LONDON – The father of British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has defended his decision to fly to Greece via Bulgaria in order to “COVID-proof” his property there before he potentially rents it out.
With a towel draped over his shoulder, Stanley Johnson told reporters Friday on a dirt track outside his villa on Mount Pelion that he wasn’t “100% up to speed” on the British public's reaction since he went to Greece for “a quiet time, to organize the house.”
The trip has met with criticism for having violated — at the very least — the spirit of Greece’s coronavirus restrictions as well as the current travel guidance in the U.K.
The Greek government, which has been lauded for the country's comparatively low number of confirmed coronavirus cases and eager to salvage the summer tourist season, extended its ban on flights from the U.K. until July 15 amid concerns over Britain's still-high infection rates.
Many also think that the elder Johnson's trip to Greece via the Bulgarian capital of Sofia went against the overarching advice of Britain’s Foreign Office, which currently recommends avoiding ”all but essential” travel.
“All I can say is that it’s always a great joy to me, it’s such a great joy to me, to arrive in Greece,” Johnson said Friday.
He said he had “just one week to get everything organized” at the property ahead of July 15, the date he anticipates Greece will finally permit flights from the U.K.
On Friday, the British government said that starting July 10 it will scrap a requirement for people arriving from dozens of countries, including Greece, to spend 14 days in isolation.
Johnson said he is due to return to the U.K. on that date, meaning that under the new guidelines he won't have to quarantine himself.
He refused to be drawn into a discussion of whether his trip had caused problems for his son, who spent a week hospitalized with COVID-19 in April. Boris Johnson also refused Friday to be drawn into his father’s travel arrangements.
News of Stanley Johnson's trip came weeks after the British government faced a tide of anger over the revelation that the prime minister's chief aide, Dominic Cummings, traveled more than 250 miles (400 kilometers) from London to his parents’ home in northeast England in March when everyone but essential workers was urged to stay at home.
Many fear that word of Cummings' decision to venture out diluted the government's lockdown message and potentially could lead to people ignoring the government's standing guidelines and the virus spreading again. The U.K. has an official coronavirus-related death toll of more than 44,200, the world's third-highest behind the United States and Brazil.
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