Up to 20 fines related to 12 gatherings in Downing Street and Whitehall while Covid-19 restrictions were in place are expected to be issued by police in London as early as Tuesday.
British prime minister Boris Johnson, who was among about 100 people who had to fill out a questionnaire under caution, is said to have attended as many as six events. He has denied breaking the coronavirus rules the government had introduced.
Detectives investigating alleged gatherings revealed last week they had begun interviewing key witnesses.
“The investigation into allegations of breaches of Covid-19 regulations in Whitehall and Downing Street has now progressed to the point where the first referrals for fixed penalty notices (FPN) will be made to ACRO Criminal Records Office," a statement from the Metropolitan Police said.
“We will today initially begin to refer 20 fixed penalty notices to be issued for breaches of Covid-19 regulations. The ACRO Criminal Records Office will then be responsible for issuing the FPNs to the individual following the referrals from the MPS.
“We are making every effort to progress this investigation at speed and have completed a number of assessments.
“However, due to the significant amount of investigative material that remains to be assessed, further referrals may be made to ACRO if the evidential threshold is made."
The saga dominated business in No 10 for weeks before the Ukrainian war broke out, causing attention to be focused elsewhere.
The Met's dishing out of fixed penalty notices (FPNs) thrusts the “partygate” scandal back into the spotlight.
Police are not expected to name those who have been fines, typically £100 ($131). However, Downing Street has said it will reveal if Mr Johnson is fined.
A string of gatherings in government offices during lockdowns caused uproar among politicians and the public when details began to emerge late last year.
They included a “bring your own booze” picnic in the garden of No. 10 in May 2020, which the prime minister admitted attending. He claimed he had believed the get-together organised during England’s first lockdown was a work event.
Other events include a surprise celebration for Mr Johnson’s 56th birthday in June 2020 and two separate parties, which later converged, held by Downing Street staff on the eve of Prince Philip’s funeral in April 2021.
Asked about the scandal on Tuesday, education minister Will Quince said it would be “inappropriate” to comment. But he told LBC radio the “police investigation looks like it may be concluding relatively soon”.
“I entirely understand why you asked that question. I understand the huge public interest,” he told Sky News.
“I completely understand the considerable upset caused, the events that took place shouldn’t have happened.
“But I hope you’ll understand that both as an education minister but more importantly, as there’s continuing live Metropolitan Police investigation, it’s just not appropriate that I comment.”
Speaking on LBC he said he did think it was a “serious issue” and said: “You’ll have noticed there have been considerable changes at Downing Street.”
The Times reported that it was not thought Mr Johnson would be among those receiving fines on Tuesday.
The Met said they would not provide a “running commentary” on the investigation.
In January, senior civil servant Sue Gray published a report into the saga, which said there were “failures of leadership and judgment” in parts of No. 10 and the Cabinet Office while England was under coronavirus restrictions in 2020 and 2021.