STAFF who took part in the Downing Street Christmas quiz hosted by Boris Johnson on Zoom “were told to leave by the back door”.
The Prime Minister has been accused of personally breaking Covid laws by hosting the virtual quiz in No10 for staff in the policy unit and press office last Christmas.
The Prime Minister was pictured on screen as he read out questions to colleagues on December 15, 2020.
A leaked email has revealed the organisers had planned the event days in advance for some staff to attend the event in person, from the office.
Johnson, 57, hosted the quiz via Zoom while some staff were at their office computers instead of logging in from home.
The leaked email, seen by The Mirror, was sent the Friday before to team captains which told staff members “planning to stay in the office for the quiz” to follow social distancing rules.
It also told staff not to come in for the quiz if they weren’t due to work that day.
“Teams in the office should ensure that they arrange themselves behind the perspex screens,” it read, adding: “All staff will be required to leave the office immediately after the end of the quiz."
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But sources told the paper staff had stayed on for two hours or so drinking and chatting.
Number 10’s head of HR reportedly told staff taking part in the quiz to leave through the rear exit.
'GO OUT THE BACK'
At 9.39pm on December 15, the official sent a message to the chat group being used for the quiz, saying: “Go out the back.”
The prize for the winning teams are said to have included bottles of “whatever was lying around the office,” while the prize for last place was a bottle of Sanctuary body wash.
Names used by the teams are said to have included "Professor Quiz Whitty", "Next Slide Please", "We've Been Clear”, “The 6 Masketeers” and "Hands, Face, First Place" – referring to the slogan used to encourage social distancing and mask wearing.
Johnson last week said he was “sickened and furious” to see footage of Downing Street staff making jokes about lockdown rules.
The fresh allegation follows reports of multiple Christmas parties having happened in and around Downing Street during the festive season last year.
Boris was flanked by two members of his top team – one wearing a Santa hat and the other draped in tinsel.
London was then under Tier 2 regulations banning any social mixing between households – so strictly speaking, Boris may have broken the rules.
Official guidance also stated: “You must not have a work Christmas lunch or party, where that is a primarily social activity and is not otherwise permitted by the rules in your tier.”
It's claimed that this quiz "wasn't a business event" and "no work was discussed."
Staff were said to have been invited to the virtual quiz, raising funds for charity, a couple of weeks earlier.
According to an insider, dozens of people signed up to take part online but on the day many staff decided to take part from No10 instead.
A source told the Mirror: “Nobody ever questioned whether this was against the rules or if we shouldn’t be doing this.
“We all just went ahead and did it."
They added: “We felt like we were working extremely hard and working a lot of hours. Looking back, I accept we shouldn’t have done that.”
Halfway through the event, the PM surprised staff by turning up on screen as quizmaster for one round lasting between 10 and 15 minutes.
A No10 spokesman said of the new revelations: “This was a virtual quiz.
"Downing Street staff were often required to be in the office to work on the pandemic response so those who were in the office for work may have attended virtually from their desks.
“The Prime Minister briefly took part virtually in a quiz to thank staff for their hard work throughout the year.”
Speaking about the quiz night, Nadhim Zahawi said: "What do we see? We see the PM in a virtual quiz night for 10 to 15 minutes to thank his staff.
"Many people would have had a similar zoom quiz.
"People will look and think, he’s on a virtual call before he goes back to work. Is that really a terrible crime?"
This comes as Downing Street WON'T hold a Christmas party this year because No10 wants to "focus on tackling Omicron".
Festive celebrations are still allowed to take place this year, but No10 officials will be focusing on the "intensive work" needed to beat the mutant virus instead.
A Downing Street spokesperson said: "As the Prime Minister said Christmas parties can continue to go ahead under Plan B.
"Everyone should continue to behave cautiously and we recommend people take lateral flow tests before meeting others socially in high-risk settings, but it is up to individual businesses and people to decide what works for them.
"No10 is focused on tackling the rise of the new omicron variant and the ongoing pandemic, and there are therefore no plans for a party while this intensive work is ongoing."
Boris Johnson has also been accused of flouting three Covid lockdown rules in a late-night dinner date with wife Carrie last year.
A source has told how the pair were at a fashionable London restaurant until 10.25pm — despite the curfew imposing 10pm closing.
At the time, venues in the capital were subject to strict rules which also required diners to wear masks when moving around in restaurants and a ban on different households mixing at tables.
But he is said to have breached those curbs too.
The PM and his wife enjoyed the night out on October 21 last year at Darby’s restaurant, a mile and a half from Downing Street.
Meanwhile, the Met police said they WON'T be probing the Downing Street Christmas Party which allegedly happened last year.
The force has said it won't investigate the lockdown party allegations due to an “absence of evidence” and their policy to not probe "historic breaches of Covid regulations".
It comes as Boris' top aide Allegra Stratton resigned in tears this week just hours after bombshell footage showed her laughing about a lockdown-busting Christmas party at No10.
The PM earlier said he was "sickened" by the leaked video of his senior advisers joking about the alleged illegal gathering last year.
In the Commons, Mr Johnson said the video leaked to ITV made him "furious" and launched an investigation into the December 18 party.
He said Downing Street staff could face "disciplinary action" but said he's been assured no Covid rules were broken.
The Met Police's statement means that there will be no criminal action taken either.
Before any of Wednesday's action, ex-journalist Ms Stratton, 41, announced she was leaving the Government and offered her resignation to the PM.
She said: "My remarks seemed to make light of rules, rules that people were doing everything to obey. That was never my intention.
"I understand the anger and frustration that people feel. To all of you who lost loved ones, endured intolerable loneliness and struggled with your business – I am sorry and this afternoon I have offered my resignation to Prime Minister."
The video showed Ms Stratton – then the PM's press secretary – fielding questions from colleagues at a mock press conference on December 22.
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