BoJo Plans to Lift Covid Rules in England as Police Set to Question 50 Over No 10 Lockdown Parties
05:55 GMT 10.02.2022 (Updated: 08:42 GMT 10.02.2022)
© REUTERS / UK Parliament/Jessica TaylorFILE PHOTO: British Prime Minister Boris Johnson makes a statement on Sue Gray's report regarding the alleged Downing Street parties during COVID-19 lockdown, in the House of Commons in London, Britain, January 31, 2022. UK Parliament/UK Parliament/Jessica Taylor/Handout via REUTERS THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY. MANDATORY CREDIT. IMAGE MUST NOT BE ALTERED/File Photo
© REUTERS / UK Parliament/Jessica Taylor
The coronavirus restrictions that are currently in place in England are due to expire in late March. Among these curbs are requirements that face masks be worn in healthcare facilities and on London's public transport; venues can choose to ask people to show their NHS Covid Pass.
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has told Parliament that he expects the remaining coronavirus restrictions in the country to be lifted by the end of the month.
"Provided the current encouraging trends in the data continue, it is my expectation that we will be able to end the last domestic restrictions -- including the legal requirement to self-isolate if you test positive -- a full month early," Johnson said.
The current self-isolation rules require people who tested positive to isolate for five days, with this and other remaining COVID restrictions to expire on 24 March.
The move to possibly put an end to coronavirus rules a month earlier comes as Boris Johnson and Downing Street remain in hot water over allegedly breaching them while partying during the lockdown. Due to new photos emerging from the alleged parties, the police investigation into the so-called "partygate" row has received a new spin.
By the end of this week, detectives from Greater London's Metropolitan Police will begin contacting people who are believed to have taken part in Downing Street gatherings between 2020 and 2021 - Boris Johnson and his wife Carrie possibly among them.
In what the police have dubbed "Operation Hillman", more than 50 people are set to receive "formal questionnaires" that ask for "account and explanation of the recipient's participation in the event". The responses must be submitted within seven days.
"It should be noted that being contacted does not mean a fixed penalty notice will necessarily be issued to that person," the police outlined in a statement. "Nevertheless, if following an investigation, officers believe it is appropriate because the Covid regulations have been breached without a reasonable excuse, a fixed penalty notice will normally be issued."
It was a new photo of the prime minister holding an open Prosecco bottle at a quiz held in No 10 in December 2020 that prompted the Met Police to reassess its views on this gathering. Johnson is also alleged to have attended several other gatherings, for which he now faces massive criticism and even calls to resign.
Previously, Johnson said he would "comply with the law" in the event of being handed a fixed penalty notice by the police. The embattled prime minister, however, denies breaching the law, saying that the Met adding the No 10 quiz into the slew of events they are investigating was “completely in error”.
Police are already probing 12 Downing Street events, at least three of which the prime minister is said to have attended. Met's Special Enquiry Team continues to examine more than 500 documents and 300 images that have been provided as evidence. Under "Operation Hillman", contacts are being made with regards to eight events: six from 2020, and two from 2021.
UK COVID Rules Now
Johnson's government dropped most of the coronavirus restrictions last month: the requirement to wear face masks has been scrapped from the majority of public places in England except London's transport, as was the demand for NHS COVID passports for entering nightclubs and large-scale events. The official advice to work from home has also been rescinded. Those who test positive for COVID in England must self-isolate for 10 days (or five full days following two negative lateral flow test results).
In Scotland, face masks are still compulsory on public transport and in most indoor spaces, including shops and secondary schools, and venues such as nightclubs still require Covid passports. Social distancing requirements are still in place for healthcare facilities.
In Northern Ireland, no more than 30 people can meet in a home, while masks are mandatory in shops, indoor-seated venues, public transport and some other places. To attend nightclubs, indoor unseated and partially-seated events with 500 or more people, one must show proof of their COVID status.
Wales requires COVID passports for entry to cinemas, theatres and concert halls, and the majority of events. Face masks are required on public transport and in schools, hospitals and shops.
According to Boris Johnson, the government will outline its new strategy and make a decision regarding the possible end of all domestic COVID restrictions after the Parliament returns from recess on 21 February.