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  • Writer's pictureJanice Lin

COVID Party #10

Who doesn’t love a good garden party–I mean work event? Boris Johnson, the current Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, is under intense scrutiny for get-togethers that included booze and close contact and which occurred multiple times during the deadly pandemic.

The first party of many was in the garden of 10 Downing Street, the prime minister’s residence, on May 15, 2020; it was a “wine-and-cheese party.” The Guardian published a photograph of the prime minister, his wife, seventeen staff members, and bottles of wine at the party. For context, this party happened when gatherings of more than two people were banned in outdoor, public places.

Soon after, Johnson’s private secretary sent an email to staffers to bring their own alcohol to a party five days later, when the restrictions got even tighter. Later, Johnson admitted to attending the event and claimed to have stayed for twenty-five minutes. “In hindsight, I should have sent everyone back inside, and I should have found some other way to thank them,” he said.

For Johnson’s birthday on June 19, 2020, his wife purportedly organized a surprise party for around thirty people. That same evening, it was reported that family and friends gathered inside the Johnson residence, while a spokesperson for Johnson claimed that the prime minister hosted a small number of family members outside that evening. The same spokesperson told The Washington Post that staff members “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.”

If that was not enough, The Mirror reported that Johnson’s staff held recurring “wine time Fridays” throughout the pandemic, with staffers taking turns wheeling a suitcase to the supermarket to stock up. The tabloid published a photo of what it said was a 34-bottle wine fridge being delivered through the back door of the building December 11, 2020, which was just the beginning of a tremendous winter peak of COVID.

On December 18, 2020, the same staff reportedly gathered to exchange gifts, sip wine and eat cheese in a rule-breaking event that was later joked about by Allegra Stratton, the prime minister’s then-press secretary. Stratton was caught on tape with a couple other staff members practicing how to answer the press’ questions, including ones about the parties. From the video evidence, the staff admitted that there was no clear justification for the parties they held. In addition, there would be no denying the attendance and existence of such parties during a dire period in the country in which people could not see dying loved ones in the hospital. Stratton tearfully resigned the same month.

Because the prime minister and his staff had not learned their lesson yet, on the eve of Prince Philip’s funeral, on April 16, two parties were held for departing staffers at 10 Downing Street. The next day, Queen Elizabeth II was photographed mourning her husband of seven decades by herself, because she had abided by the coronavirus restrictions put in place by Johnson’s government.

“I have been repeatedly assured since these allegations emerged that there was no party and that no COVID rules were broken.”

Despite evidence and increasing pressure to admit guilt, Johnson was quoted to say “I have been repeatedly assured since these allegations emerged that there was no party and that no COVID rules were broken.” Following, in an interview mid-December, he claimed, “I can tell you once again that I certainly broke no rules.”

Not only that, but do you remember when Johnson himself got COVID? He got COVID late March and even went to the ICU for three nights in March. In addition, his wife was pregnant at the time, and there was not enough research at the time to tell the effects of an infant whose host contracted the viral disease. Reports even state that he refused to be isolated, so his staff had to make a puppy gate for him in order to keep him in his office.

Most recently, Johnson’s solution from now on is that he cannot be caught breaking any COVID restrictions. However, practically all mandatory restrictions have been lifted as of January 27, 2022. Face masks will no longer be mandated anywhere and will remain merely a suggestion. Students no longer have to wear masks in class. However, the National Health Service leaders have cautioned against lifting curbs too soon.

The English public is rightly outraged by their prime minister’s behavior. There is a lot of pressure from his own party, from the opposition party, and from the public at large for Johnson to step down. In parliament, the No Confidence Vote had been delayed until the report of the detailed investigation came out. However, one of Johnson’s former allies stated that a no-confidence vote would be fatal, even if he survived the vote itself and remained prime minister temporarily. A member of Johnson’s same political party said this to Johnson in parliament: “In the name of God, go.”


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