British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has denied accusations that he imposed a “lockdown by stealth” by reintroducing a series of COVID-19 restrictions to tackle the Omicron variant of the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus.
Under the government’s “Plan B” measures, people have been asked to work from home if they can, vaccine passports have been introduced for large-scale events and nightclubs, and a mask mandate has been enforced in most indoor settings including cinemas and theatres.
England’s Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty said at a Downing Street press briefing on Dec. 15 that people should consider cutting back socialising around Christmas. The prime minister stopped short of matching Whitty’s warning but urged people to “think carefully” before attending celebrations.
Greg Parmley, chief executive of industry body Live, said on Dec. 16 that the “lockdown by stealth” is “pushing the live music sector to the edge.”
“We are now facing a crippling blow as individual venues scramble to cover the spiralling costs of COVID-related cancellations, which will inevitably result in permanent closures,” he said, adding that the government must offer financial assistance to save the sector.
Liam Halligan, columnist for The Telegraph, also described the current situation as a “lockdown by stealth,” and argued that it’s being “driven by politics rather than science.”
“I would be amazed, and I’m sorry to say this, if Boris Johnson didn’t tighten his restrictions in England in response to [Scottish First Minister] Nicola Sturgeon doing the same in Scotland,” he said in a podcast released on Dec. 16.
During a visit to a vaccination centre in Kent, Johnson denied imposing a “lockdown by stealth.”
The prime minister told broadcasters that the situation was “very different” from last year, as the country now has “the additional protection of the vaccines” and more testing capacity.
“So if you want to do something, if you want to go to an event or a party, then the sensible thing to do, if that’s a priority, the sensible thing to do is to get a test and to make sure that you’re being cautious,” he said.
“But we’re not saying that we want to cancel stuff, we’re not locking stuff down, and the fastest route back to normality is to get boosted.”
The government has also had to fend off accusations from its own backbench Conservative MPs that scientific advisers are now “running the show.”
Commenting on Whitty’s suggestion that socialising should be curtailed, Conservative MP Steve Brine said in the House of Commons on Dec. 16: “At a stroke, the chief medical officer changed government policy and put this country, certainly hospitality … into effective lockdown.”
He said advisers “are now running the show,” but “I bet none of them run a business facing complete ruin as a result of what was said last night.”
Joy Morrissey, another Tory MP, wrote on Twitter that Whitty is acting as if Britain is a “public health socialist state.”
Downing Street rejected Morrissey’s claim. The prime minister’s official spokesman said: “Professor Whitty is a hugely respected and trusted public servant who provides independent, evidence-based advice. I think he himself has been clear that he provides advice and it is rightly for ministers and elected politicians to decide.”
PA contributed to this report.