Boris Johnson joined No 10 workers for a party in Downing Road during the primary lockdown in May final 12 months, sources have alleged, elevating questions on whether or not there was a tradition of flouting the principles over quite a few months.
The prime minister spent about quarter-hour with workers on the alleged social gathering on 15 May 2020, telling one aide inside No 10 that they deserved a drink for “beating again” coronavirus, a joint investigation by the Guardian and Unbiased was instructed.
Sources claimed about 20 workers drank wine and spirits and ate pizza following a press convention on that day, some in workplaces inside No 10 and others going into the backyard. Some workers stayed ingesting till late into the night, they alleged.
Guidelines on the time allowed solely two folks from completely different households to satisfy exterior, at a distance of two metres. Earlier that night, Matt Hancock, then well being secretary, had urged folks to “keep at house as a lot as is feasible” and requested them to “please follow the principles, keep watch over your loved ones and don’t take dangers” during the interval of fine climate.
The claims comply with a string of stories about comparable alleged occasions in Downing Road and elsewhere during the next lockdown final Christmas, and suggests guidelines might need been damaged over a sequence of months.
The 15 May gathering, at which some aides allegedly stayed ingesting till late within the night, adopted a Covid press convention at 5pm, led that day by Hancock.
The sources mentioned Hancock was additionally seen on the occasion, which was described as having a “celebratory” really feel given the preliminary loosening of some restrictions and the nice climate in London that day.
Whereas sources claimed each Johnson and Hancock have been current for a short while when workers and aides have been ingesting, there isn’t any suggestion they drank themselves, or stayed late.
Requested about Johnson’s remark about “beating again” the virus, and his presence on the alleged party at which No 10 workers have been ingesting and socialising, his official spokesperson mentioned: “In the summertime months Downing Road workers recurrently use the backyard for some conferences. On 15 May 2020 the prime minister held a sequence of conferences all through the afternoon, together with briefly with the then well being and care secretary and his workforce within the backyard following a press convention.
“The prime minister went to his residence shortly after 7pm. A small variety of workers required to be in work remained within the Downing Road backyard for a part of the afternoon and night.”
A spokesperson for Hancock described the sources’ claims as “not true”. “After the press convention, which completed at roughly 5.53pm, Matt debriefed his personal workforce, then went to the Downing Road backyard to debrief the prime minister. He left Downing Road at 6.32pm and went again to the Division for Well being and Social Care,” Hancock’s spokesperson mentioned.
On the press convention, the place he was joined by Jenny Harries, on the time the deputy chief medical officer for England, Hancock delivered a message of caution.
The opening statements famous that England remained within the second-highest degree of Covid alert, 4, with 10,700 folks in hospital with the virus and 384 coronavirus deaths recorded that day.
Hancock urged folks to maintain to the slight rest in lockdown. “This weekend, with the nice climate and the brand new guidelines, I hope folks can take pleasure in being exterior however please follow the principles, keep watch over your loved ones and don’t take dangers,” he mentioned.
The claims are an additional blow to Johnson, who’s reeling from stories detailing a sequence of obvious lockdown-breaching events final winter, and has been broadly mocked for insisting no guidelines have been damaged.
Amongst these was an alleged party on 18 December 2020, a time when all indoor social mixing in London was prohibited, involving wine and cheese and workers swapping “secret Santa” presents.
Downing Road denied the occasion had occurred, a stance undermined when video footage emerged of No 10 officers joking in regards to the occasion 4 days later. Allegra Stratton, Johnson’s former press secretary, resigned as spokesperson for Cop26 within the ensuing furore.
Johnson can be recognized to have attended an earlier occasion, on 27 November final 12 months, believed to have been an impromptu leaving do for an aide, Cleo Watson.