While Number 10 has confirmed the quiz was virtual, the prime minister is shown close to two other officials at a time when London was under tier 2 restrictions, which banned social mixing.
The story, broken by the Mirror’s political editor Pippa Crerar, is the latest allegation of Covid rule-breaking facing Number 10, following the release of a video showing staff joking about a “fictional” Christmas party while London was in lockdown in December 2020.
The clip, leaked by ITV News earlier this week, showed Johnson aide Allegra Stratton laughing after being asked about a supposed festive bash four days earlier.
The outlet also reported that staff at the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) “drank into the night” in the private office of minister Thérèse Coffey – again, allegedly at a time when that sort of thing was not allowed.
Responding to the latest reports, a Number 10 spokesman told The Mirror: “This was a virtual quiz. Downing Street staff were often required to be in the office to work on the pandemic response, so those who were in the office for work may have attended virtually from their desks.
“The prime minister briefly took part virtually in a quiz to thank staff for their hard work throughout the year.”
The Department for Education admitted to a “gathering”, with a spokesperson saying: “On December 10 2020 a gathering of colleagues who were already present at the office – and who had worked together throughout the pandemic, as they couldn’t work from home – took place in the DfE office building in London at a time when the city was subject to Tier 2 restrictions.
“The gathering was used to thank those staff for their efforts during the pandemic. Drinks and snacks were brought by those attending and no outside guests or supporting staff were invited or present.
“While this was work-related, looking back we accept it would have been better not to have gathered in this way at that particular time.”
Regarding the DWP claims, the Independent reports that a spokesman said: “Throughout the pandemic, DWP officials have followed Government guidance while continuing to deliver vital services for millions of people.
“Staff worked from home where possible but a core team working directly to the Secretary of State regularly worked from the office, in accordance with the Covid-19 rules as they evolved.
“The team regularly worked late into the evening and on a number of occasions they ate takeaway food and drank some alcohol. No karaoke took place.”
A Treasury spokesperson claimed to the Independent that the department “has followed Government guidance throughout the pandemic”.
They added: “We are not aware of any events in breach of Government regulations and the Treasury did not organise an in-person departmental party last Christmas.”
But separately, regarding the incident in November, they confirmed to The Times: “In line with the guidance at the time, a number of staff came into the office to work on the Spending Review 2020.
“We have been made aware that a small number of those staff had impromptu drinks around their desks after the event.”