Deputy prime minister and justice secretary Dominic Raab has said that a photograph of the prime minister and staff gathering with wine and cheese in the Downing Street garden in May 2020 was a work meeting.

When asked why somebody would take such a picture, Raab admitted to Sky News that it would have “clearly [been] someone with an animus”.

When asked whether he would hold a work meeting next to his wife and baby, in light of Carrie Johnson’s a appearing to nurse her son in the photo, he said: “In fairness I don’t live in the place where I work” and added that he would not “begrudge his wife coming down” during “the business of the day”.

He affirmed that the gathering was legal “because its a place of work, they’re all in suits”, admitting that “some of them have taken their jackets off” when pressed over the fact that people in the image are visibly not wearing suits.

“They might have a drink after the formal business has ended”, he argued.

He did not deny that the photograph was taken from inside No 11.

“Perception of the public is very important,” he said, but emphasised his stance that “They use the garden for work meetings and that’s what you can see”.

When quizzed over Omicron figures, he said he was “not sure” how many people with the variant were on ventilators, but that: “A large proportion of those in hospital; are unvaccinated.”

He denied that the government was overreacting to the new variant, after reports that new lockdown measures could follow last week’s Plan B restrictions.

He said that South Africa may be suffering less from Omicron has it has a younger population and “has been hit pretty hard by earlier variants.”

He echoed the health secretary’s comments over the weekend that “people need to be careful and cautious”, but refused to make “hard and fast guarantees” over implementing new restrictions prior to 25 December.

“We always all of us question the advice… and the scientists are constantly testing the evidence and the advice amongst scientists,” explained, adding: “its quite right that we get the balance right.

“I support the approach the prime minister and the government has taken, I think it is a finely balanced approach… including what the Treasury has done and Rishi has done in supporting busines,” he stated.

He suggested that leaks of disagreements over the measures within the Cabinet led to “Mischievous media reporting”, and said that he has played no part in them.