'It makes you sick' - Norfolk people share lockdown sacrifices after party news

Tara Read with her wife Avril (left), and Jack Stalley (right)

Norfolk and Waveney residents have reflected on the sacrifices they made during the lockdowns of the last two years. - Credit: Tara Read/Jack Stalley

News of a lockdown-breaking party in Downing Street has caused people in Norfolk and Waveney to reflect on the sacrifices they made due to Covid-19 restrictions.

On Monday it was revealed that some 40 people attended a garden party at prime minister Boris Johnson's residence in May 2020 on the invitation of Mr Johnson's private secretary.

Eyewitnesses have claimed the PM was in attendance - and Mr Johnson has not confirmed or denied this allegation.

At the time, people were only allowed to meet outdoors with one person from outside their household. 

Tara Read , from Norwich, looked back on the important events she was unable to attend in January 2021: “My first nephew was born. We couldn’t see him and had to look at him through a window, because we weren’t allowed in.

Norwich resident Tara Read, pictured with her wife Avril.

Norwich resident Tara Read, pictured with her wife Avril. - Credit: Tara Read

“And then my wife’s best friend died of cancer at the age of 53.

“Hundreds of people wanted to go, but instead of being able to go in there, her husband had to make really difficult decisions about who could come in. 

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The 30-year-old added: “It makes you a bit sick that they’ve been doing what they want to do and we’ve been making sacrifices."

“I just think Boris Johnson should step down,” she said.  

“I don’t really follow the news that closely but it just seems like one thing after another.”

Jack Stalley, from Lowestoft, told of the strict conditions in which his grandmother’s funeral was held in the summer of 2020 - when the rules were significantly more relaxed than they were at the time of the Downing Street party. 

Lowestoft resident Jack Stalley

Lowestoft resident Jack Stalley. - Credit: Jack Stalley

“The funeral was horrible,” he said. 

“We went into the hall and my wife and I were told we had to sit one seat apart from each other. 

“All of my family had to sit apart from each other. My little sister had to in fact sit on another row.”

“We’d all gone up in the car together, but as per government rules, we couldn’t sit together.” 

Asked what the prime minister should do, Mr Stalley said: “I believe he should be jailed, I believe he should be fined.

“I believe all of the government that were involved should be held responsible.

“They should be removed from any positions of power, to demonstrate that the laws that they introduced should be followed - but it’s never going to happen.”

What was happening in Norfolk in May 2020?

At the time of the Downing Street party, lockdown rules had only recently been eased to enable people to socialise with people outside their households. 

On May 13, the rules changed to allow one person to meet one other person outdoors. 

By May 20, 2020, more than 100 people had died in Norfolk care homes after contracting the virus. 

The front page of the Eastern Daily Press on May 11 2020

The front page of the Eastern Daily Press on May 11 2020 - nine days before the Downing Street party Boris Johnson is alleged to have attended. - Credit: Eastern Daily Press

The county’s health bosses were meanwhile preparing to launch the test and trace system across Norfolk, while National Trust sites got ready to open their car parks to visitors. 

Play areas in parts of Norfolk were still closed, with West Norfolk Borough Council only announcing its intention of opening them on a “phased basis” in July.  

Great Yarmouth Borough Council announced in May that the town’s Wheels Festival, Maritime Festival and Out There Festival would all be cancelled that summer. 

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