Prime Minister Boris Johnson has ordered an investigation into claims staff broke lockdown rules by holding a party at Number 10 last year, and told MPs he was “furious” about footage apparently showing aides joking about it.
Mr Johnson apologised for the offence caused by the leaked video but insisted he had been repeatedly assured “there was no party and that no Covid rules were broken” on December 18.
Figures from the UK coronavirus daily dashboard show one death occurred in Burnley on that date last year.
There were also 44 positive Covid-19 cases recorded in the area that same day.
And 216 Covid-19 patients were admitted to hospitals across the North-West on December 18 – among over 1,600 throughout England.
The Prime Minister’s intervention followed a week of official insistence that no party took place when London was under Tier 3 restrictions – despite reports staff drank alcohol and exchanged Secret Santa gifts.
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said the Prime Minister’s apology raises more questions than answers as he had been “caught red-handed”.
He added: “Millions of people now think the Prime Minister was taking them for fools, that they were lied to. They are right aren’t they?”
Mr Johnson's adviser and former press secretary Allegra Stratton emotionally resigned after leaked footage showed her laughing as she appeared to rehearse answers to questions over a lockdown-busting Christmas party.
The video from No 10’s £2.6 million press briefing room, which is reported to be from December 22 last year, refers to a party on “Friday” – the same day The Daily Mirror reported there was a staff party where games were played, food and drinks were served, and revelries went on past midnight.
At this time, coronavirus restrictions were being reintroduced across many parts of the UK ahead of Christmas amid fears over the emergence of the 'Delta' variant.
Mr Johnson agreed that any evidence uncovered about parties in Downing Street would be handed over to police.
Statistics published by the National Police Chiefs' Council reveal a total of 314 fixed penalty notices were issued by Lancashire Police for breaches of Covid-19-related laws between November 17 and December 20 last year.
And by December 22 – the day the leaked video was apparently filmed – separate figures from the Department of Health and Social Care reveal that more than a quarter of care homes in England were no longer permitting residents to receive visitors as Covid-19 infection levels rose across the country.