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Families react to picture of wine and cheese ‘meeting’ in Downing Street garden during COVID-19 lockdown

An image of the prime minister, his wife and Downing Street staff drinking wine in the garden of Number 10 has prompted many people to share their memories from around the same time during the first lockdown.

Using the hashtag “May2020” people have taken to social media to describe sadness, sacrifice and hardship.

Sarah Cordey, a midwife from Lancashire, shared photographs of her children, then aged four and eight, waving to their great-grandfather through the window of his home.

Arthur Mather, 93, had been diagnosed with terminal cancer. Sarah was afraid she might bring COVID back from the hospital.

“My children really wanted to see him but we knew that the risk of them transmitting the virus to him or me transmitting the virus to him with me going backwards and forwards to work was too high so we had to stand outside his home and then talk to him through the window,” Sarah said.

“Unfortunately they never got the chance to touch him again or hug him again before he died.”

She said she was furious when she saw the image from the Downing Street garden.

“It’s been really difficult for us all and to see images of people who weren’t following the rules, who weren’t making every effort to keep people safe in the way we were has felt like a betrayal,” she said.

The prime minister said the photo showed “people at work, talking about work”.

Downing Street said the photo shows a “staff meeting”.

The deputy prime minister, Dominic Raab, told Sky News that the gathering at Downing Street didn’t break rules because staff were “in suits”.

“It’s a place of work, they’re all in suits, or predominately in formal attire,” Mr Raab said.

“Sometimes as with many work situations, particularly given the pressures the Number 10 team were under, they might have a drink after the formal business has ended. That is not anything to do with the social mixing rules and it’s consistent with the guidance at the time.”

Gareth Wright, an NHS worker, tweeted a picture of himself in full PPE, adding: “Cheese and wine at work meetings would have been a bit of a challenge in #May2020”.

Georgia Coggings from Leeds had to say goodbye to her mum that month. Tracey was only 50 when she died of cancer, just two months after being diagnosed.

The family was only allowed a small, socially distanced funeral.

“Now that all this stuff has come out it just makes you think why did we have to lose out on not being able to hug my Grandma who lost her daughter?” Georgia said.

Referring to the Downing Street photo she said “it is really, really frustrating. Obviously it’s not just me in this situation”.

Paul Prior from Melton Mowbray also lost his father, David, that month.

“I just didn’t get a chance to say goodbye properly,” he said.

“There was no wake, only 14 people there, he had loads of friends from the fire service. It wasn’t great.”

Families feel robbed of happy memories too. When Stan Edge turned 90 in May 2020 his family had hoped for a large celebration, including his three children and many grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

Instead he stood on the steps of his home in Redditch with his wife Janet, as family waved from a distance.

His grandson, Andrew Toy, said: “Obviously COVID laid waste to all our plans.

“Unfortunately we resorted to standing at the end of the drive and waving and singing happy birthday from a distance which was a real shame and ironically there’s probably nothing that my grandfather would have enjoyed more than sitting in the garden with a glass of wine and some cheese with all of us”.

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