Relatives of people who have died from Covid-19 have condemned as “sickening” allegations that Downing Street staff attended lockdown-breaking Christmas gatherings last year.
Boris Johnson is under pressure to apologise after he, again, failed to deny reports that festive gatherings took place in No10 when the public was forbidden from doing the same.
Pressed on the issue during a media appearance, the Prime Minister merely said any events had been held “in accordance with the rules”.
It came as Labour demanded answers as to how the gatherings had gone ahead and called for a formal investigation to take place.
Asked whether he was holding a Christmas party, Mr Johnson told broadcasters events were held in Downing Street “the whole time”.
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He added: “We had events for Hanukkah, we turned the Christmas lights on, and all sorts of things in Number 10, and in accordance with the rules as you would expect.”
Deputy leader Angela Rayner has written to Cabinet Secretary Simon Case asking whether he had been aware of the parties and pressing him on whether he would allow for a police investigation to take place.
“You will no doubt understand the seriousness of the allegations made,” she wrote. “This Government is undermining public health messaging with their actions and we cannot let this go on unchecked.”
Safiah Ngah, a spokesperson for Covid-19 Bereaved Families for Justice campaign group, accused the Prime Minister of “enjoying an illegal Christmas party” as “the people he should have been protecting were dying all around the country”.
She said Mr Johnson had to “acknowledge the hurt this has caused and apologise”.
“But if he’s truly sorry, he’ll go much further and learn the lessons from last winter and do everything he can to make sure that other families don’t have to go through the horrors that mine have,” she added.
Ms Ngah’s father died from Covid-19 in February.
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In a statement on behalf of the group, she said: “Last Christmas period is sadly one I will never forget.
“One in twenty people in my borough had Covid-19 and my family were desperately trying to do what we could to keep each other safe. Unfortunately it wasn’t enough.
“To think that just a few miles away, Boris Johnson was throwing a ‘Christmas Party’, with no care for the rules he had set, is sickening.
“In September, he looked bereaved families in the eye and told them he had done ‘everything he could to keep their loved ones safe’. How exactly did breaking the rules himself fit into that?”
The Daily Mirror reported that work-related gatherings took place in the lead-up to Christmas last year even though the public was forbidden from doing the same.
The newspaper reported Mr Johnson gave a speech at a leaving do for a senior aide last November when the country was in the middle of a month-long lockdown.
And it alleged No 10 staff held a Christmas Party on 18 December when London was under Tier 3 restrictions, which banned indoor social gatherings and limited outdoor socialising to no more than six people.
Mr Johnson was not at the unofficial Christmas bash but between “30 to 40” people allegedly attended.
The Mirror on Thursday quoted a Downing Street “insider” who said there were often get-togethers in the evenings while the curbs on freedom were in place.
The source told the paper: “It was the only place you could get together and socialise. They happened most Fridays.”
Asked about the reports on Thursday Morning, Business minister George Freeman said he could not get “drawn into who was or wasn’t in the room and who was drinking which cocktail” because he was not in Government at the time.
He said “I can absolutely assure you” that Downing Street staff adhered to Covid rules.
“I can’t tell you who was in the room or what happened – I wasn’t there – but I’ve checked before coming on and I’m told very clearly that the guidance was followed.”