The Metropolitan Police has today confirmed that it has launched an official investigation into “a number of events” in Downing Street and Whitehall over potential breaches of COVID-19 regulations.
Police Commissioner Cressida Dick confirmed the investigation this morning.
Explaining that the decision to investigate was made as a result of information provided by the Cabinet Office investigation into the gatherings and the “own assessment” of police officers, Commissioner Dick said: “I can confirm that the Met is now investigating a number of events that took place at Downing Street and Whitehall in the last two years in relation to potential breaches of COVID-19 regulations.”
She said the Met would “police without fear or favour”, and provide updates “at significant points” in its inquiry.
Alongside the police investigation, a Cabinet Office spokesperson said the inquiry into the alleged government lockdown breaches – which is being led by senior civil servant Sue Gray – “is continuing”.
They said that there is “ongoing contact” with the Met.
Even before last weekend’s insane scenes, which left people ‘trapped’ inside a multi-storey, Transport for Greater Manchester (TfGM) had issued some travel advice.
They said that the same weekend last year saw an 11% increase in peak journey times, with between 3pm and 7pm the busiest part of the day.
The first weekend of the Christmas Markets this year reportedly led to a 7% increase in vehicles around the city centre.
TfGM encouraged people to use public transport or active travel wherever possible, predicting a massive upswing in visitor numbers coming to the city to shop, eat, drink, attend concerts and see the Christmas Markets.
TfGM outlined a few options available to cope with the increase in trips in the festive season.
There are thousands of free park and ride sites around Greater Manchester’s Metrolink network, with family tickets offering travel for one to three children and one or two adults from as little as £3.60.
The new bus fare cap is in place now too, so a single trip will never cost more than £2 (or £1 for a child).
Congestion has increased in the city centre and inner ring road, with car trips returning back to pre-pandemic levels and some big road layouts that leave less space for cars (like the pedestrianisation of the Northern Quarter).
Travel advice for drivers is as follows:
Drive at a quieter time – this means avoiding driving to and around the city after 12pm on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays and between 3pm and 7pm during the week.
Know where road congestion may be – our data shows that journeys along the Mancunian Way typically have higher journey times during the week, and journeys along the northern section of the Inner Ring Road (Great Ancoats Street) have higher journey times at the weekend.
Take a different route – if you need to drive across the city at the weekend, it may be quicker to use Alan Turing Way/Mancunian Way.
Park on the same side of the city as your route if you can – driving across the city can add additional time to your journey, so if it’s an option for you, park in a car park closest to your route out of the city centre.
Check for quicker routes before every car journey on Google, Waze and other Apps. You can also use TfGM’s journey planner.
TfGM’s Get on Board Christmas campaign has helpfully mapped out festive offerings around the region – from food to free things to family activities – and includes travel advice on how to get there.
TfGM’s Head of Highways, Peter Boulton, said: “We want everyone coming to enjoy the many great attractions that the city centre and Trafford Centre have to offer to enjoy the festivities and have a great time.
“The number of trips on our roads is back to where they were before the pandemic and that is leading to added congestion at key times – which means more people stuck in traffic.
“To avoid this, we’d encourage people to plan their journey by thinking about how they plan to get in, around and out of the city centre.
“Public transport is a great option, with frequent services and great value products as well as plenty of staff and information on hand to help you plan the perfect journey.”
Councillor Tracey Rawlins, Executive Member for Environment and Transport at Manchester City Council, said: “It has been great to see people returning to Manchester to enjoy what the festive season has to offer.
“We are expecting it to be increasingly busy the closer we get to Christmas which is why we’d urge people to plan ahead before they travel and stay up to date with the region’s transport network through the TfGM website.
“We’d encourage people to use public transport as much as possible when travelling into Manchester as it is the most environmentally friendly method, as well as the best way of beating the traffic.”
Army ‘on standby’ as UK prepares for more postal, rail, lecturer and nurses strikes in December
The armed forces are said to be “on standby” to help fill various roles ahead of a new raft of strikes across health, education and postal sectors this month.
Royal Mail workers, university lecturers and sixth-form college staff are committed to walking out over pay disputes on Wednesday, 30 November as various organised strikes persist across the country.
Countless employees from various industries who feel they are underappreciated and underpaid are set to join the ongoing rail strikes, as well as the thousands of nurses expected to follow suit on the picket line throughout December.
Now, as per the interim chief executive of NHS Providers Saffron Cordery, given the strikes’ proximity to Christmas, roping in the British military now seems likely. Dr Emma Runswick of the British Medical Association said there is there a simple way to put an end to mass industrial action: pay people fairly.
Speaking to Sky News on Thursday morning, Cordery confirmed that while the army is waiting in the wings to help fill relevant NHS roles, “the reality is if the army or other armed forces step in it will very much be at the margins rather than going out and driving ambulances”.
It remains unclear whether army personnel will be needed to combat the impending labour shortage across other industries. Regardless, the Communication Workers Union are going ahead will a series of strikes in December.
Having formally called on Royal Mail employees to join the national demonstrations for strike action on the following days:
Friday, 9 December
Sunday, 11 December
Wednesday, 14 December
Thursday, 15 December
Friday, 23 December
Saturday, 24 December
As for rail workers, RMT Assistant General Secretary Eddie Dempsey shared a similar sentiment, assuring that while the train drivers and the transport sector, in general, are standing firm, negotiations with Network Rail and other operators continue this week.
In addition to RMT members across 14 rail companies striking on 13-14 and 16-17 December, as well as 3-4 and 6-7 January, the Transport Salaried Staffs’ Association (TSSA) said that staff working onboard and station roles will take action against Avanti West Coast on 13, 14, 16 and 17 December.
Meanwhile, the National Education Union (NEU) which represents 77 sixth-form colleges in England are also striking over pay, stating that in real terms, teachers have suffered a pay cut of around 20% since 2010.
Furthermore, the University and College Union (UCU) already held a 48-hour strike last week and is now set to hold another 24-hour walkout among university staff. As well as organising a large rally in London, union members across at least 150 different institutions will be joining the December strikes.