Boris Johnson is set to address the public on coronavirus as ministers consider imposing new restrictions in response to rising cases and the spread of the Omicron variant.
The Prime Minister will front a press conference from Downing Street at 6pm on Wednesday, No 10 said, after considering measures including guidance to work from home and the introduction of domestic vaccine passports for events and large venues.
Leaked footage from No 10’s £2.6 million press briefing room emerged on Monday night which showed former press secretary Allegra Stratton laughing as she appeared to rehearse answers to questions over a lockdown-busting Christmas party.
The video, which is reported to be from December 22 last year, refers to a party on “Friday” – which would have been December 18, the same day The Daily Mirror reported there was a staff party where games were played, food and drinks were served, and revelries went on past midnight.
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Politics Live: Boris Johnson holds press conference on Covid at Downing Street
Last updated: Wednesday, 08 December, 2021, 19:12
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Boris Johnson said he had asked Cabinet Secretary Simon Case to look at allegations relating to December 18, rather than at any other dates.
He said: “As far as I’m concerned, all the evidence I can see is that people in this building have stayed within the rules.
“If that turns out not to be the case, and people wish to bring allegations to my attention or to the police or whoever, then of course there will be proper sanctions.”
He added: “He (Mr Case) is looking at the issue of December 18, he may wish to look at other things but that is a matter, frankly, for him.”
Boris Johnson told a Downing Street press conference that Cabinet Secretary Simon Case’s investigation will look into “what took place on December 18” rather than other alleged parties.
“As for other events, dates … as far as I’m aware, to the best of my knowledge we have followed the rules throughout,” he said.
“Indeed, as far as I’m aware, the rules were followed on December 18 as well.”
Sir Graham Brady, chairman of the Tory backbench 1922 Committee, told the Commons: “It’s deja vu all over again, isn’t it?
“Can I remind the Secretary of State that in March 2020 we were asked to impose restrictions for three weeks while the health service capacity was increased.
“Can he tell the House how much that capacity has now been increased?”
The Health Secretary said the Prime Minister had already addressed the issue of Christmas parties in Downing Street as he faced criticism from Labour about the damage it had done to public trust.
Sajid Javid said: “On his questions about what may or may not have happened at Downing Street I think the Prime Minister addressed that issue quite clearly today from this despatch box.”
After questions from shadow health secretary Wes Streeting, Mr Javid also confirmed the NHS Covid pass “will not include access to any emergency settings”.
He also said lab-confirmed PCR testing and home test Lateral Flow Devices for Covid would “continue to remain free” for people to use as Omicron spread, and that there were large supplies of both.
Douglas Ross has announced that he will vote against the introduction of vaccine passports.