PM Boris Johnson to ease COVID-19 restrictions in bid to preserve position

Jan 19, 2022: British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is expected to announce easing of COVID-19 sanctions in the country, to appease members of the ruling Conservative Party as he seeks to stop a possible uprising in his ranks.

The possible change in fortunes is due to revelations of parties during the 2020 and 2021 lockdowns at his residence. According to UK media reports, Johnson’s cabinet will meet on Wednesday to review existing restrictions imposed last month amid an increase in Omicron.

He is due to announce the decision in the House of Commons later in the day amid expectations that the government will end work from home rules, as well as rules on entry into sports venues and nightclubs for fully vaccinated people. 

As the number of COVID cases rose to more than 218,000 to peak in early January, the number of infections in the UK has since been steadily declining. The latest official figures show just over 94,000 cases on January 18.

A relaxation of the restrictions would be welcomed by many in his party who want to return to something akin to normal life as Johnson seeks to contain a rebellion triggered by a series of revelations about rule-breaking parties at 10 Downing Street, the prime minister’s office.

Meanwhile public anger against the prime minister continues to grow with the right-wing Daily Telegraph and ITV News reporting that the required number of 54 signatures from his own MPs on Wednesday demanded a no-confidence vote in his leadership. 

According to the Telegraph, the 20 Conservatives elected in the last general election in 2019 plan to file letters of no-confidence against Johnson. Under Conservative rules, a vote of no confidence in a party leader can be initiated if the party’s 54 MPs write a letter to a party official demanding it. Johnson’s office did not respond to a request for comment on this development Tuesday.

Dominic Cummings a former aide to Johnson, earlier accused Johnson of lying, saying that he had been warned that holding a “bring your own booze” party during lockdown would break the rules. When questioned by Sky News on Cummings’ claim, Johnson denied lying.

“Nobody warned me it was against the rules,” he said.

Cummings has said he is willing to “swear under oath” that the prime minister was warned in advance that the party would violate coronavirus restrictions, which at the time, barred people from meeting more than one person outside their household.

On his part, Johnson told parliament last week that he had attended a “bring your own booze” gathering in an invitation sent to 100 people by his principal private secretary. Johnson said he considered it a work gathering that fell within the rules.

Senior ministers in Johnson’s government have said they believe the denials – but added that he would have to resign if the prime minister was found to be lying.

A senior government employee Sue Gray is investigating alleged parties including a May 2020 drunken party in Downing Street Garden and reports of “Wine Time Friday”. Gray is due to report by the end of the month on the parties.

Boris Johnson’s public image plummeted following the allegations and have spawned public anger, incredulity and mockery, and prompted resignation calls.

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