Resurfaced footage from a Downing Street press conference shows cabinet minister Oliver Dowden instructing the public to ‘stay at home’ less than an hour before officials gathered in the garden for an alleged party.
The UK government is facing extreme scrutiny after a leaked email provided evidence of the gathering on May 20, 2020, when Britain was at the height of lockdown.
The email came from Boris Johnson’s Principal Private Secretary, Martin Reynolds, and invited more than 100 Downing Street employees for ‘socially distanced drinks’ in the garden. Just an hour before the drinks were scheduled to take place, the government addressed the nation and urged people not to meet outdoors.
See footage from the press conference below:
Dowden began the briefing by discussing a rise in positive coronavirus cases and announcing that more than 35,000 people had passed away as a result of the virus.
Before moving on to questions, the cabinet minister reminded the public of the restrictions at the time, explaining that you could ‘meet one person outside your household in an outdoor, public place, provided that you stay two metres apart’.
In a further bid to reduce the spread of the virus, the government also asked people to ‘stay alert, control the virus and save lives’. Dowden then stressed that ‘staying alert, for the vast majority of people, still means staying at home as much as possible’.
He went on to advise the public to ‘limit contact with other people’ and ‘keep your distance if you go out’, adding: ‘This is how we can continue to save lives and livelihoods as we begin, as a nation, to recover from coronavirus.’
Less than an hour later, approximately 40 members of Downing Street gathered in the garden to enjoy some drinks and picnic food, with Johnson and his wife, Carrie, thought to be among those who attended the gathering, ITV News reports.
Reynolds encouraged recipients to attend after what had been an ‘incredibly busy period’, enticing people with the notion that it would be ‘nice to make the most of the lovely weather’. He wrote: ‘Please join us from 6pm and bring your own booze!’
The Metropolitan police released a statement to assure it is in contact with the Cabinet Office after the email was released to the press.
In a statement cited by ITV News, the force said: ‘The Metropolitan Police service is aware of widespread reporting relating to alleged breaches of the Health Protection Regulations at Downing Street on 20 May 2020 and is in contact with the Cabinet Office.’
The gathering is understood to be under investigation as part of an inquiry by the cabinet office.
10 Downing Street/YouTube