COVID-19: Number of parties held at Downing Street in run-up to Christmas last

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A number of parties were held in Downing Street in the run-up to Christmas last year while indoor mixing was banned in London under COVID restrictions, Sky News understands.

Following reports that a large party was held in late December, it has also emerged that Number 10 staff gathered after work and drank alcohol to wind down, despite rules stating that mixing between household bubbles was banned.

On 18 December, 40 people attended a bash in Downing Street, where staff drank, chatted and celebrated late into the night, according to a report in The Mirror newspaper.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson as he visits a UK Food and Drinks market which has been set up in Downing Street, London. Picture date: Tuesday November 30, 2021.
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The original story claimed Mr Johnson did not attend the event in December held by members of his top team

Sky News understands the individuals at this party let their hair down with games, food and drink.

It has been reported as a Christmas party, but one government aide said it was convened to say goodbye to a colleague working in Downing Street who was moving to a new role elsewhere.

On 16 December, two days before the large Downing Street bash allegedly took place, London moved into Tier 3 restrictions, where all indoor mixing was banned unless individuals were in household bubbles.

The day after this party reportedly took place, the prime minister scrapped plans to allow Christmas mixing for families amid rising COVID case numbers and days later a fresh lockdown was in force.

What were the restrictions under Tier 3?

Two days before the second Downing Street party allegedly took place, London moved into Tier 3 restrictions where all indoor mixing was banned unless individuals were in household bubbles.

This was due to a rapid increase in COVID-19 infections due to the emergence of the now so-called Alpha variant, which was first identified in Kent in November last year.

Under these restrictions, pubs and restaurants were forced to close except for takeaway and delivery, and affected some 34 million people living in London and other parts of England including Essex and Hertfordshire.

Former Health Secretary Matt Hancock said at the time that the UK variant of coronavirus was associated with the faster spread in southern England.

The rules under Tier 3 also meant sports fans could not attend events in stadiums. Meanwhile, indoor entertainment venues – such as theatres, bowling alleys and cinemas – had to remain shut.

Downing Street has insisted that no rules were broken during the period.

When pressed on the gatherings staff held throughout the period a Number 10 spokesman said: “COVID rules have been followed at all times.”

On Tuesday, Downing Street was forced to deny claims that Boris Johnson broke coronavirus rules with parties at Number 10 last Christmas after the Mirror newspaper claimed the PM made a speech at a leaving do on 27 November – when the country was in the second lockdown.

The PM’s spokesman on Wednesday…



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