The British government faced accusations of hypocrisy on Saturday after the revelation that Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s top adviser, Dominic Cummings, traveled more than 250 miles (400 kms) to his parents’ house during a nationwide lockdown.
The Guardian and Mirror newspapers reported that Cummings, who lives in London, was seen at the property in Durham, northeast England, at the end of March. A lockdown that began March 23 stipulated that people should remain at their primary residence, leaving only for essential local errands and exercise, and not visit relatives. Anyone with symptoms was told to completely isolate themselves.
Durham Police said that officers went to a house on March 31 and “explained to the family the guidelines around self-isolation and reiterated the appropriate advice around essential travel.” Police did not mention Cummings by name.
Johnson’s office said in a statement that Cummings made the trip because his wife was showing coronavirus symptoms, he thought he was likely to also get sick, and relatives had offered to help look after the couple’s young son. It said Cummings stayed in a house “near to but separate from” his extended family.
Downing St. said Cummings believed he had behaved “reasonably and legally.”
Cummings, a contentious figure who has a spiky relationship with the media, was one of the architects of the successful campaign to take Britain out of the European Union, and later was appointed Johnson’s top aide.
The government has previously said that Cummings spent some time off work with coronavirus symptoms. He is one of a slew of senior British government figures to contract COVID-19, including the prime minister, who spent three nights in intensive care at a London hospital.
Cummings, 48, is one of several senior U.K. officials who have been accused of flouting the lockdown rules that they advocated for the rest of the country.
Epidemiologist Neil Ferguson stepped down as government scientific adviser earlier this month after a newspaper disclosed that his girlfriend had crossed London to stay with him during the lockdown. In April, Catherine Calderwood resigned as Scotland’s chief medical officer after twice traveling from Edinburgh to her second home.
Dave Penman, the leader of civil servants union the FDA, said “the prime minister needs to understand how heartbreaking this lockdown has been for so many families and the sacrifices that have been made up and down the country.”
He said Johnson must explain why “it looks like there is one rule for those at the center of government and one rule for rest of the country.”