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‘Partygate’ investigation ends with more fines

LONDON –

Britain’s Metropolitan Police say it has concluded an investigation into breaches of COVID-19 regulations at UK government offices, including Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s official residence, and has issued a total plus 126 fines.

Police said on Thursday that they had issued fixed penalty notices to 53 men and 73 women for gatherings that took place on eight days in mid-May 2020, at the height of the pandemic. first outbreak in the UK and April 2021. Some people have received multiple fines.

The scandal, dubbed the “party affair” by the media, dealt a heavy blow to Johnson’s leadership.

The conclusion of the police investigation means that results from a separate investigation by a senior civil servant, Sue Grey, can now be made public. Government officials say the Gray report, which is being closely watched for the extent to which it censors Johnson and his Conservative government, will be released as soon as possible, although it is unlikely before next week.

Johnson apologized last month after he revealed he was among dozens of people who had paid police fines for attending parties and gatherings in violation of the illegal lockdown. That makes him the first British leader to be sanctioned for breaking the law while in office.

Disclosure that Johnson and other senior officials illegally congregated in government buildings – including enjoying “wine on Fridays” organized by Johnson employees – at regular times Millions of people in the country stuck with strict government restrictions to slow the spread of COVID-19 have angered voters and prompted calls for Johnson to step down.

A spokesman for Johnson said on Thursday that he would not receive any additional fines in lieu of what he paid.

“The Met has confirmed that it has taken no other action” against the prime minister, spokesman Max Blain said.

Police did not identify those fined, but Chief Financial Officer Rishi Sunak, as well as Johnson’s wife, Carrie, said they were among those fined along with Johnson for attending a birthday party for Prime Minister in June 2020.

Johnson has repeatedly apologized, but denied that he intentionally broke the rules. He insisted it “didn’t happen” to him that the gathering in his office, which he said lasted less than 10 minutes, was a party.

Opposition parties reiterated their calls for Johnson to step down and said Gray’s report should be made public immediately.

Keir Starmer, leader of the opposition Labor Party, said Johnson could have “no more hiding place” because of the “industrial scale breaking of the law” at government facilities.

“It reflects a culture and the prime minister sets that culture off,” he said.

Starmer himself also faces a police investigation into his own conduct during the pandemic – he has admitted to drinking beer and takeout curry with colleagues in April 2021 , when the UK is under restrictions on the coronavirus. Starmer emphasizes that meals are part of the workday and don’t break the rules.

The COVID-19 group Bereaved Family for Justice called the police fine a “terrible insult” to all those who have lost loved ones during the pandemic.

“The cost of almost half a million pounds on this investigation could have been spent on support services for bereavement. Instead, it was spent investigating our government, and all because of them. lied and didn’t admit they broke the law,” said Safiah Ngah, who lost her father to the virus in February 2021.

More than 177,000 people have died in the UK after testing positive for coronavirus, the highest number in Europe after Russia.

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