Top Boris Johnson aide flouts lockdown curbs, opposition demands resignation
Cummings, who developed coronavirus symptoms in end-March, drove 264 miles from London to his parents’ house in Durham, north-east England, when official ‘instruction’ to Britons was to stay home, not travel and not visit elderly relatives to prevent spread of the virus.Updated: May 23, 2020 16:39 IST
The Boris Johnson government was on Saturday caught in a maelstrom over the prime minister’s chief adviser Dominic Cummings allegedly flouting lockdown rules, with the opposition and others baying for his resignation and cabinet ministers defending him.
Not observing curbs imposed due to the coronavirus pandemic has led to at least two high-profile resignations in recent days: epidemiologist Neil Ferguson resigned from a key government committee and Catherine Calderwood as the chief medical officer of Scotland.
Cummings, who developed coronavirus symptoms in end-March, drove 264 miles from London to his parents’ house in Durham, north-east England, when official ‘instruction’ to Britons was to stay home, not travel and not visit elderly relatives to prevent spread of the virus.
The revelation prompted expressions of fury on social media from people who followed official advice and were for weeks deprived of contact with family and close relatives, even when many were dying. One set of rules for the people and another for those in power, they protested.
A Labour spokesman reflected the ennui: “The public have made extraordinary sacrifices during this pandemic and the lockdown. It cannot be one rule for those who set them and another for the British people.”
Facing persistent demands for Cummings’ resignation, Downing Street defended his actions, besides cabinet ministers such as chancellor Rishi Sunak, foreign secretary Dominic Raab and others. They said they would not want the opposition to politicise the issue.
A Downing Street spokesman said: “Owing to his wife being infected with suspected coronavirus and the high likelihood that he would himself become unwell, it was essential for Dominic Cummings to ensure his young child could be properly cared for”.
“His sister and nieces had volunteered to help so he went to a house near to but separate from his extended family in case their help was needed. His sister shopped for the family and left everything outside”.
“At no stage was he or his family spoken to by the police about this matter, as is being reported. His actions were in line with coronavirus guidelines. Mr Cummings believes he behaved reasonably and legally.”
The Durham police said: “Given the whole ethos of the guidance and regulations which were designed to reduce the spread, regardless of reason, by travelling to County Durham when known to be infected was most unwise”.