UK PM Johnson resists calls to sack adviser over lockdown breach

Dominic Cummings has reportedly traveled 400 km to northern England, violating both a travel ban and quarantine rules

Dominic Cummings

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson resisted calls on Saturday from opposition parties to sack adviser Dominic Cummings after he traveled 400 km to northern England while his wife showed COVID-19 symptoms. According to the Guardian and the Mirror newspapers, Cummings, who masterminded the 2016 campaign to leave the European Union during the Brexit referendum, had travelled from London to his parents' home in County Durham while he had coronavirus symptoms.

Johnson’s office said Cummings made the journey to ensure his young son could be properly cared for, as his wife was ill with COVID-19 and there was a “high likelihood” that Cummings would himself become unwell.

“I behaved reasonably and legally,” Cummings told reporters outside his house after telling them to stay 2 meters apart in accordance with government guidelines.

When a reporter said it did not look good, he said: “Who cares about good looks - it’s a question of doing the right thing it’s not about what you guys think.”

Downing Street said his “actions were in line with coronavirus guidelines,” despite the fact that just a few days before Cummings’ journey, the government has put in place struck lockdown restrictions, aimed at curbing the spread of the novel coronavirus. When Johnson imposed the lockdown in the United Kingdom he also said on 23 March that people “should not be meeting family members who do not live in your home”. 

Furthermore, Cummings sprinted out of Downing Street on 27 March, shortly after Johnson announced that he had tested positive for COVID-19 and developed symptoms on the weekend of 28-29 March. Government guidelines say that those who have COVID-19 or suspect they have it should self-isolate for at least seven days along with their household and not leave their house for any reason.

Johnson’s most senior ministers, including Michael Gove, Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab and Health Secretary Matt Hancock, defended Cummings. But opposition parties, such as the Scottish National Party and the Liberal Democrats, called for Johnson to sack Cummings and said the lockdown rules made clear that those with suspected COVID-19 symptoms should isolate with their whole household.

“The prime minister’s chief adviser appears to believe that it is one rule for him and another for the British people,” the Labour Party said. “We are still unclear who knew about this decision and when, whether this was sanctioned by the prime minister.”

Other prominent figures have already resigned after having broken lockdown rules.

Epidemiologist Neil Ferguson quit as a member of the government’s scientific advisory group after was visited at home by his girlfriend. Scotland’s chief medical officer, Catherine Calderwood, stepped down after she was caught making two trips to her second home.

More on this subject: Coronavirus

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