A photograph has emerged showing Carrie Johnson flouting social distancing rules despite the public being warned at the time that they should keep their distance from anyone they do not live with.
In the photo, the prime minister’s wife can be seen embracing old school friend Anna Pinder at a private members’ club in Covent Garden, where they were celebrating the latter’s engagement.
In the picture, published by The Telegraph, Ms Johnson is seen hugging her friend while they sat side-by-side on a sofa on the roof terrace of The Conduit.
Ms Johnson has one of her legs draped over her friend and an arm around her shoulder as they posed for the snap, which was reportedly posted on Ms Pinder’s Instagram account.
The image was taken on 17 September 2020. Days earlier, on 9 September, Mr Johnson told the British public: “If we are to beat the virus then everyone, at all times, should limit social contact as much as possible and minimise interactions with other households.
“It is safer to meet outdoors and you should keep your distance from anyone you don’t live with, even if they are close friends or family.”
He added that it was “crucial” to stay at least two metres apart, or one metre apart outdoors. At the time, Covid rules prevented people gathering in groups of more than six, with only a handful of exemptions including at weddings and funerals.
A spokesperson for Ms Johnson told The Telegraph that she was “one of a group of six seated outside celebrating a friend’s engagement” and that she “regrets the momentary lapse in judgement in briefly hugging her friend for a photograph”.
The emergence of the photograph comes during an ongoing scandal over the number of parties that were held at Downing Street during the pandemic.
Senior civil servant Sue Gray has been tasked with investigating the parties held by staff at No 10.
People who have had to deal with grief and hardships while having to comply with the government’s rules during the lockdowns are particularly outraged by the revelations of the drink events by those in power.
Downing Street this week apologised to Buckingham Palace over two “deeply regrettable” parties held on the eve of Prince Philip’s funeral, where the Queen had to sit on her own to comply with the Covid laws.
Amid the party scandal, Mr Johnson is reportedly planning to give a number of his Downing Street staff the boot to salvage his premiership as part of a plot dubbed “Operation Save Big Dog”, The Independent reported earlier this week.
Now, it has emerged that in another plan known as “Operation Red Meat”, Mr Johnson is planning to announce a series of policies in a desperate bid to shore up some support and save his tattered reputation.
The policies are expected to include a workplace “booze ban” within No 10, a BBC licence fee freeze for two years, and a plan to task the military with stopping migrants crossing the English Channel in small illegal boats, The Sunday Times reports.
Mr Johnson has been blaming “everyone but himself for the crisis,” a senior government source told the paper, adding that Mr Johnson had complained to his aides: “How has all this been allowed to happen? How has it come to this? How haven’t you sorted this out?”
A number of Tory MPs have called on Mr Johnson to resign, with some sending letters of no confidence to the influential 1922 Committee of backbench Conservatives in the hope of triggering a leadership contest.
Former minister Tim Loughton last night became the latest Tory MP to call for Mr Johnson to quit.
The East Worthing and Shoreham MP, in a post on Facebook, said Mr Johnson’s “resignation is the only way to bring this whole unfortunate episode to an end”.
He added: “I am working with colleagues to impress that view on Number 10.
“I am deeply sorry for the great hurt that has been caused to many people who have made substantial sacrifices during lockdown, ultimately in some cases not being able to share precious final moments with loved ones.
“Whatever our view on how disproportionate or impractical some of the lockdown measures may have been, it is entirely appropriate that we should all expect everyone to follow the rules equally, not least those responsible for implementing them.”
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