UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson will appear before parliament's Liaison Committee for the third time this year to face a showdown with MPs over the government's response to the coronavirus pandemic.
Johnson will reportedly be quizzed on a whole array of questions, including those related to the backlash against a six-week wait before the lifting of self-isolation rules.
BoJo will also face questions pertaining to the resignation of Health Secretary Matt Hancock in light of ex-Downing Street adviser Dominic Cummings' allegations about Hancock's handling of the pandemic.
Separately, Liaison Committee lawmakers may challenge Johnson over his about-face on Hancock in the wake of his exit from the government.
The former health secretary resigned on 26 June, after the emergence of an image taken from CCTV footage from inside his office, of him kissing and embracing with his aide, Gina Coladangelo.
Right after the photo appeared in The Sun, BoJo's spokesperson said Johnson had accepted Hancock's apology and considered the matter closed. The MPs, however, will likely seek to grill Johnson about his statement that came a few days after Hancock's resignation.
At the time, the PM told reporters: "I read the story on Friday and we've got a new health secretary in post on Saturday and I think that's about the right pace to proceed in a pandemic".
During the Liaison Committee session, Johnson may also be asked about Cummings' attacks on him that have appeared in the ex-aide's blog and on Twitter over the past several weeks. Among other things, Cummings questioned Johnson's decision to end all remaining coronavirus restrictions on 19 July, which he claimed would "obviously not" be the right decision. According to Cummings, Number 10 officials have "been told by scientific advisers not to do what they're doing".
The prime minister's parliamentary interrogators on COVID will include some of his strictest Tory critics, such as Caroline Nokes, Tom Tugendhat, Robert Halfon, and Greg Clark, Sky News reported on Wednesday.
Business Leaders Slam Health Department's Decision on Self-Isolation Rules
Johnson faces the showdown from lawmakers after Health Secretary Sajid Javid said that children and fully vaccinated adults should follow current self-isolation rules until 16 August, which means that they will be obliged to stay at home for 10 days if they come into close contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19.
Tory MPs and business leaders reacted angrily to the announcement, with UK Hospitality chief Kate Nicholls claiming that Javid's statement "doesn't go far enough, quickly enough".
"The sector is experiencing severe staff shortages, compounded massively by the absence of team members who have been told to isolate despite not having shared shifts with colleagues who tested positive. Around 60% of our staff are aged between 15 to 34 and the vast majority will not have had the opportunity to receive both jabs by 16 August", she pointed out.
The remarks followed Johnson announcing a spate of steps to lift pandemic restrictions and "reopen our [UK] society", stressing the effectiveness of the country's COVID-19 vaccination programme and the inadvertent harms of the lockdown.
Speaking at a Downing Street press conference earlier this week, the prime minister outlined a five-point plan for "living with COVID" — moving from legal restrictions to "informed decisions" by individuals.
Starting 19 July, all restrictions on numbers at indoor and outdoor gatherings in the UK will be lifted, and all businesses including nightclubs will be allowed to reopen, according to the blueprint. Additionally, the one-metre social distancing rule and requirements for table service only at pubs and cafes will be scrapped, as will the restrictions on singing in groups.