UK: Covid-19 Plan B introduced as Johnson loses public trust

By Hamed Chapman

London, (The Muslim News): A new set of Covid-19 restrictions has been belatedly brought forward by Boris Johnson amid fears of an exponential rise in the Omicron variant, at a time when the Prime Minister is engulfed in a crisis over his credibility and a new poll confirming his loss of trust from the public.

At a Downing Street briefing on Wednesday, the Prime Minister announced the implementation of his so-called Plan B measures, including making face coverings mandatory for most indoor public venues from Friday including places of worship, theatres and cinemas, as well as in shops and on public transport as previously set out.

From Monday, people are also being told to once again work from home “if they can”. Subject to Parliamentary approval, people will also need an NHS Covid Pass – or a negative lateral flow test – to gain entry to such places as nightclubs, indoor unseated venues with more than 500 people, unseated outdoor venues with more than 4,000 people and any venue with more than 10,000 people.

“We do not yet know Omicron’s severity, its exact rate of transmission, nor indeed the full effectiveness of our vaccines against it. But since I last spoke to you, it’s become increasingly clear that Omicron is growing much faster than the previous Delta variant,” Johnson said.

“568 cases have been confirmed through genomic sequencing across every region of the UK, and the true number is certain to be much higher. Most worryingly, there is evidence that the doubling time of Omicron in the UK could currently be between two and three days.”

But Liberal Democrat Health Spokesperson, Daisy Cooper, said Johnson’s Government was once again have been showing “they think it’s one rule for them and another for everyone else” and that it was “extremely damaging, and undermines public trust in this Government at a critical time.”

“Asking the public to work from home where they can is the right thing to do but once again, why has it taken so long to act? The Government’s own scientific advisors said that working from home would have the single biggest impact on reducing Covid cases, weeks ago,” Cooper said.

Speaking earlier during PMQs Wednesday, Labour Leader, Sir Keith Starmer, questioned the moral authority of the Prime Minister following the disclosure of an alleged Christmas party being held at Downing Street last December in breach of Covid rules at the time.

“Does the Prime Minister really expect the country to believe that while people were banned from seeing their loved ones at Christmas last year, it was fine for him and his friends to throw a boozy party in Downing Street?” Starmer asked.

“The Prime Minister does not deny that there was a Downing Street Christmas party last year. He says that no rules were broken. Both those things cannot be true. He is taking the British public for fools,” he said.

Johnson was also urged to resign over the illegal Christmas Party by the SNP Westminster Leader, Ian Blackford, who said the Prime Minister was facing “a moment of moral reckoning” and should either quit or be removed by his party, adding that his office had “wilfully broke the rules and mocked the sacrifices we have all made, shattering the public’s trust.”

During the briefing, Johnson was repeatedly challenged by journalists to widen the internal inquiry into the party to include others held around the same time as well as asking him how he felt about his aide and former spokesperson Allegra Stratton resigning her post after being caught on video laughing and joking about the party.

A poll carried out by YouGov reported on Wednesday that 54 per cent of the public believed that the party ‘definitely broke the rules’ and a further 25 per cent thought that it ‘probably broke the rules.’ Only one per cent supported Johnson’s claim that it definitely did not break the rules.

There was also fairly similar findings about the vast majority believing that the party, denied by the Prime Minister, was definitely or probably held and only one per cent thinking that it definitely wasn’t.

[Photo: Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaking at press conference on the Covid-19 variant Omicron in No 9 Downing Street on 8 December 2021. Picture by Andrew Parsons / No 10 Downing Street]

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