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New UK mask rules start as Johnson under fire over parties

Fitness & Health:

Tighter restrictions to curb the coronavirus have gone into effect in Britain

Face masks are once again compulsory in indoor public spaces in England under the measures British Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced this week to slow the spread of the new omicron virus variant. Vaccination passes will be needed for nightclubs and large events starting next week, and residents will be told to work from home, if possible.

The emergence of omicron, which is spreading quickly in Britain, has shaken the government’s hopes that vaccinations would be enough to keep the virus in check. British scientists and officials say omicron spreads more quickly than the currently dominant delta variant and likely is more resistant to current vaccines. It is not yet clear whether it causes more severe, or milder, cases off COVID-19.

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Along with the new restrictions, the British government is offering everyone 18 and up a third, booster dose of vaccine to try to slow the spread of the virus.

The return of restrictions is unwelcome for many, and revelations of apparent rule-breaking by government officials during tough lockdowns last winter have heightened opposition to the new measures.

The government has asked Britain’s most senior civil servant to investigate several gatherings, including a Dec. 18, 2020, event at the prime minister’s 10 Downing St. offices, where staff reportedly enjoyed wine, food, games and a festive gift exchange at a time when pandemic regulations banned most social gatherings.

In his current role, Doyle has directed the government’s public statements about the party allegations. For several days, Johnson’s office denied a party had taken place and insisted rules had been followed at all times.

That claim unraveled when a leaked video showed senior staff members joking about the alleged party. The most senior official in the video, Allegra Stratton, apologized and resigned on Wednesday.

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“It’s been a difficult week for the government,” Paul Scully, the U.K.;s small business minister, said Friday adding that the investigation needed to “get to the bottom” of the allegations.

“We want to see beyond doubt that there were no rules broken, which is what the assurances have been to the prime minister, and that’s what I’ve heard,” Scully told the BBC. “I wasn’t there. I don’t know.”

Streeting blamed Johnson, saying “it’s his untrustworthy nature, his disorganization, his dishonesty, which is undermining trust in public health measures.”

“Boris Johnson’s character and behavior starts to undermine a whole series of things: the system of standards in Parliament, the way the law is applied in the country and crucially, whether the government can get its message across about public health at a critical time,” Streeting said.

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