and gave awards to staff members. At the time, he was the deputy communications director.

In his current role, Doyle has directed the government’s public statements about the party allegations. For several days, Johnson’s office denied a party had taken place and insisted rules had been followed at all times.

That claim unraveled when a leaked video showed senior staff members joking about the alleged party. The most senior official in the video, Allegra Stratton, apologized and resigned on Wednesday.

“It’s been a difficult week for the government,” Paul Scully, the U.K.;s small business minister, said Friday adding that the investigation needed to “get to the bottom” of the allegations.

“We want to see beyond doubt that there were no rules broken, which is what the assurances have been to the prime minister, and that’s what I’ve heard,” Scully told the BBC. “I wasn’t there. I don’t know.”

The Christmas party claims are the latest in a string of allegations of rule-breaking and ethics violations by Johnson and government officials. On Thursday, Britain’s electoral watchdog fined the prime minister’s Conservative Party 17,800 pounds ($23,500) for failing to keep a proper record of money from a donor that was used to refurbish Johnson’s official residence.

Wes Streeting, health spokesman for the opposition Labour Party, said the stream of allegations undermined trust in the government during a public health crisis.

Streeting blamed Johnson, saying “it’s his untrustworthy nature, his disorganization, his dishonesty, which is undermining trust in public health measures.”

“Boris Johnson’s character and behavior starts to undermine a whole series of things: the system of standards in Parliament, the way the law is applied in the country and crucially, whether the government can get its message across about public health at a critical time,” Streeting said.

___

Follow AP’s coverage of the pandemic at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

FILE - A cameraman films the Logo of Dutch airline KLM at the Cologne Bonn Airport in Cologne, west...
Associated Press

KLM pays back last of Dutch government pandemic loans

THE HAGUE, Netherlands (AP) — Dutch flag carrier KLM announced Thursday it is repaying the last portion of loans it got from from the Netherlands government and banks to help it survive when the COVID-19 pandemic threw global aviation into a tailspin. The carrier is paying back 277 million euros ($290 million) to the government, […]
3 hours ago
Visitors pose for photos outside the Disney Resort theme park, Thursday, June 30, 2022, in Shanghai...
Associated Press

COVID restrictions ease in Shanghai as case numbers drop

BEIJING (AP) — Shanghai is moving to allow in-person dining and reopening its Disney Resort theme park as domestically transmitted cases of COVID-19 in China’s largest city remain at zero following a more than two-month lockdown. Chinese officials hail their hardline “zero-COVID” policy for stemming the growth of cases and deaths from the virus, despite […]
3 hours ago
FILE - Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg listens at an event in Philadelphia, on Jan. 14, 202...
Associated Press

Buttigieg launches $1B pilot to build racial equity in roads

WASHINGTON (AP) — Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg on Thursday launched a $1 billion first-of-its-kind pilot program aimed at helping reconnect cities and neighborhoods racially segregated or divided by road projects, pledging wide-ranging help to dozens of communities despite the program’s limited dollars. Under the Reconnecting Communities program, cities and states can now apply for the […]
3 hours ago
Russian ordinance on the ground of a concert hall damaged by strikes, in Yahidne village, northern ...
Associated Press

Russian forces fight to capture Ukraine’s eastern bulwark

SLOVIANSK, Ukraine (AP) — Russian troops fought Thursday to encircle the last bulwark of Ukraine’s resistance in an eastern province, as funerals were to be held for those who were killed by a Russian strike on a shopping mall in central Ukraine earlier this week. Moscow’s push to take control of the entire Donbas region […]
3 hours ago
FILE - The logo of the Organization of the Petroleoum Exporting Countries (OPEC) is seen outside of...
Associated Press

OPEC+ may not be much help with high oil, gasoline prices

NEW YORK (AP) — Oil prices are high, and drivers are paying more at the pump. But the OPEC oil cartel and allied producing nations may not be much help as they decide Thursday how much more crude to send to world markets. That’s because the 23-member OPEC+ alliance, which includes Russia, is struggling to […]
3 hours ago
Follow @ktar923...
Sponsored Content by Arizona Department of Health Services

Great news: Children under 5 can now get COVID-19 vaccine

After more than two years of battle with an invisible killer, we can now vaccinate the youngest among us against COVID-19. This is great news.

Sponsored Articles

...
Day & Night Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing

Most plumbing problems can be fixed with regular maintenance

Instead of waiting for a problem to happen, experts suggest getting a head start on your plumbing maintenance.
...
Carla Berg, MHS, Deputy Director, Public Health Services, Arizona Department of Health Services

Update your child’s vaccines before kindergarten

So, your little one starts kindergarten soon. How exciting! You still have a few months before the school year starts, so now’s the time to make sure students-to-be have the vaccines needed to stay safe as they head into a new chapter of life.
...
Arizona Division of Problem Gambling

Arizona Division of Problem Gambling provides exclusion solution for young sports bettors

Sports betting in Arizona opened a new world to young adults, one where putting down money on games was as easy as sending a text message.
New UK mask rules start as Johnson under fire over parties