What was the Government saying in May 2020? Timeline of briefings from ministers in month of garden party

Fresh allegations face Boris Johnson over whether he attended a rule-breaking drinks party during the first national lockdown

The Prime Minister is facing renewed calls to resign as his whereabouts at the Downing Street garden party continues to be scrutinised.

Principal private secretary, Martin Reynolds, invited more than 100 employees to a “bring your own booze” party in the No 10 garden on 20 May, 2020, during Covid restrictions, ITV reports.

The Prime Minister has refused to say whether he attended the gathering along with his now wife Carrie, although it has been widely reported he was there.

Downing Street officials have also refused to be drawn on details of the allegations because they are being examined by senior official Sue Gray as part of her investigation into claims of lockdown-busting parties in Whitehall and Downing Street.

So what was the Government saying on 20 May, 2020? Here’s what you need to know.

The leaked email from a senior government aide invited 100 people to a ‘BYOB’ event, days after the PM allowed two people to meet outdoors (image: Kim Mogg/NationalWorld)


Timeline of briefings and statements made by government from April to May 2020

  • Boris Johnson falls ill with Covid

The latest report of lockdown-breaking events have had members of the public remembering Johnson’s own brush with Covid-19.

It was first announced that Johnson had tested positive for Covid on 27 March, 2020, just four days after the imposition of the UK’s first strict lockdown.

Johnson left intensive care on 9 April, and left hospital three days later to recuperate at Chequers, returning to Downing Street a fortnight later on 26 April.


  • Boris Johnson attends two garden parties - reports

Let’s set the scene. Five weeks after the first official lockdown was announced on 23 March, all UK countries were experiencing the sunniest spring on record, stretching back to 1929.

Finally, there felt like there was a chink of optimism as the prime minister allowed two people to meet outdoors from 13 May.

On 15 May, a leaked photograph showed Boris Johnson, his now wife Carrie and up to 17 staff eating wine and cheese in the Downing Street garden.

At this point, it had been less than three weeks since Boris Johnson moved back home after his life was threatened by Covid.


On 17 May, Johnson wrote in the Daily Mail that the country “can only defeat it [Covid] by acting together” though he was not hopeful scientists would find a vaccine at this point.

The article said “it’s vital that people stay alert, keep their distance from others and carry on washing their hands regularly.”

He thanked the British public’s “fortitude, their perseverance, their good common sense and their desire to return to the freedoms they hold dear that has allowed us to inch forwards.”

On 20 May, Boris Johnson’s principal private secretary Martin Reynolds invited more than 100 Downing Street employees to a garden party at No 10, reports claim. The leaked email read: “Please join us from 6pm and bring your own booze!”

Prime Minister Boris Johnson with his principal private secretary, Martin Reynolds (left) (image: PA)
  • Oliver Dowden press conference


Then-culture secretary Oliver Dowden spoke to the British public about Covid restrictions on 20 May, just shy of an hour before the ‘BYOB’ event in the back garden.

He said that there were 363 fatalities since the day before and warned the public to keep to two metres apart while they were legally allowed to see one other person outside.

  • Clap for Carers

Millions of people across the country regularly paused to applaud frontline NHS staff, carers and health workers after the coronavirus outbreak for ten weeks.

On 21 May, one day after the ‘BYOB’ garden party, Boris Johnson was seen on his No 10 doorstep clapping for the ninth week.

On 22 May, the architect of the weekly gesture raised concerns that the weekly show of support had become politicised.


  • Eid al-Fitr festival cancelled

On May 23 and 24, Eid prayers around the world were cancelled amid the coronavirus pandemic, with Muslims told to pray at home instead of going to the mosque.

The festival usually brings families together to celebrate to mark the end of a month of fasting for Ramadan.

  • Families get to meet for first time

On 29 May, Boris Johnson announced that from 1 June, up to six people could meet outside, provided those from different households continue strictly to observe social distancing rules by staying two metres apart.


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