London's Metropolitan Police have launched an investigation into parties held at British Prime Minister Boris Johnson's Downing Street office and residence during the coronavirus pandemic.
In a U-turn on Tuesday, Met Commissioner Cressida Dick said they were looking into "potential breaches of COVID-19 regulations" in Downing Street and Whitehall.
The police chief acknowledged deep public concern about allegations of lockdown parties in breach of the government's own COVID guidelines.The London police had previously faced sharp criticism for rejecting calls to look into the claims.
The announcement came shortly after the latest disclosure that an event was held during a lockdown to celebrate Johnson's birthday on June 19, 2020, when indoor gatherings were banned. A string of such revelations has prompted the worst crisis of Johnson's premiership and calls from across the political spectrum for him to quit.
The Labour and other opposition parties are upping pressure on Johnson to quit over the Downing Street parties scandal. Others are stepping up pressure on colleagues to submit letters of no confidence in the prime minister. Some of his 359 Conservative Party lawmakers have so far called for him to resign.
Johnson's office, however, described the latest party as a brief gathering by staff to wish him happy birthday. A spokesman said on Tuesday that Johnson, who has survived scandals throughout his career, did not believe he had broken the law over any of the gatherings.
But reports that he and his staff were flouting the rules they imposed on the British public have seen Johnson's ratings plunge.