Johnson’s father defends decision to fly to Greece via Bulgaria

Updated 05 Jul 2020

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Stanley Johnson, father of Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson, speaks with local reporters outside his Villa Irene in Horto village, Mount Pelion in central Greece on July 3. — AP
Stanley Johnson, father of Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson, speaks with local reporters outside his Villa Irene in Horto village, Mount Pelion in central Greece on July 3. — AP

LONDON: British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s father has defended his decision to fly to Greece via Bulgaria in order to Covid-proof his property there before he potentially rents it out.

Stanley Johnson, the father of British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, has defended his widely criticised decision to fly to Greece via Bulgaria in order to Covid-proof his property ahead of potentially letting it out.

With a towel draped over his shoulder, Stanley Johnson told reporters on Friday on a dirt track outside his villa on Mount Pelion that he wasn’t 100 per cent up to speed on the British public’s reaction since he went to Greece for a quiet time, to organise the house.

The trip has met with criticism for having violated at the very least the spirit of Greece’s coronavirus restrictions.

Trip was criticised for having violated Greece’s coronavirus restrictions

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 UK 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 on Friday.

He said he had just one week to get everything organised at the property ahead of July 15, the date he anticipates Greece will finally permit flights from the UK.

On Friday, the British government said that starting on 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 UK 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 hospitalised with Covid-19 in April. Boris Johnson also refused on 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 400km from London to his parent’s 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 UK has an official coronavirus-related death toll of more than 44,200, the world’s third-highest behind the United States and Brazil.

Published in Dawn, July 5th, 2020