LONDON, March 29 (Reuters) – British police said on Tuesday that 20 fines would be issued over gatherings in Boris Johnson’s offices and residence that broke coronavirus lockdown rules, sparking fresh opposition calls for the prime minister to resign.
Police are investigating 12 gatherings held at Downing Street and the Cabinet Office in 2020 and 2021 after an internal inquiry said Johnson’s staff enjoyed alcohol-fuelled parties, with the British leader attending some of the events himself.
The police action confirmed for the first time that unprecedented regulations to protect the nation from COVID-19 were broken by officials at the heart of the government that designed them.
The issue threatened Johnson’s position earlier this year, when members of his own party began calling for him to quit and public trust in his leadership plummeted – although the focus on Ukraine has relieved some of the immediate pressure on him.
Revelations of the gatherings, many of which took place when people could not attend funerals or say farewell to loved ones dying in hospital due to lockdown rules, were first reported in late 2021.
At that time, Johnson said all the rules were followed, though he later apologised to parliament for attending one event, which he said he thought was work related, and then to Queen Elizabeth for another at which staff partied on the eve of her husband’s funeral.