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Nonsense that UK PM Johnson lied about lockdown party: Deputy PM Raab

A claim by a former senior adviser to Boris Johnson that the British prime minister lied to parliament about not knowing about a lockdown party in Downing Street is nonsense, his deputy said on Tuesday.

Asked if the prime minister’s premiership was over if it could be proved that he had lied to parliament, Deputy Prime Minister Dominic Raab said: “Look, the suggestion that he’s lied is nonsense.

“He’s made it very clear to the House of Commons, took questions on this, that he thought it was a work event,” he told Times Radio.

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Johnson last week apologized to parliament for attending a “bring your own booze” gathering in the garden of Downing Street on May 20, 2020, but said he had thought it was a work event.

Dominic Cummings, an architect of Britain’s departure from the European Union and a former senior adviser to Johnson who left government under acrimonious terms in November 2020, said that Johnson had agreed that the drinks party should go ahead.

“Not only me but other eyewitnesses who discussed this at the time would swear under oath this is what happened,” he said on his blog.

Asked if Johnson should resign if he had lied, Raab said he would not speculate about hypotheticals.

Johnson’s apology came after ITV News published an email invitation from Johnson’s Principal Private Secretary Martin Reynolds to a May 20, 2020 event, asking attendees to “bring your own booze.”

Cummings said that after Reynolds was told to cancel the invite by at least two people, Reynolds checked with Johnson if it should go ahead.

“The PM agreed it should,” Cummings said in his blog.

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Senior civil servant Sue Gray is investigating about a dozen allegations of rule-breaking by Johnson, his team and officials at his 10 Downing Street official residence. Senior ministers have said people needed to wait for the conclusion of her inquiry.

However, the scandals have seen Johnson’s personal ratings plummet and support for his Conservative Party has sunk in opinion polls. A growing number of Conservative lawmakers have said he should now resign.

“I will be calling for action against anyone who has been found to have broken the rules,” junior health minister Maria Caulfield said on her website.

“It is clear that there was a culture inside Number 10 where even if rules were not technically broken, the spirit of the rules were, and this is completely unacceptable.”

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North Korea’s fever cases under 200,000 for second day amid silence on aid offer

North Korea's daily fever cases stayed below 200,000 for a second day in a row, state media said on Monday, as Pyongyang remained silent on South Korean and US offers to help fight its first confirmed COVID-19 outbreak.

The COVID wave, declared on May 12, has fuelled concerns over a lack of vaccines, inadequate medical infrastructure and a potential food crisis in the country of 25 million.

US President Joe Biden said on Saturday that Washington had offered COVID-19 vaccines to China and North Korea, but “got no response.”

North Korea reported 167,650 new patients suffering from fever on Monday and one more death. More than 2.33 million of the 2.81 million cumulative cases reported since late April had recovered as of Sunday evening, the North's state news agency KCNA said. The official death toll stands at 68.

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While staying silent on the offer for help, North Korea has boasted of a “favorable turn” in the country's virus situation.

“The crisis and responsibility awareness is further enhanced in every region, sector, workplace and post across the country to maintain the favorable turn in the epidemic prevention work and all inroads of the epidemic are checked through the strict execution of regional and unit lockdown and blockade measures,” the KCNA said.

Such COVID-19 restrictions may be playing a role in North Korea's lack of response, a senior US administration official said Sunday.

Apparently deprived of testing supplies, North Korea has not confirmed the total number of people testing positive for the coronavirus. Instead, health authorities report the number with fever symptoms, making it difficult to assess the scale of the COVID wave, experts have said.

Authorities have distributed food and medicine across the country, with military medics deployed to help distribute drugs and conduct exams.

KCNA said pharmaceutical factories “are speeding up the production,” but did not elaborate which medicines were being produced.

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Beijing city reports 63 new local COVID-19 cases over 24 hours

Beijing reported 63 new domestically transmitted COVID-19 infections during the 24 hours to 3 p.m. (0700 GMT) on Saturday, a disease control official at the Chinese capital said.

Of the infections, 56 were found in controlled areas and seven during community screening tests, Liu Xiaofeng, deputy director at Beijing Center for Disease Prevention and Control, told a news briefing.

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The city has recorded 1,399 COVID infections since April 22, Liu said.

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Biden says US has offered N.Korea COVID-19 vaccines but ‘got no response’

US President Joe Biden said Saturday that America had offered North Korea COVID-19 vaccines but “got no response” despite a spiraling epidemic in the isolated country.

“We've offered vaccines, not only to North Korea but to China as well and we're prepared to do that immediately," he said at a press conference in Seoul.

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“We've got no response,” he added.

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