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A Downing Street spokesperson has said Boris and Carrie Johnson did not break Covid rules by traveling to the Buckinghamshire mansion, our political editor Heather Stewart reports.

Downing Street has said Boris and Carrie Johnson followed Covid guidance when the prime minister “travelled” from Checkers to No 10 during the first lockdown in 2020, but declined to answer further questions, including whether the pair held social events.

It emerged last week that the Prime Minister and his then-fiancée traveled between Number 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 all non-essential travel, and on March 22, three days before the full lockdown was ordered, it specified that essential travel “does not include visits to second homes.”

But nevertheless, reported the Tortoise website (paywall) that Johnson and his partner moved to Checkers during this period, after which the Prime Minister continued to commute to Downing Street from Checkers for work for several days.

Johnson’s official spokesman insisted Monday that they had not broken the rules, saying they “acted in accordance with the guidance and subsequent legislation at all times.”

“At the time, as you know, Ms. Johnson was heavily pregnant, in a vulnerable category, and was advised to minimize social contacts. So, in accordance with clinical guidance and to minimize the risk to her, they were based at Checkers during that period, with the Prime Minister traveling to Downing Street for work,” he said.

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He said his 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 noted that when the guideline against travel to second homes was issued on March 22, “the prime minister and his wife were already at Checkers, acting in accordance with the clinical guideline.”

However, he declined to answer any further questions, including whether any parties or social events were held at Checkers while the couple was there.

It was reported that Carrie Johnson hosted a baby shower for a group of friends on March 14, 2020. At the time, a minister, Nadine Dorries, had been diagnosed with Covid.

Johnson isolated himself in his Downing Street flat after testing positive for Covid on March 27, eventually being taken to St Thomas’s hospital and spending time in intensive care. He then returned to Checkers to recover.

Johnson’s compliance with the strict restrictions in place in the first lockdown has come under intense scrutiny in recent days, since he apologized for attending a “bring your own drink” meeting and told MPs he believed he it was a “work event”.

Johnson seems about to blame the drinking “culture” at No. 10 for a series of rule-breaking parties, including two held on the eve of Prince Philip’s funeral. But critics of the prime minister say he played a key role in encouraging anti-lockdown behaviour.

The story is here: No 10 defends PM travel between London and Checkers in March 2020


www.theguardian.com

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