UK Home Secretary Priti Patel has defended her recent decision to travel to Hertfordshire despite the global pandemic and stay-home orders by the authorities, after facing criticism she took it as a photo opportunity. She argued in response that it is her "statutory duty" to travel for government matters.
Patel went on to draw comparisons between her trip and that of Prime Minister Boris Johnson to Scotland with, for instance, travelling abroad by celebs and so-called influencers. She has repeatedly blasted those who, she said, used their online fame as a sufficient excuse to go on holiday or elsewhere.
"First and foremost, in our capacity with statutory duties and responsibilities we have, we are clearly working. But clearly when it comes to influencers travelling to Dubai there is no guarantee", she said as she briefly toured Bishop's Stortford, a historic market town in Hertfordshire, where she met new police recruits, including patrol officers, a chief constable, as well as local Tory MP Julie Marson.
She even dropped, during a brief walk downtown accompanied by over two dozen police, aides, and reporters:
"It's quite busy round here, or is it just us?"
Proceeding to address social media A-listers, Patel went on saying they "might be posing, beaches, etc, but that cannot be deemed essential at a time of global pandemic".
She said she "fundamentally disagreed" with the assumptions that there is no big difference between officials' travel for work, like in her and Johnson's case, and influencers' travelling abroad for their business, as officials have "responsibilities in terms of our work with government as ministers of the crown and as public servants".
"That's why you see the prime minister every single day working as hard as he does, and why you see me out today with our new police recruits", she explained, referring to Whitehall's pledge to sign up as many as 20,000 by 2023 – a part of Boris Johnson's bid to occupy 10 Downing Street.
New National Lockdown
England, Northern Ireland, Scotland, and Wales all introduced lockdowns earlier this month. England's chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty said citizens should avoid unnecessary contact and stick to lockdown rules as the surge in coronavirus cases "is everybody's problem", he pointed out.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced he would share "our plan for taking the country out of lockdown" on the week beginning 22 February, and hopes schools will begin to reopen on 8 March. Scotland's restrictions are set to apply until mid-February at the earliest, while Northern Ireland's lockdown has been prolonged until 5 March.
In Wales, the anti-corona measures will be reviewed at the end of this month, but the government has previously indicated that it doesn't see "much headroom for change".
Lockdown Rules in England
Residents have been instructed to stay at home except when they need to go out "for a reasonable excuse", for instance, to shop for essentials like food or medicine, or some emergency.
They are not allowed to go out and socialise with people from other households or outside a so-dubbed support bubble – an "exclusive" group of people with whom you have close physical contact, the BBC reported.
A new £800 fine for attending house parties of over 15 people has been introduced. It will double for each new offence, potentially reaching up to £6,400. Organisers will be fined £10,000 in such circumstances.