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Carrie Johnson pictured breaking Covid rules hugging friend at West End club

Carrie Johnson with her friend, Anna Pinder

Carrie Johnson with her friend, Anna Pinder

Carrie Johnson, the Prime Minister's wife, was photographed breaking Covid-19 social distancing rules days after the public was warned that it was "critical" to follow the guidance, The Telegraph can disclose.

Despite Boris Johnson's warning that "you should keep your distance from anyone you don't live with", Mrs Johnson, 33, was pictured embracing a close friend while the pair celebrated the friend's engagement at a private members' club in London's West End.

The pair seemingly shared a joke as they posed for the camera while sitting next to each other on a sofa on the club's outdoor roof terrace. 

Mrs Johnson appeared to have her arm around the friend, Anna Pinder, and one of her legs draped over her leg. Ms Pinder's hands were clasped together in her lap.

The embrace, seemingly initiated by Mrs Johnson, stands in stark contrast to the isolation rules members of the public rigidly stuck to.

People have been angered by allegations of parties being held at Number 10 despite coronavirus restrictions, including a young woman who abided by guidance which prevented her from hugging her grandmother at her mother's funeral.

At the time, in September 2020, ministers had warned that Britain was facing a second wave of infections. The law prevented people from gathering in groups of more than six, other than for education, work, weddings and funerals. 

But the Prime Minister, together with senior ministers and health officials, stressed that adhering to separate social distancing guidance was key to slowing the spread of Covid-19 and avoiding a second national lockdown. 

The guidance included remaining two metres apart from those in other households where possible, or one metre with extra precautions in place, such as meeting outdoors.

A spokesman for Mrs Johnson said on Saturday: "Mrs Johnson was one of a group of six seated outside celebrating a friend’s engagement. Mrs Johnson regrets the momentary lapse in judgment in briefly hugging her friend for a photograph."

The disclosure of Mrs Johnson breaking social distancing guidance emerges as the Prime Minister awaits the outcome of the inquiry by Sue Gray, a senior civil servant, into a series of apparently illicit parties held by staff at No 10.

The disclosures have rocked the Government and left MPs facing a barrage of emails and letters from constituents furious that many in No 10 appeared to have routinely broken rules that Mr Johnson himself urged the public to follow.

Downing Street has also apologised to Buckingham Palace over two "deeply regrettable" parties held on the eve of Prince Philip's funeral.

Mrs Johnson has previously been dragged into claims of a culture in No 10 in which Covid-19 rules were ignored or overlooked. Her spokesman's statement is the first time she has admitted breaking any rules.

Last month, a photograph emerged showing Mrs Johnson sitting at a table with the Prime Minister, Martin Reynolds, his principal private secretary, and Dominic Cummings, Mr Johnson's then senior adviser, in the Downing Street garden, with wine and cheese. No 10 said a "work meeting" was taking place.

The Prime Minister's wife was also said to have attended the May 2020 gathering in the Downing Street garden that was also attended by Mr Johnson and forms the centre of Ms Gray's inquiry. 

Sources have reportedly claimed that she was drinking with Henry Newman, a senior aide to the Prime Minister and a close friend of Mrs Johnson. No 10 has declined to comment on the claim, saying the nature of the party and who attended are being examined by Ms Gray.

It has also been claimed that Mrs Johnson, who is head of communications at a wildlife charity, hosted a party in the flat above No 11 Downing Street that she shared with the Prime Minister and their two young children. That allegation has been described by Mr Johnson's spokesman as "total nonsense".

Mrs Johnson, a former communications director of the Conservative Party, is said to advise the Prime Minister on an informal basis on issues ranging from animal welfare to the appointment of advisers and ministers. However, No 10 has said claims that she has played a central role were "incorrect". She has her own adviser funded by the Conservative Party.

Mrs Johnson attended an engagement celebration for Ms Pinder, a friend from their time at Godolphin and Latymer, a private school in West London, on September 17 2020 at The Conduit, a private members' club in Covent Garden.

Ms Pinder, a trained chef who co-wrote a recipe book, posted that the pair were celebrating, days after she became engaged. 

Last year, she was pictured leaving through the front door of No 10 having been one of 30 guests at a party in the Downing Street garden to celebrate Mrs Johnson's marriage to the Prime Minister earlier that day.

People told to 'limit social contact'

Three days before Ms Pinder posted the photograph with Mrs Johnson on her Instagram account, the Prime Minister tightened Covid-19 restrictions in response to the rising transmission of Covid-19.

A statement issued by the Government on September 9, when the new rules were announced, warned: "This is not the time for complacency; we have seen big increases in the spread of the virus in Europe and other countries."

The statement said it was "critical that everybody observes the following key behaviours".

Speaking at a Downing Street press conference on September 9, Mr Johnson said: "If we are to beat the virus then everyone, at all times, should limit social contact as much as possible and minimise interactions with other households.

"It is safer to meet outdoors and you should keep your distance from anyone you don't live with, even if they are close friends or family.

“By bearing down on social contact and improving enforcement, we can keep schools and businesses open."

On September 7, Matt Hancock, then the health secretary, warned that the recent increase in transmission was "among more affluent younger people".

Mr Hancock later quit his post after leaked images showed the MP in a clinch with an aide in his ministerial office. 

He was accused of breaching social distancing guidance and said: "We owe it to people who have sacrificed so much in this pandemic to be honest when we have let them down as I have done by breaching the guidance."

Carrie Johnson pictured breaking Covid rules hugging friend at West End club (msn.com)

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