A close aide of British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has turned in her resignation after being involved in the Christmas Party scandal, according to which last year's celebrations at 10 Downing Street were not by restrictive sanitary measures imposed on the rest of the population.
Allegra Stratton, Johnson's spokeswoman during Glasgow's COP26, decided to leave her job Wednesday after images of her joking about a Christmas party in Downing Street went viral.
My comments seemed to make fun of the norms, Stratton said. Standards that people were doing their best to abide by... That was never my intention. I will regret those comments for the rest of my days and I offer my deepest apologies to all of you in your homes. Working in the Government was an immense privilege. I tried to do the right thing for all of you, to behave with civility and decency and to live up to the high standards that you rightly expect from number 10.
Meanwhile, Johnson was forced to make unreserved apologies in Parliament for a video of those celebrations which he insists that, as far as he knows, never took place. I apologize for the impression that Downing Street staff do not take this seriously, said the prime minister. I am disgusted and furious about it, but I repeat that I have been repeatedly assured that the rules were not broken, Johnson insisted in the face of protests from Parliament.
In this scenario, Johnson also launched a new batch of measures against COVID-19 which he dubbed Plan B and which include vaccine passports, home office work and further mask-wearing.
Johnson announced he was launching his Plan B in response to the appearance of Omicron, which he said was spreading rapidly all around the world and therefore measures were needed to prevent an increase in cases which could lead to big rise in hospitalisations and therefore sadly deaths.
England's chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty said there was an incredibly steep increase in cases in South Africa, where Omicron was first detected, and we are now seeing this translate into increases in hospitalisations. Omicron cases were also going up in the UK incredibly fast now, Whitty said, as he warned you can get with very small numbers to very large numbers really quite quickly.
England's chief scientific adviser Patrick Vallance suggested reducing social contacts and Health Secretary Sajid Javid insisted Omicron was far more transmissible than the Delta variant.
Johnson also urged people to get their booster jabs, which he said would be the best way for people to protect themselves against the new variant. He suggested the new restrictions will be removed if scientists ascertain that boosters sufficiently protect against the Omicron variant. As soon as it becomes clear that the boosters are capable of holding this Omicron variant and we have boosted enough people to do that job of keeping Omicron in equilibrium, then we will be able to move forward as before.
Regarding the face mask rule, the PM said it would apply in places such as theatres and cinemas but said there will, of course, be exemptions where it is not practical, such as when eating, drinking, exercising or singing.
Johnson also explained the new Covid status requirement will apply to venues where large crowds gather, including unseated indoor venues with more than 500 people, unseated outdoor venues with more than 4,000 people and any venue with more than 10,000 people. A negative lateral flow test will be sufficient, as will having protection from two vaccine doses.
In a bid to keep the economy running through the increased restrictions the PM said daily testing would be available instead of isolation for those who come into contact with infected people. Travelers arriving from abroad will be subject to strict testing, Johnson also explained.
Conservative MP William Wragg said any plan for new Covid restrictions would be a diversionary tactic to take the focus away from alleged rule-breaking in Number 10. Covid passes will not increase uptake of the vaccine but will create a segregated society. Is the prime minister aware that very few will be convinced by this diversionary tactic? Wragg added. Critics of the government have suggested the public will be less inclined to follow new coronavirus rules if they believe they haven't been obeyed by the people making them.
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said even the prime minister must understand the damage he's done to his credibility in enforcing the rules now and in the future.
The British people put the health of others above themselves and followed the rules. Isn't the prime minister ashamed that his Downing Street couldn't do the same?