Johnson’s close aide Dominic Cummings reportedly broke lockdown
Guardian and Mirror newspapers say Downing Street adviser travelled over 400km in late March
Dominic Cummings was spoken to by police after he appeared to breach UK government lockdown rules in late March, according to reports. Photograph: Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire
British prime minister Boris Johnson’s closest adviser, Dominic Cummings, travelled more than 400km from his London home after showing symptoms of coronavirus, breaking the government’s lockdown rules, the Guardian and Mirror newspapers reported on Friday.
Mr Cummings, a polarising figure in Britain since he masterminded the successful campaign to leave the European Union in 2016, travelled to Durham in northern England in late March, when a strict lockdown was already in place, the reports said.
A spokesman for Mr Johnson’s Downing Street office said it would make no comment. Mr Cummings could not immediately be reached.
The opposition Labour Party said Downing Street should explain his actions. “The British people do not expect there to be one rule for them and another rule for Dominic Cummings,” a spokeswoman said.
Mr Johnson imposed a national lockdown on March 23rd, asking Britons to stay at home. Non-essential travel was not allowed.
On March 27th, Johnson announced that he had tested positive for the virus. On the weekend of March 28th-29th, Cummings also developed symptoms of the virus. Downing Street said he was self-isolating at home. He returned to the office on April 14th.
“Officers made contact with the owners of that address who confirmed that the individual in question was present and was self-isolating in part of the house,” a spokesman for Durham police was quoted as saying in both newspapers’ reports.
“Officers explained to the family the guidelines around self-isolation and reiterated the appropriate advice around essential travel.”
No comment from Durham police was immediately available.
The two newspapers said that the property where Cummings stayed in Durham was his parents’ house.
Laura Kuenssberg, Catherine Calderwood and Neil Ferguson
The BBC’s political editor Laura Kuenssberg quoted a source close to Mr Cummings as saying he did travel to Durham during lockdown but did not breach the rules as he needed his parents’ help with childcare while he was ill. Mr Cummings and his wife have a young son.
The reports could put Mr Cummings in a difficult position, after several senior people involved in the country’s response to the coronavirus outbreak were forced to resign when it emerged that they had broken the lockdown rules.
Epidemiologist Neil Ferguson resigned from his role as a government adviser on May 5th after the Daily Telegraph reported he had met his girlfriend.
Scotland’s chief medical officer Catherine Calderwood resigned on April 5th after she broke her own advice to stay at home by visiting her second home on two weekends. – Reuters
Breaking news at 11am today (Saturday) : BBC national news is reporting that No 10 says the PM’s chief aide Dominic Cummings acted in line with coronavirus guidelines when he travelled from London to his relatives in Durham with Covid-19 symptoms during lockdown.
A spokesman said it was “essential” for Mr Cummings to ensure he had childcare while he and his wife were unwell.
The Durham police chief said it was “unwise” for Mr Cummings to travel to County Durham while infected.
Labour has called for a “clear explanation” for Mr Cummings’ actions.
Downing Street said Mr Cummings believed he “behaved reasonably and legally” when he made the 260-mile journey from his London home to Country Durham during the lockdown.
A No 10 spokesman added: “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.”
Police said they attended a property in County Durham, after the Guardian and the Daily Mirror newspapers first reported Mr Cummings had made the trip.
The government has ordered anyone with coronavirus symptoms to self-isolate at home and not leave – even for essential supplies – for seven days.
A Labour spokesman said the government should use the daily Downing Street Covid-19 press conference on Saturday to provide answers over the reports.
A statement added: “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.”
Mr Cummings has attended meetings of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) – the scientific body which gives independent advice that shapes the government’s coronavirus response.
- There is an update of this story in the Daily Mirror here: https://www.mirror.co.uk/news/politics/dominic-cummings-investigated-police-after-22072579