Advertisement
Politics

Here’s how bad Covid was at the time of the alleged Downing Street Christmas party

A reported Downing Street Christmas party held during lockdown last year has put Boris Johnson under pressure. Here’s a reminder of what was going on at the time.

When Downing Street officials allegedly held a Christmas party in the depths of lockdown last year, the rest of the UK was being hammered by Covid.

The party at Number 10 – reported last week before footage leaked of Boris Johnson’s staffers laughing and joking about it while rehearsing a press briefing – has landed ministers at the heart of a media storm amid widespread outrage from the public.

It reportedly took place on December 18 2020, just a day before the prime minister effectively cancelled Christmas for millions across the country.

Subscribe to The Big Issue

From just £3 per week

Take a print or digital subscription to The Big Issue and provide a critical lifeline to our work.

Speaking at PMQs Johnson, seemingly distancing himself from the scandal, said he shared the country’s fury – and added that he’d been assured there was no party at his home, but that he would order an investigation.

The news has caused hurt around the country, as people reflected on missing out on funerals and their family members’ final moments because they were abiding by the government’s own restrictions.

So much has happened that it’s hard to remember exactly how bad Covid was at the time of this alleged party. So here’s a reminder.

Advertisement
Advertisement

Most of the UK lived under a strict lockdown

Much of the country was already facing strong restrictions, particularly parts of Scotland and the north of England. Millions were cut off from family and friends, facing Christmas alone and struggling to make ends meet in the depths of winter because lockdown meant they couldn’t work.

And just a day after the reported party, Boris Johnson put London and south-east England under tougher restrictions, quickly followed by the rest of the country. An exception was made for Christmas day only. England officially entered its third national lockdown on December 6.

A new Covid variant was discovered days before the Downing Street Christmas party

Four days before the alleged party, then-health secretary Matt Hancock briefed MPs on the discovery of a more transmissible new Covid variant.

First found in Kent, the variant was already growing exponentially around England and would quickly drive up numbers across the whole UK.

Today For Tomorrow

Join our Today For Tomorrow campaign

The Big Issue’s Today for Tomorrow Campaign aims to tackle the climate crisis, poverty and pandemics with the Wellbeing of Future Generations Bill. Support the Bill and email your MP today!

Children’s return to classrooms was delayed

Following months of trying to learn from home and away from their peers, school pupils had been told they could return to learning in person after the Christmas holiday. But the week of the Downing Street Christmas party, it was announced that the full return of secondary school pupils would be delayed by at least a week.

While circumstances varied between regions and age groups, most schools stayed closed to all but vulnerable children until March 2021.

The UK recorded the highest number of Covid cases in a single day so far

On December 17 – one day before the alleged party – 35,383 positive cases were recorded across the UK as the latest coronavirus wave hammered the country. It was the most seen in one day since the beginning of the pandemic.

Hospitals were running out of beds and operations were being cancelled

The NHS was under unprecedented strain between soaring Covid-19 infections, seasonal illnesses and the demand for care created when many services were halted during the first lockdown.

A week before the party, hospitals in England were facing a bed shortage so severe that staff were having to turn ambulances away when they brought in patients. Guardian analysis showed hospitals told 44 ambulances to try other hospitals that week, the highest in four years.

Article continues below

Hundreds of thousands of jobs were at risk

Details of Boris Johnson’s plans to put swathes of the country into lockdown had leaked to the press days before the alleged party.

It meant that people across England were living in fear for their jobs while abiding by the government’s restrictions to help stem the spread of Covid. A last-minute lockdown days before Christmas spelled disaster for hospitality businesses in particular. The closure of pubs, restaurants and theatres in London alone put 150,000 jobs at risk.

Nurses were forced to use food banks

Four in ten NHS nurses were struggling to afford food because of the paltry wages they received while trying to save the lives of Covid patients.

According to an ITV survey, pay was too low to stop full-time nurses from skipping meals and going hungry, while many had to rely on food banks.

Nearly 3,000 people died with Covid the week of the Downing Street Christmas party

Across England and Wales alone, 2,986 people died with Covid-19 in the week to December 18 2020, according to the Office for National Statistics.

Advertisement

Bigger Issues need bigger solutions

Big Issue Group is creating new solutions through enterprise to unlock opportunities for the 14.5 million people living in poverty to earn, learn and thrive. Big Issue Group brings together our media and investment initiatives as well as a diverse and pioneering range of new solutions, all of which aim to dismantle poverty by creating opportunity. Learn how you can change lives today.

Recommended for you

Read All
We're at a high point for conspiracy theories. Here's how to stay sane
Betterpod

We're at a high point for conspiracy theories. Here's how to stay sane

Why century-dead trade unionist James Connolly is the political voice of the summer
Unions

Why century-dead trade unionist James Connolly is the political voice of the summer

Ministers do ‘not know’ if the £486million Covid traffic light system for international travel worked
Covid

Ministers do ‘not know’ if the £486million Covid traffic light system for international travel worked

Labour would allow communities to crack down on holiday lets and buy failed football clubs
Levelling Up

Labour would allow communities to crack down on holiday lets and buy failed football clubs

Most Popular

Read All
All the places where kids can eat free during the summer holidays
1.

All the places where kids can eat free during the summer holidays

This Twitter bot is exposing celebrities taking three-minute private jet flights
2.

This Twitter bot is exposing celebrities taking three-minute private jet flights

Will free school meals and vouchers be offered over the summer holidays?
3.

Will free school meals and vouchers be offered over the summer holidays?

Estate agents caught saying they don't rent homes to people on benefits
4.

Estate agents caught saying they don't rent homes to people on benefits

Keep up to date with the Big Issue. The leading voice on life, politics, culture and social activism direct to your inbox.