LONDON (Reuters) – British Prime Minister Boris Johnson resisted calls on Saturday from opposition parties to sack adviser Dominic Cummings after he traveled 400 km (250 miles) while his wife showed COVID-19 symptoms so that their son could be looked after by his family.
FILE PHOTO: Dominic Cummings, special advisor for Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson arrives outside Downing Street following the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), London, Britain, May 14, 2020. REUTERS/John Sibley
Cummings, who masterminded the 2016 campaign to leave the European Union during the Brexit referendum, traveled to Durham in northern England in late March, when a strict lockdown was already in place.
Johnson’s office said his adviser 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.
“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,” a Downing Street spokesman said.
“His actions were in line with coronavirus guidelines,” the spokesman said. “Mr Cummings believes he behaved reasonably and legally.”
One of Johnson’s most senior ministers, Michael Gove, said of the situation: “Caring for your wife and child is not a crime.”
But opposition parties 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.”
Just a few days before Cummings’ journey, Johnson imposed a lockdown in the United Kingdom and asked people to stay at home. He said on March 23 that people “should not be meeting family members who do not live in your home.”
Shortly after Johnson announced that he had tested positive for COVID-19, Cummings sprinted out of Downing Street on March 27 and developed symptoms on the weekend of March 28-29.
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.
The Scottish National Party and the Liberal Democrats calls for Cummings to be sacked.
Other prominent figures have 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.
Reporting by Guy Faulconbridge; Editing by Angus MacSwan and John Stonestreet