Members of the UK’s opposition have called for a top government aide to resign after reports alleged that he violated the government’s own coronavirus restrictions.
The Guardian and Mirror newspapers reported on Friday that Boris Johnson’s adviser Dominic Cummings travelled from London to his parents’ house in Durham at the end of March during a nationwide lockdown.
Durham is located in north-east England more than 400 kilometres from London and under the lockdown that began March 23, the government had recommended avoiding non-essential travel and self-isolating in case of suspected COVID-19.
Downing Street said Saturday that Cummings made the trip because his wife had coronavirus symptoms and he was likely to also get sick.
“It was essential for Dominic Cummings to ensure his young child could be properly cared for,” a No 10 spokesperson said in a statement.
The PM’s office said Cummings stayed in a house “near to but separate from” his extended family, adding that Cummings “believes he behaved reasonably and legally”.
Transport secretary Grant Shapps said officials were “aware that not all measures would be possible” depending on circumstances, explaining that a child’s welfare was important.
“We have always said in the guidance…we don’t want to cause harm through advice that keeps people at home when they are at risk,” said Dr Jenny Harries, England’s deputy chief medical officer.
She said the advice was meant to keep people out of circulation and said there all of the guidance had a “common sense element” to it.
Opposition parties condemned Cummings’ actions after the first reports of his alleged lockdown breach emerged on Friday
A spokesman for Labour, Britain’s main opposition party, said “the British people do not expect there to be one law for themselves and another for Dominic Cummings”.
Ed Davey, leader of the Liberal Democrats, said Cummings “will have to resign” if the facts are confirmed.
The Scottish National Party’s leader in the House of Commons Ian Blackford said Cummings “must resign or be fired”.
Cabinet minister Michael Gove took to Twitter to defend Cummings after Downing Street released the statement that explained the aide’s actions.
“Caring for your wife and child is not a crime,” Gove tweeted.
Cummings, 48, was one of the key architects of the Leave campaign of the EU referendum in 2016, which resulted in Britain leaving the European Union in January 2020.
He was appointed as one of the government’s top aides after Boris Johnson won the 2019 general election.
This article was updated to add comments from UK officials.