A number of parties were held in Downing Street in the run-up to Christmas last year as indoor mixing was banned in London under COVID restrictions, according to Sky News.
Following reports that a a big party took place at the end of December, it also emerged that the staff at No. 10 met after work and drank alcohol to relax, despite the rules stating that mixing between domestic bubbles was prohibited.
On December 18, 40 people attended a party in Downing Street, where staff drank, chatted and celebrated late into the night, according to a report in The Mirror newspaper.
Sky News understands that those at this party are indulging in games, food and drink.
It was reported as a Christmas party, but a government aide said he was summoned to say goodbye to a colleague working in Downing Street who was moving to a new role elsewhere.
On December 16, two days before the big Downing Street party took place, London moved to Level 3 restrictions, where all indoor mixing was banned unless individuals were in domestic bubbles.
The day after this supposedly party, the Prime Minister abandoned plans to authorize Xmas mix for families in the middle of the climb COVID number of cases and a few days later a new lockdown was in effect.
What were the restrictions for level 3?
Two days before the second Downing Street party supposedly took place, London moved to Level 3 restrictions where all indoor mixing was prohibited unless individuals were in domestic bubbles.
This was due to a rapid rise in COVID-19 infections due to the emergence of the variant now called Alpha, which was first identified in Kent in November of last year.
Under the restrictions, pubs and restaurants were forced to close, except for take out and delivery, and affected some 34 million people living in London and other parts of England , especially in Essex and Hertfordshire.
Former Health Secretary Matt Hancock said at the time that the UK variant of the coronavirus was associated with faster spread in southern England.
Level 3 rules also meant that sports fans could not attend events in stadiums. Meanwhile, indoor entertainment venues – such as theaters, bowling alleys and cinemas – had to remain closed.
Downing Street insisted that no rules were broken during the period.
Pressed by staff at rallies held throughout the period, a spokesperson for Number 10 said, “COVID rules were followed at all times.”
On Tuesday, Downing Street was forced to deny claims that Boris Johnson broke coronavirus rules with the holidays at number 10 last Christmas after the Mirror newspaper claimed the prime minister gave a speech during a departure on November 27 – when the country was in the second confinement.
The Prime Minister’s spokesperson reiterated Wednesday during a regular briefing with journalists that “at all stages, the rules have been respected”.
The original story claimed Mr Johnson did not attend the December event hosted by members of his best team.
A spokeswoman for the Prime Minister’s wife, Carrie Johnson, denied throwing the party or hosting parties at the couple’s apartment while restrictions were in place.
“This is total nonsense. Ms Johnson has always followed the rules of the coronavirus and it is categorically wrong to suggest otherwise,” she told the Mirror.
Downing Street staff are and always have been classified as key workers, with members working long hours to deal with the pandemic.
Labor has said the allegations suggest it is “one rule for them, another for everyone”.
Polling Mr Johnson on the Prime Minister’s Questions reports on Wednesday, Sir Keir Starmer accused him of organizing a “boozy party” in number 10 last Christmas despite the COVID rules that were in place at the time.
The Labor leader said Mr Johnson “took the British public for fools”, but the Prime Minister said “all guidelines have been fully followed”.
“The defense seems to be that no rules have been broken. Well I have the rules that were in place at the time, Prime Minister, of this party, they are very clear,” Sir Keir said.
âYou don’t have to have lunch or a Christmas party at work. Does the Prime Minister really expect the country to believe that even though people were banned from seeing their loved ones on Christmas last year, Was it okay for him and his friends to throw a boozy party in Downing Street? “
Mr Johnson replied: “I said what I said about number 10 and the events of 12 months ago, but since he is asking what we are asking the country to do this year, this which I think is, frankly, more relevant consideration. “
The original Mirror report claimed that about “40 or 50” people were crammed “play by play” into a room at number 10 for both events.
Last November, the whole country was plunged into a second national lockdown for four weeks.
As a result, everyone was encouraged to work from home whenever possible, and indoor socialization was prohibited.
The revelations come after the Prime Minister rejected the idea that the Christmas holidays should be cut this year due to the news Omicron variant.
Earlier, Chief Health Officer Dr Jenny Harries warned people should cut back on socializing during the holiday season to curb future COVID infections.
Ms Harries said everyone can do their part by reducing the amount of social contact they have – and “not socializing when we don’t particularly need it”.
But the PM rejected Dr Harries’ appeal, insisting he had already put in place a set of “balanced and proportionate measures” in response to the threat posed by the new Omicron variant.
Speaking at a press conference in Downing Street, Mr Johnson said: ‘We don’t want people to cancel events like this and we overwhelmingly believe that the best thing for children is to be in school, as I have said many times throughout this pandemic.
“What we are doing is trying to take a balanced and proportionate approach to the particular risk that appears to be posed by Omicron – certainly posed by Omicron – focusing, in particular, on border measures. “
Identified cases of new Omicron variant in the UK rose to 32 on Wednesday, with the British Health Safety Agency (UKHSA) confirming that nine more cases have been identified in England and one more in Scotland.
The government said at 9 a.m. on Wednesday that there had been 48,374 more laboratory-confirmed COVID-19 cases in the UK and that 171 more people had died within 28 days of testing positive.
A total of 50,994,257 first doses of vaccine had been delivered to the UK as of November 30, according to government figures.