The prime minister spent about 15 minutes with staff at the alleged social gathering on 15 May 2020, telling one aide inside No 10 that they deserved a drink for “beating back” coronavirus, a joint investigation by the Guardian and Independent was told.
Sources claimed about 20 staff drank wine and spirits and ate pizza following a press conference on that day, some in offices inside No 10 and others going into the garden. Some staff stayed drinking until late into the evening, they alleged.
Rules at the time allowed only two people from different households to meet outside, at a distance of 2 metres. Earlier that evening, Matt Hancock, then health secretary, had urged people to “stay at home as much as is possible” and asked them to “please stick with the rules, keep an eye on your family and don’t take risks” during the period of good weather.
The claims follow a string of reports about similar alleged events in Downing Street and elsewhere during the subsequent lockdown last Christmas, and suggests rules might have been broken over a series of months.
The claims are a further blow to Johnson, who is reeling from reports detailing a series of apparent lockdown-breaching parties last winter, and has been widely mocked for insisting no rules were broken.
Among these was an alleged party on 18 December 2020, a time when all indoor social mixing in London was prohibited, involving wine and cheese and staff swapping “secret Santa” presents.