Boris Johnson is said to have attended a “party” with No 10 staff during the first UK lockdown in May last year - and people are partly angry, partly exhausted.
The prime minister joined Downing Street officials for the apparent gathering, where he told one attendee they deserved a drink for “beating back” the virus, The Independent reported. The event in question is said to have been attended by 20 civil servants and advisers on May 15 inside No 10 and its garden.
At the time, Covid-19 rules prohibited people from different households from having large gatherings and restricted them to one-on-one meetings outdoors.
Furthermore, gatherings indoors were strictly forbidden.
Perhaps more frustrating is the fact that the alleged party took place on the same day then health secretary Matt Hancock held a televised press conference, where he pointed out the tragic 384 coronavirus deaths that had been recorded in the previous 24 hours.
He also noted a gentle easing of restrictions.
In a joint investigation by The Independent and The Guardian, sources claimed that staff who attended drank alcohol such as wine, beer, and cola mixed with spirits and ate pizza.
One source in attendance told the outlets that aides had planned in advance to stay on for drinks, feeling in need to celebrate as restrictions were loosened.
The prime minister is said to have been in attendance for around 15 minutes, where he apparently told an attendee inside they deserved their beverage for “beating back” the virus.
Just days earlier on May 10, Johnson addressed the nation’s increasing scrutiny on those who broke coronavirus safety rules. He is on the record for saying: “You must obey the rules on social distancing, and to enforce those rules we will increase the fines for the small minority who break them.”
One thing is enough for many to go, but Johnson and co, how many? https://t.co/KYSCRWGnCM
— Peter O’Hanraha-hanrahan 💙 (@Peter O’Hanraha-hanrahan 💙)
A No 10 spokesman said: “In the summer months Downing Street staff regularly use the garden for some meetings.
“On May 15 2020 the Prime Minister held a series of meetings throughout the afternoon, including briefly with the then health and care secretary and his team in the garden following a press conference.
“The Prime Minister went to his residence shortly after 7pm.
“A small number of staff required to be in work remained in the Downing Street garden for part of the afternoon and evening.”
The Independent reported that Hancock was present at one point during the event, according to a witness.
However, a spokesperson for Hancock denied the allegations and said: “Matt arrived at Downing Street at 4:43pm and gave the press conference that evening on lifting lockdown measures.
“After the press conference, which finished at approximately 5:53pm, Matt debriefed his own team, then went to the Downing Street garden to debrief the prime minister. He left Downing Street at 6:32pm and went back to the Department of Health and Social Care.”