Boris, curbing virus key to staying in power - GulfToday

Boris, curbing virus key to staying in power

Boris Johnson

Boris Johnson

Amid a spiral of Omicron cases in Europe and other parts of the world, if there is one nation that is virtually in a flap, it is Britain. Already, it has been facing the receiving end of the virus fallout from France, which has barred British tourists from its shores.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson is in an unenviable position. He faced a humiliating electoral defeat in an electoral bastion, North Shropshire, it held sway over for 200 years. Johnson said he took personal responsibility for the loss. The defeat showed utter dismay of the masses and stepped up pressure on the British prime minister from mutinous lawmakers.

On the virus front, he is up a gum tree. He apologised after a video emerged showing key aides joking about a Downing Street Christmas party in possible breach of COVID-19 rules last year – just as his government readies more restrictions.

Last year, he got a pasting from several ministers and parliamentarians over the government’s gradual reopening of the economy, according to a report. The Boris administration had been pitching for a faster end to coronavirus lockdown curbs, in a bid to give a fillip to the hotel industry.

In an apparent bid to placate his opponents, he said he would take more measures to stem the spread of the Omicron coronavirus variant if needed, after the Netherlands began a fourth lockdown and as other European nations consider Christmas curbs.

Speaking after the UK media reported Britain might impose new curbs after Christmas, Johnson said the situation was “extremely difficult” and hospitalisations were rising steeply in London.

Omicron infections are rapidly going north across Europe and the United States. But what is alarming is that they are doubling every two or three days in London and elsewhere and taking a heavy toll on financial markets, which fear the impact on the global economic recovery.

The variant was first detected last month in southern Africa and Hong Kong and so far been reported in at least 89 countries. The severity of illness it causes remains unclear.

Any decision to limit how people can celebrate Christmas would come at a high political cost for Johnson, whose authority has been eroded by questions over whether he and his staff broke lockdown rules last year.

Asked about speculation that the government would ban indoor socialising and limit tourism, Johnson said: “I can certainly say we’re looking at all kinds of keep Omicron under control, and we will rule nothing out.”

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte announced a shutdown on Saturday, ordering the closure of all but essential stores, apart from restaurants, hairdressers, gyms, and museums until at least Jan.14. Germany plans to limit private gatherings from Dec.28 to a maximum of 10 people who have been vaccinated or recovered from COVID-19, according to a draft of proposed steps. The document also said access to restaurants would remain limited to people who could provide proof of vaccination or recovery.

Ireland on Friday ordered bars and restaurants to close at 8pm and reduced the capacity in all public events. Italy is also considering new measures, newspapers reported on Sunday.

More than 274 million people have been reported to be infected by the coronavirus globally since the first cases were identified in China in December 2019. More than 5.65 million people have died.

The World Economic Forum on Monday postponed its annual meeting in Davos due to the spread of Omicron, putting off the event scheduled for January until mid-2022.

Boris cannot afford to be cavalier about the coronavirus. His stay in power seems to be linked to his ability to control the staying power of the virus. After all, it is the health of the people that is of paramount importance.

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