UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson is under severe political pressure for allegedly holding parties while the rest of the nation suffered under the first lockdown and other COVID restrictions in 2020. Although the Prime Minister has apologised for attending what he says was a ‘work event’, critics are not convinced of his innocence.
In light of the ongoing debate about the Prime Minister’s culpability, here’s a breakdown of the COVID rules the alleged parties could have broken.
May 20, 2020:
The first of alleged parties that Prime Minister Boris Johnson attended took place on May 20, 2020, when the UK was in its first lockdown. Johnson has acknowledged that a gathering did take place on the aforementioned date, and has apologised for it, but has said that he had been under the impression that the gathering was a “work event.”
According to various reports, between 20 and 40 people attended the “bring your own booze” event for “socially distanced drinks” at 10 Downing Street, while over 100 were invited via email.
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Right before the event, however, Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden had told citizens via a press briefing that they could “meet one other person from outside their household” in a public place, while maintaining social distancing.
Given the government guidelines and legal restrictions in place in the UK in May 2020, it appears that the event was in contravention of the restrictions imposed by the government itself.
November to December 2020:
Several other gatherings allegedly took place in 10 Downing Street between November and December 2020, including a leaving party for Cleo Watson on November 27, a Christmas quiz on December 15, and a party on December 18.
A lockdown was in place in UK during the November 27 event and indoor gatherings, apart from work purposes, were strictly prohibited.
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The nationwide lockdown was lifted on December 2, but at the time of the December 15 event, London was under tier 2 restrictions that prohibited gatherings of people from different households unless deemed “reasonably necessary” for work purposes.
By the time of the December 18 event, which was also allegedly attended by the Prime Minister and other 10 Downing Street staff members, London was under the tougher tier 3 restrictions, which prohibited people from meeting anyone outside their household or their support bubble.
A day before the alleged event, the UK government had also put out a guideline in writing, saying, “Although there are exemptions for work purposes, you must not have a work Christmas lunch or party, where that is a primarily social activity and is not otherwise permitted by the rules in your tier.”
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Given the restrictions in place at the time of the alleged events, it would appear that the Prime Minister and members of the 10 Downing Street Staff broke several rules over the course of a few weeks.
Boris Johnson’s response:
The Prime Minister on Wednesday responded to the allegations and issued an apology. He explicitly acknowledged the May 20, 2020 event, which he described as a “work event,” and urged the “inquiry into that day and several others” to be completed so that “full facts can be established.”
Opposition leaders, however, have criticised Johnson and his staff for their blatant disregard of their own rules, and it remains to be seen where the Prime Minister goes from here.