Timeline of alleged government social gatherings held during Covid

Boris Johnson is coming under increasing pressure over social gatherings allegedly held in Downing Street and elsewhere in Whitehall while England was under coronavirus restrictions. These are the most prominent events that have been uncovered:

May 15, 2020

What happened? More than a dozen government officials, including Boris Johnson and his former adviser Dominic Cummings, and Johnson’s then fiancée Carrie Symonds were pictured socialising in the Downing Street garden with wine and cheese.

What were the rules at the time? England was emerging from lockdown. The public were advised to work from home where possible. Social gatherings were limited to meeting no more than one person from outside one’s household outdoors, providing social distancing was adhered to.

Cheese and wine in the Downing St garden in May 2020 © Guardian/Eyevine

May 20, 2020

What happened? Some 40 people, including Johnson and Symonds, gathered in the Number 10 garden after the prime minister’s principal private secretary, Martin Reynolds, sent an email to 100 Downing Street staff inviting them for “socially distanced drinks”.

What were the rules at the time? The same as on May 15.

November 13, 2020

What happened? Cummings has alleged that a gathering took place in Johnson’s flat at 11 Downing Street on the evening of his departure from government.

Questioned in the House of Commons on whether the event happened, Johnson replied: “No, but I am sure that whatever happened, the guidance was followed and the rules were followed at all times.”

What were the rules at the time? England was placed under a four-week national lockdown from November 5. The public were encouraged to stay at home, with exceptions for work, exercise and shopping for essentials.

November 25, 2020

What happened? Treasury officials held what the department described as “impromptu” drinks to celebrate the publication of the chancellor’s spending review, according to reports that first emerged in the Times.

What were the rules at the time? The four-week national lockdown was still in place.

November 27, 2020

What happened? According to reports in the Guardian, Johnson gave a speech at a gathering in Downing Street marking the departure of Number 10 aide Cleo Watson.

What were the rules at the time? The four-week national lockdown was still in place.

December 10, 2020

What happened? The then-education secretary Gavin Williamson held a gathering in his department with staff, which included speeches, drinks and canapés. DfE said the gathering was used “to thank those staff for their efforts during the pandemic”.

What were the rules at the time? The event occurred while the tier system was in place in England, with London under tier two measures. The public were advised to work from home where possible, while indoor mixing was banned but up to six people were permitted to meet in outdoor settings.

December 14, 2020

© Mirrorpix

What happened? The campaign team of Conservative London mayoral candidate Shaun Bailey held an indoor party (above) at the Tories’ headquarters. Following the revelations, Bailey, who attended the party, resigned from his committee chair positions on the London Assembly.

What were the rules at the time? London was still under tier two restrictions.

December 15 2020:

© Mirrorpix

What happened? The Mirror newspaper published a photo of Johnson hosting a virtual Christmas quiz (above), accompanied by aides wearing tinsel and a Santa hat. Official guidance at the time urged the public not to take part in work Christmas lunches or parties.

What were the rules at the time? London was still under tier two restrictions.

December 16, 2020

What happened? Transport department officials hosted a gathering in the ministry which included alcohol. In response to the revelations, first published by the Mirror, the department said that less than a dozen staff were involved but apologised for the “error of judgment”.

What were the rules at the time? London was under tier three restrictions, which came into effect that day.

The public were advised to work from home, while indoor household mixing was banned and people could gather in groups of no more than six in some outdoor settings such as parks. Hospitality outlets were closed, with some exceptions for delivery and takeaway.

December 17, 2020

What happened? Cabinet Office staff held a gathering in Whitehall involving a virtual quiz plus drinks and snacks for those physically present in the office. Revelations of the gathering prompted cabinet secretary Simon Case to recuse himself from investigations into alleged coronavirus rule-breaking within government.

Separately, Cabinet Office staff held a leaving party for the former head of the government Covid task force, Kate Josephs.

What were the rules at the time? London was under tier three restrictions.

December 18, 2020

What happened? According to revelations first broken by The Mirror newspaper, more than 40 staffers attended a 10 Downing Street gathering which included alcohol and “secret Santa” games.

What were the rules at the time? London was under tier three restrictions.

April 16, 2021

What happened? Two parties occurred within 10 Downing Street on the evening before the funeral of Prince Philip. One was to mark the departure of James Slack, Johnson’s director of communications, and the other a leaving party for one of the prime minister’s personal photographers.

Downing Street said Johnson was out of town and an apology has been issued to Buckingham Palace.

What were the rules at the time? England was in its third national lockdown and on April 12 had entered step two of the government’s road map out of restrictions. The public were advised to limit indoor socialising to their household or support bubble and socialising in outdoor settings was restricted to no more than six people or two households.



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