Government Twitter account advised users to ‘avoid singing and Christmas parties’
In the same week as several Downing Street gatherings, Twitter users seeking advice about coronavirus restrictions were told by the Government to forgo Christmas parties and “avoid singing” even in church.
The Twitter account @GOVUK sent responses to a number of queries in the days before and after lockdown-busting No 10 gatherings which indicate rules were broken.
In some instances, the Prime Minister also posted tweets promoting adherence to the rules on the same day as a party.
On May 31 2020 a Twitter user asked @GOVUK: “Can my in-laws who are over 70 come into our back garden?”
The Government account responded: “Groups of up to 6 people will be able to meet outdoors in England from Monday 1 June, provided strict social distancing guidelines are followed.”
Weeks before the rule of six guidance was introduced, garden parties were held at Downing Street on May 15 and May 20 2020, which the Prime Minister was pictured at and admitted attending respectively.
On May 15 the Prime Minister himself tweeted: “We can beat this virus together – but only if we all continue to #StayAlert and follow the rules on social distancing.”
On May 19 Mr Johnson also tweeted to reinforce adherence to the rules, posting: “I know this has been a tough time for so many people. Thank you for all of the sacrifices you have made.
“We are past the peak, and I’m confident that if we continue to follow the rules and work together, we will beat this virus and be reunited with our friends and family soon.”
No 10 has conceded a gathering was held to mark Boris Johnson’s birthday on June 19 2020, where it has been alleged 30 people attended, sharing cake and singing “happy birthday” despite social mixing indoors being banned.
On June 30 2020, amid rule changes on the resumption of public worship, the @GOVUK account was asked if singing in church would be allowed.
Posting 11 days after the party took place, the account stated: “Activities such as singing and/or playing instruments should be avoided, with the exception of organists who are able to use buildings for practice with appropriate social distancing.”
On December 17 2020, the @GOVUK Twitter account responded to a user asking whether “a Christmas party be held in a workplace at the end of a working day with staff members”.
At the time London was under tier 3 restrictions, but that same evening leaving drinks were held at the Cabinet Office and the next day, on December 18, a party was held at Downing Street which resulted in the resignation of Boris Johnson’s spokeswoman Allegra Stratton.
The official UK Government account responded by saying “although there are exemptions for work purposes, you must not have a work Christmas lunch or party, where that is a primarily social activity and is not otherwise permitted by the rules in your tier”.
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