The Sky News anchor Kay Burley has been taken off air for six months, after she hosted a London-hopping birthday party that broke coronavirus regulations.
Sky’s hugely-respected political editor, Beth Rigby, and north of England correspondent Inzamam Rashid have also agreed to not be on air for three months.
In a statement, Sky said that “all those involved regret the incident and have apologised”. It is a huge upheaval at Sky, robbing the channel of its most prominent presenter and lead political reporter on the brink of Brexit and in the midst of coronavirus.
Burley admitted breaking Covid-19 restrictions with the party – but claimed to have done so by “popping in” to a restaurant because she needed to “spend a penny”.
But, in reality, she was part of a group of 10 that dined at two tables, of six and four, in one venue before moving on to another. A group of four then went on to her home.
“Everyone at Sky News is expected to comply with the rules and the company takes breaches like this very seriously indeed,” Sky said.
Writing on Twitter in response to the news, Burley said: “I have today agreed with Sky News to step back from my broadcasting role for a period of reflection.
“It’s clear to me that we are all in the fight against Covid-19 and that we all have a duty to stick firmly by the rules.
“It doesn’t matter that I thought I was Covid-compliant on a recent social event. The fact is I was wrong, I made a big mistake and I am sorry.
“Some dear friends and colleagues – some of the most talented and committed professionals in our businesses – have been pulled into this episode and I regret this enormously.
“I was one of the founding presenters on Sky News. No one is prouder of our channel’s reputation, the professionals on our team, and the impact we make.
“I very much look forward to being able to continue my 32-year career with Sky when I return.”