A photo surfaced that appears to show UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson drinking wine with Downing Street staff during the country’s first COVID-19 lockdown last year.
The image, shared with the British newspaper The Guardian, reportedly shows an outdoor gathering that took place on May 15 of 2020. Staff can be seen gathered in the Downing Street garden, which is also Johnson’s residence.
Johnson was photographed with his then fiancee Carrie Symonds and two other people sitting at a table. On the table are bottles of wine and a cheese board.
Four other staff members are seated around a second table. Next, nine people gather closely around a table on the grass, and two more sit on the ground near it.
The physical distancing restrictions at the time meant that mixing between households was limited to two people, who could only meet outdoors and at a distance of at least 2 meters. In workplaces, the guidelines said that face-to-face meetings should only take place if they were “absolutely necessary.”
On Sunday, a Downing Street spokesperson responded to the image saying: “As we said last week, business meetings usually take place in the Downing Street garden in the summer months. This time there were staff meetings after a press conference at No. 10”.
“Downing Street is the prime minister’s home as well as his workplace. The prime minister’s wife lives at number 10 and therefore also legitimately uses the garden.”
Vice Prime Minister Dominic Raab said the photo shows a working meeting and followed the covid-19 regulations in force at the time.
“This is a workplace, but it is also the residence of the prime minister,” Raab told Sky News on Monday.
“And sometimes, as in many work situations, especially given the pressures the No. 10 team was under, they can have a drink after the formal business is over.”
“That has nothing to do with the rules of social gatherings, and is consistent with the guidelines of the time.”
The photo is the latest in a series of scandals that have surrounded Johnson in recent weeks.
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has been rocked by multiple claims that social events were held inside 10 Downing Street in the run-up to Christmas 2020, when the country was under coronavirus regulations that prohibited such activities.
Johnson has insisted that he believes no rule was broken and asked one of his top officials to investigate the alleged parties.
Following the latest photo, Labor Vice President Angela Rayner tweeted: “Enough is enough. Please tell us the truth about what was going on in Downing Street from the beginning immediately Boris Johnson.”
Senior official Sue Gray has been tasked with investigating the reports following the removal of Cabinet Secretary Simon Case from the investigation after it was revealed that she had learned of a competition held in her department.