Under pressure in the Commons – after it was revealed he overruled the chief medical officer, who said it was too early to cut the level from 4 to 3 – the prime minister denied breaking his own rules.
“He knows perfectly well that the alert level does allow it,” he told Keir Starmer.
However, health chiefs said the level should remain at 4, meaning transmission of the virus is “high or rising exponentially” – and carrying the instruction: “Current social distancing measures and restrictions.”
The controversy was reignited as the Labour leader and the prime minister clashed fiercely over his handling of the pandemic, in a bad-tempered session.
Sir Keir accused Mr Johnson of ignoring his offer of co-operation on school reopening – while the prime minister claimed his opponent had “thoroughly endorsed our approach” in a private phone call.