Downing Street said Boris and Carrie Johnson took Covid advice when the Prime Minister ‘shuttled’ from Checkers to No 10 during the first lockdown in 2020 – but declined to answer further questions, including whether the pair were hosting social events.
It emerged last week that the Prime Minister and his then-fiancée traveled between No 10 and the spacious Buckinghamshire mansion between March 16 and 27, 2020, around the start of the first lockdown.
On March 16, the government advised the public to avoid non-essential travel and on March 22, three days before a full lockdown was ordered, clarified that essential travel “does not include visits to residences secondary”.
However, the Tortoise website reported that Johnson and his partner moved to Checkers during this time, after which the Prime Minister continued to travel to Downing Street from Checkers for work for several days.
Johnson’s official spokesman insisted on Monday they had not broken the rules, saying they “acted in accordance with both the guidelines and subsequent legislation at all times”.
“At the time, as you know, Ms Johnson was heavily pregnant, in a vulnerable category, and advised to minimize social contact. So, in line with clinical guidelines and to minimize risk to her, they were based at Checkers during this period with the Prime Minister traveling to Downing Street for work,” he said.
He said their decision to move was due to the specific nature of No 10, which “unusually is both a private residence and an office for hundreds of people”.
The spokesman pointed out that by the time the advice against travel to second homes came on March 22, “the Prime Minister and his wife were already based in Checkers, acting within clinical guidelines”.
He declined to answer further questions, however, including whether any parties or social events had been held at Checkers while the couple were there.
It was reported that Carrie Johnson hosted a baby shower for a group of friends on March 14, 2020. At that time, a minister, Nadine Dorries, was diagnosed with Covid.
Johnson isolated himself in his Downing Street flat after testing positive for Covid on March 27, before eventually being taken to St Thomas’ Hospital and spending time in intensive care. He then returned to Checkers for his recovery.
Johnson’s adherence to the tough restrictions in place during the first lockdown has come under scrutiny in recent days, as he apologized for attending a ‘bring your own booze’ rally, telling members that he thought it was a ‘work event’.
Johnson appears poised to blame a ‘culture’ of drinking in No 10 for a string of rule-breaking parties, including two held on the eve of Prince Philip’s funeral. But critics of the Prime Minister say he has played a key role in encouraging anti-lockdown behavior.