- “In England, as soon as the cameras go out, the politicians remove their masks”, indignant a user in a widely relayed tweet, accompanied by a screenshot of the British House of Commons.
- The screenshot shows a session on December 1, where the wearing of the mask was not mandatory.
- Some MPs briefly approached to talk, breaking the rules of physical distancing.
Parliamentarians who break the rules? This is what suggests a tweet shared more than 1,700 times since Monday. On the screenshot, a little less than a dozen British MPs seem to be moving closer to each other.
In caption, the author of the tweet, under a pseudonym, specifies, wrongly, that “in England, as soon as the cameras go out, the politicians take off their masks… !!! “.
The screenshot is authentic: it comes from a session of Parliament that took place on December 1, 2020. Available on the Parliament’s website, it starts from the nineteenth minute. We can see that the deputies came together very briefly – less than a minute – to exchange a few words.
MPs were voting that day on a motion on public health care. They first voted orally. As the outcome of the vote could not be determined by this means, they were invited to vote on leaving the room, it is at this time that some met.
Contrary to what the viral tweet indicates, wearing a mask is not compulsory inside the Chamber. Wearing a mask in England was then compulsory only inside certain closed places open to the public, in public transport and taxis as well as in places falling under the British health service.
No more than 50 deputies at a time
In order to limit interactions, the deputies cannot be more than 50 inside the Chamber at a time, which allows them, in theory, to respect a minimum of two meters of distance from each other.
On December 1, only deputies who had certified that they could not travel for health reasons were authorized to intervene remotely. Since December 30, this possibility has been extended to all elected officials.
A cross search to go back to the origin of the video
To find the origin of this capture, a reverse image search, which we regularly recommend in this section, was not sufficient. The results pointed to other sessions of the British Parliament.
There were a few clues on the screenshot allowing it to be dated: on the ground, markings aimed at separating the deputies are visible. They were installed because of the pandemic. Another strong visual marker is the three women in red jackets, while a man resembling Boris Johnson can be seen in the middle of the image with his hands in his pockets.
An English search on Twitter returned us to a video clip of the sequence. The user who shared it on February 6 told us that he recorded it on December 1, from another tweet. Although we were unable to locate a video tweet dated December 1, we did find
a viral tweet dated today, with the screenshot. The caption of the tweet seems to indicate that the image was captured on the same day.
In parallel, we identified one of the three women with a red jacket. This is Munira Wilson, an elected Liberal Democrat. A search of the Parliament Channel website confirms that it was present on December 1. She did speak twice during this session and will not come out until after her colleagues. Boris Johnson, meanwhile, was present during this vote.
Eleanor Laing, the Speaker of the House, had already called to order a month before some deputies who had momentarily forgotten the rules of physical distancing.