What were the Covid rules when Boris Johnson was drinking at Downing Street party during lockdown?

While England was going through its second lockdown, Boris Johnson was at a party in Downing Street. Credit: PA/ITV News

New photographs obtained by ITV News have brought the prime minister's claims he was unaware of rule-breaking parties in Downing Street during the pandemic under renewed scrutiny.

The four images show Boris Johnson raising a glass of fizz in an apparent toast at a leaving party on November 13 2020, with bottles of alcohol and party food on a table in front of him.

They were taken at a gathering in honour of the Downing Street’s then Director of Communications Lee Cain, with eight people pictured standing closely together, as well as the photographer.

ITV News understands there were also other participants out of shot at the party.

The PM has repeatedly insisted in the House of Commons that he broke no Covid laws in Downing Street and that he was unaware of any law-breaking parties.

And while the Met has completed its investigation into breaches of Covid regulations in No 10, issuing 126 fines in total to 83 people, Mr Johnson was only fined once, for attending his 56th birthday celebration in June 2020.

Stroke survivor Stephen Hayes celebrates his birthday with a window visit from former work colleagues at a London care home in March 2021. Credit: PA

He was told he would face no further action over other gatherings covered by the Metropolitan Police’s Operation Hillman inquiry.

But what were the rules at the time of the November 13 party, and what was it like living in England at the time?

Second national lockdown

On November 13 2020, a second national lockdown had been in force for just over a week in England.

Mr Johnson had made the announcement on 31 October alongside Chief Medical Officer for England Chris Whitty, and Chief Scientific Adviser Patrick Vallance, in response to soaring Covid cases - the lockdown came into force on November 5.

Mr Johnson at the time warned there would be "several thousand" deaths a day, far more than the first peak of coronavirus, if action was not taken.

An empty New Bond Street in London during England's national lockdown. Credit: Ian West/PA Archive/PA Images

Indoor socialising banned

Indoor household mixing was banned and people were only allowed to meet outdoors with a maximum of one person from another household - meetings in private gardens were banned.

The only exceptions to this were for childcare and support bubbles.

People were only permitted to go to public outdoor places with members of their own household or support bubble, or one person from another household.

As the new rules came into place on Bonfire Night 2020, fireworks events up and down the country were cancelled.

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Stay at home

People were instructed they must stay at home during the lockdown, with few exceptions.

You were only permitted to leave your home for these reasons:

  • To buy food

  • Medical reasons

  • To exercise

  • To attend a place of education

  • To attend work

People were told that they must work from home if they could.

Essential shops remained open but all non-essential shops, leisure and entertainment venues such as cinemas were closed.

Schools, nurseries and universities remained open.

Bars, pubs and restaurants had to stay closed except for delivery or take-away services.

Hairdressers and beauty salons also closed.

Hotels, hostels and other accommodation were only open to those who had to travel for work purposes.

International travel out of the country was banned except for essential work reasons, and anyone returning to England had to quarantine for two weeks.

Funerals were still allowed to take place, but with a cap of 30 people.

Weddings were not permitted to take place except in "exceptional circumstances."

Soaring cases

Covid cases were soaring on November 13 2020, with 22,058 new cases recorded that day alone in England, according to government data.

There were 359 Covid deaths that day in England. There had been 46,230 Covid deaths in England so far in total.

In the UK as a whole, there were 438 deaths recorded on November 13, and 52,826 people had lost their lives to the disease so far.

Many people were in hospital and in intensive care in November 2020. Credit: ITV News

No vaccines

In November 2020, no one in the UK had received a vaccine yet, so protection from Covid was limited to any natural immunity people had.

The first vaccine came on December 8, almost a month after the photograph of the PM was taken on November 13.

The number of people with Covid in inpatient beds in England as of October 30 2020 - date that informed the second lockdown. Credit: gov.uk

Sue Gray's report

The new photographs come as civil servant Sue Gray finalises her internal report into the culture of partying in Number 10.

 It is thought that she may also publish pictures of several events when the report is made public as soon as this week.

Mr Johnson has not received a fine over the event on November 13,  while others present did receive a Fixed Penalty Notice.

It remains to be seen if the latest revelation will see further legal repercussions for the prime minister.