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UK PM refuses to quit over illegal COVID-19 lockdown parties

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson leaves 10 Downing Street for Prime Minister's Questions in London, Britain, Jan. 12, 2022. (Photo by Tim Ireland/Xinhua)

Written by senior civil servant Sue Gray, the damning 37-page report describes booze-fueled parties attended by large numbers of people, which broke lockdown rules imposed by the government. "Many of these events should not have been allowed to happen," Gray's report underlines. "The senior leadership…must bear responsibility for this culture."

LONDON, May 25 (Xinhua) -- British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has taken full responsibility for parties held at his Downing Street office that broke COVID-19 rules, but is refusing to resign over the scandal.

A much-anticipated report commissioned by the government, published on Wednesday, investigates 16 events held at Downing Street in 2020 and 2021.

Written by senior civil servant Sue Gray, the damning 37-page report describes booze-fueled parties attended by large numbers of people, which broke lockdown rules imposed by the government.

"Many of these events should not have been allowed to happen," Gray's report underlines. "The senior leadership…must bear responsibility for this culture."

"Those in the most junior positions attended gatherings at which their seniors were present," she adds.

The closed Tower Millennium Pier is seen in London, Britain, on Jan. 5, 2021. (Xinhua/Han Yan)

Johnson attended some of the events, including a surprise birthday party organized for him on June 19, 2020, for which he received a fine from the Metropolitan Police (Met).

Last week, The Met wrapped up its own inquiry into lockdown breaches at Downing Street, issuing a total of 126 fines to 83 people.

Speaking to lawmakers at the weekly Prime Minister's Questions (PMQs) session in the House of Commons (lower house of Parliament) after the Sue Gray report was published, Johnson said he took "full responsibility for everything that took place under my watch."

However, he added that he had been as "surprised and disappointed as anyone else in this House at the revelations."

Johnson's political opponents have renewed their calls for his resignation now that both investigations on the lockdown parties have been published.

A boy walks next to the National COVID Memorial Wall in London, Britain, March 27, 2022. (Xinhua/Li Ying)

Referring to a "catalogue of criminality" exposed in Gray's report, Labour leader Keir Starmer said it was time for Johnson "to pack his bags" and "restore dignity" to the office of the prime minister.

"They pretend that the Prime Minister has somehow been exonerated, as if the fact that he only broke the law once is worthy of praise," said the opposition leader.

"The truth is they set the bar for his conduct lower than a snake's belly and now they expect the rest of us to congratulate him as he stumbles over it," he added. ■