The latest round of No 10 lockdown party accusations raised many questions about whether or not high-ranking Government officials - including the Prime Minister - knowingly broke their own Covid-19 restrictions.
Downing Street conceded staff “gathered briefly” in the Cabinet Room following a meeting after it was alleged 30 people attended and shared cake despite social mixing indoors being banned.
ITV News reported the Prime Minister’s wife, Carrie Johnson, had organised the surprise get-together complete with a chorus of “happy birthday” on the afternoon of 19 June 2020.
Interior designer Lulu Lytle admitted attending but insisted she was only present “briefly” while waiting to talk to Johnson about the lavish refurbishments she was carrying out to the couple’s flat above No 11.
A Downing Street spokeswoman said: “A group of staff working in No 10 that day gathered briefly in the Cabinet Room after a meeting to wish the Prime Minister a happy birthday. He was there for less than 10 minutes.”
ITV news also reported later that evening family friends were hosted upstairs to further celebrate the Prime Minister’s 56th birthday in his official residence.
But when did Johnson have Covid-19, and did it coincide with the alleged gatherings?
Here is everything you need to know about it.
When did Boris Johnson have Covid?
The latest report of lockdown-breaking events have had members of the public remembering Johnson’s own brush with Covid-19, and wondering whether the Prime Minister’s positive status coincided with the alleged gatherings.
It was first announced that Johnson had tested positive for Covid-19 on 27 March 2020, just four days after the imposition of the UK’s first strict lockdown.
On 5 April, with his symptoms persisting, he was admitted to hospital for tests, and was moved to the intensive care unit the next day after his condition worsened.
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.
In July 2021, Johnson and Chancellor Rishi Sunak were forced to self-isolate for 10 days after both were deemed by NHS Test and Trace to have come into close contact with Health Secretary Sajid Javid, who tested positive for coronavirus.
In August 2021, Downing Street denied the Prime Minister had come into contact with a staff member who tested positive for Covid-19.
The Guardian reported that a Number 10 civil servant taking part in Boris Johnson’s visit to Scotland had to isolate after testing positive.
The newspaper also said the two were “side-by-side” on several occasions, yet Boris Johnson was not isolating.
What were the lockdown rules on 19 June 2020?
On 19 June 2020, when Johnson’s alleged surprise birthday gathering is reported to have taken place in No 10, England was under tough Covid-19 restrictions.
Such gatherings were forbidden at the time.
The Prime Minister imposed England’s first lockdown to combat Covid-19 in March 2020.
Although the Government’s initial “stay at home” guidance imposed in March 2020 was relaxed on 13 May 2020, strict curbs on socialising remained.
Social gatherings indoors were forbidden under lockdown laws at the time, with a relaxation of the regulations permitting gatherings of up to six people to take place outside.
Would the alleged gathering have been legal?
Human rights lawyer Adam Wagner, who interprets coronavirus regulations on Twitter for the public, said the alleged event looked “unlikely to be legal for attendees”.
“Being outside the home was illegal at the time unless (the only potentially relevant exception) it was for the need to work,” Wagner posted on social media.
“‘Socially distanced drinks’ / ‘BYOB’ don’t sound like work.”
Asked whether the police should be involved if Sue Gray’s report finds wrongdoing in Government during lockdown, deputy Labour leader Angela Rayner said: “If he has clearly broken the law, then that should be referred to the police and the police should handle it.
“Nobody is above the law. Many people at the time couldn’t go to funerals, weren’t able to meet with families and friends, and they’ll be disgusted by this because not only does it seem Boris Johnson is breaking his rules, but he has been lying to people as well, and this is completely unacceptable and not what you’d expect from the British Prime Minister.”
A message from the editor:
Thank you for reading. NationalWorld is a new national news brand, produced by a team of journalists, editors, video producers and designers who live and work across the UK. Find out more about who’s who in the team, and our editorial values. We want to start a community among our readers, so please follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, and keep the conversation going. You can also sign up to our newsletters and get a curated selection of our best reads to your inbox every day.