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Nurses condemn Boris Johnson over lockdown party in Downing St

Prime minister apologises for lockdown party as outraged nurses who were working gruelling shifts on COVID wards take to social media to protest
Picture shows prime minister Boris Johnson speaking in the House of Commons today

Prime minister apologises for lockdown party as outraged nurses who were working gruelling shifts on COVID wards take to social media to protest

Nurses have criticised prime minister Boris Johnson after reports emerged that Number 10 staff were invited to a ‘bring your own booze’ party in the Downing Street garden during lockdown.

As many as 100 people were invited to ‘socially distanced’ drinks on 20 May 2020, at the height of the first lockdown, by the prime minister's principal private secretary Martin Reynolds, ITV News revealed this week.

At the same time nurses were working round the clock on COVID wards,

Prime minister apologises for lockdown party as outraged nurses who were working gruelling shifts on COVID wards take to social media to protest

Picture shows prime minister Boris Johnson speaking in the House of Commons today
Prime minister Boris Johnson speaking in the House of Commons today

Nurses have criticised prime minister Boris Johnson after reports emerged that Number 10 staff were invited to a ‘bring your own booze’ party in the Downing Street garden during lockdown.

As many as 100 people were invited to ‘socially distanced’ drinks on 20 May 2020, at the height of the first lockdown, by the prime minister's principal private secretary Martin Reynolds, ITV News revealed this week.

At the same time nurses were working round the clock on COVID wards, often with inadequate personal protective equipment and unable to see friends and family after gruelling shifts.

One nurse recalled how he was supporting patients and families who ‘could not be there to say goodbye’.

Another recalled ‘sticking to the rules’ in a ‘makeshift office’.

Other recollections were more tragic. An NHS doctor recalled attending the funeral of a pregnant nurse colleague who died with COVID-19 while not being able to hug mourners at the funeral.

Mary Agyeiwaa Agyapong, who was a sister at Luton and Dunstable University Hospital, died on 12 April 2020. An inquest into her death heard Ms Agyapong felt ‘pressured’ to work despite concerns for her safety.

The daughter of a nurse who died the same month Downing Street staff are said to have held a party said she was appalled by the actions and called on the prime minister to resign. Ashley Mapani-Muyuya, who lives in Portugal, told ITV News she was unable to attend her mother's funeral in the UK because of the COVID travel restrictions in place at the time.

Her mother, Julie Edward, who worked as a nurse at the Royal Berkshire Hospital in Reading, died in May 2020 after testing positive for coronavirus.

Lockdown rules at the time limited people to meeting only one other person outdoors

At the time the Downing Street party took place in May 2020, people were only allowed to meet one other person outdoors and were told to remain two metres apart. Police also had the power to fine people who left their homes for reasons other than work, exercise or buying essentials.

Around 40 staff are understood to have gathered at the party, and the prime minister confirmed in the Commons today that he had attended it, saying he believed it was a work event.

Mr Johnson told MPs: ‘I know that millions of people across this country have made extraordinary sacrifices over the last 18 months. I know the anguish they have been through, unable to mourn their relatives, unable to live their lives as they want or to do the things they love. I know the rage they feel with me and with the government I lead when they think that in Downing Street itself the rules are not being properly followed by the people who make the rules.’

Prime minister says he should have realised others would see it differently, offers ‘heartfelt apologies’

He said he had thought the party was a work event and had attended for about 25 minutes to thank groups of staff before returning to work, but with hindsight he should have sent everyone back inside and found another way to thank them.

‘I should have recognised that even if it could be said technically to fall within the guidance there would be millions and millions of people who simply would not see it that way – people who suffered terribly, people who were forbidden from meeting loved ones at all, inside or outside, and to them and to this House I offer my heartfelt apologies.’

It is the latest in a string of parties alleged to have taken place during COVID-19 restrictions. Civil servant Sue Gray is currently undertaking an inquiry into the allegations and Mr Johnson said he would make a statement to the Commons once it was completed.


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