British health secretary Matt Hancock seen kissing top aide, flouting Covid-19 rules. Boris Johnson says 'matter closed'
United Kingdom health secretary Matt Hancock apologised on Friday for violating coronavirus disease (Covid-19)-related national restrictions after a British newspaper recently exposed photos of him 'kissing' his top aide. Even though the case raised a huge public outcry in the country, demanding the health secretary's resignation, UK prime minister Boris Johnson later accepted Hancock's apology and said that the matter was now "closed".
British newspaper 'The Sun', known for its often explosive reveals, published photographs on its front page on Friday that showed Hancock kissing the woman - a friend hired for a taxpayer-funded role - in his office. The newspaper added that the photos, screengrabs from CCTV footage, were taken on May 6, that is, 11 days before the Covid-19 lockdown rules were relaxed.
"I accept that I breached the social distancing guidance in these circumstances," Hancock said in a statement. He added, "I have let people down and am very sorry. I remain focused on working to get the country out of this pandemic, and would be grateful for privacy for my family on this personal matter."
Although British prime minister Boris Johnson stands in "full confidence" of Hancock, the opposing Labour Party said the health secretary should be removed from office for violating social distancing rules and demanded an investigation into whether he breached the ministerial code.
The development comes as a hit to the 42-year-old Hancock's prestige, especially since the British health secretary has been at the forefront of the Boris Johnson-led UK government's fight against the coronavirus pandemic. He was there in the promotional materials all along, often appearing on television to tell the public to follow strict rules and to defend his department against criticism of its response to the crisis.
"Matt Hancock appears to have been caught breaking the laws he created while having a secret relationship with an aide he appointed to a taxpayer-funded job," said Anneliese Dodds, Chair of the Labour Party.
Notably, Hancock was found in February to have acted unlawfully by not revealing details of contracts signed during the crisis. The health ministry said it had needed to move within very short timescales and against unparalleled global demand.