Police were urging people to abide by Covid restrictions on the same day more than 100 Downing Street employees were invited to a lockdown-busting drinks gathering in the garden at No 10.
A leaked email published by ITV appeared to show a Boris Johnson aide asking staffers to “bring your own booze” for an evening event.
Martin Reynolds, the prime minister’s principal private secretary, said they should “make the most of the lovely weather”, despite England being under tough restrictions in May 2020.
ITV reported that more than 40 members of staff attended, including Johnson and his wife Carrie.
On the same day – May 20 – the Met police tweeted: “Have you been enjoying the hottest day of the year so far?
“It is important that we all continue to #StayAlert
“You can relax, have a picnic, exercise or play sport, as long as you are: On your own, With people you live with, Just you and one other person.”
Have you been enjoying the hottest day of the year so far? 🌞
It is important that we all continue to #StayAlert
You can relax, have a picnic, exercise or play sport, as long as you are:
➡️ On your own
➡️ With people you live with
➡️ Just you and one other person pic.twitter.com/LAVe6DScQ5
— Metropolitan Police (@metpoliceuk) May 20, 2020
At 5pm on that day, the then culture secretary Oliver Dowden told everyone in England at a daily press conference that they must only meet in pairs outdoors to help stop the spread of Covid-19.
The prime minister had only recently announced a slight relaxing to the lockdown rules. From May 13, 2020, two people from separate households were permitted to meet outside in a public place, such as a park, provided they stayed two metres apart.
As many pointed out on social media, there’s a big difference between two people gathering and more than 100.
The same day as the PMs private secretary supposedly emailed staff asking them to “bring own booze” to downing st garden to “make most” of lovely weather https://t.co/ogmS3idvYr
— Mollie Malone (@Mollie_Malone1) January 10, 2022
Please help as I don’t understand the law: is 100 bigger than 2
— James Felton (@JimMFelton) January 10, 2022
Human rights lawyer Adam Wagner, who interprets coronavirus regulations on Twitter for the public, said the alleged event looked “unlikely to be legal for attendees”.
“Being outside the home was illegal at the time unless (the only potentially relevant exception) it was for the need to work,” Wagner posted on social media.
“‘Socially distanced drinks’ / ‘BYOB’ don’t sound like work.”
This article originally appeared on HuffPost UK and has been updated.