With the omicron variant posing new challenges around the globe as we head into the holiday season, an alleged Christmas party from last year is causing a headache for Boris Johnson. Despite his initial denials over the past week that there'd been such a gathering in 2020 at 10 Downing Street, during Britain's strict COVID lockdown, the UK prime minister is now apologizing for a video that has emerged showing members of his staff joking around and laughing about the supposed event four days after it was said to have happened, reports Reuters.
"Definitely no social distancing" at the party, laughed Allegra Stratton, Johnson's then-press secretary, in the footage leaked to ITV, which was first reported on by the Daily Mirror. Standing at the podium in the press room at Johnson's offices, Stratton, who was pretending to field questions from her colleagues about the rumored event on Dec. 18, chuckled as she tried to answer them. "It wasn't a party, it was cheese and wine," one attendee said, to which Stratton responded, again with laughter, "It was a business meeting." At one point Stratton, with a smile on her face, notes that their conversation is being recorded.
When asked if Johnson would have approved of such a party, Stratton once more laughed, then said, "What's the answer?"—acknowledging that she had no good answer for that question. Reuters reports that, around the time of the alleged party, tens of millions of people in Britain were barred by the nation's COVID lockdown from gathering with their own loved ones for the holidays, or even from visiting with those who were dying. The hubbub comes as the prime minister is deciding on whether to implement new measures for this holiday season due to the omicron variant.
Johnson, who is now facing calls to resign, addressed the leaked video directly on Wednesday, saying he was furious about it and that he'd been told no such party ever happened. "I apologize unreservedly for the offense that it has caused up and down the country, and I apologize for the impression that it gives," Johnson told Parliament. He added that the Cabinet secretary would investigate and that there will be repercussions if COVID protocols were flouted, per the New York Times. The Metropolitan Police are also reviewing the video. (Read more Boris Johnson stories.)