Dominic Cummings, U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s most senior adviser, on Monday defended his 260-mile trip to Durham amid calls to resign for breaking coronavirus lockdown rules.
In an unprecedented move for a senior political aide, Cummings staged his own press conference to address allegations that he breached lockdown restrictions by traveling in late March from his London home to a family property in Durham, as his wife exhibited what appeared to be COVID-19 symptoms.
Dressed in an open-collared white shirt, Cummings, opening his news conference more than a half-hour late and speaking and taking questions for an hour, said he “behaved reasonably” in the best interest of his family. He said he made the journey so that he and his wife could get help caring for their 4-year-old son, which he said was not reasonably possible in London.
“I don’t regret what I did, I think what I did was reasonable in these circumstances. I can understand that some people watching the media will be very upset. I understand the hardship and sacrifice the country has gone through,” he said, in response to a reporter’s question.
Cummings said that he did not consult the prime minister — who was himself ill with the coronavirus disease and would later be treated in an intensive-care unit — about his decision, and that this was arguably a mistake.
“I did not ask the prime minister about the decision — he was ill himself, and he had huge problems to deal with,” he said.
Cummings said he gave a full account of his actions on Sunday to Johnson, who had then asked him to repeat it today.
The prime minister’s chief political aide added that he wanted to clear up any misunderstandings and confusion, and in retrospect should have made the statement earlier.
He said he had not offered to resign.
Calls for Cummings to resign and explain his actions have been growing after revelations that he traveled more than 260 miles to his parents’ home in Durham while his wife was suffering coronavirus symptoms and the country was in lockdown. Cummings said he and his son both became ill in Durham and that the child was ultimately taken by ambulance to a local hospital, in which he spent the night but tested negative for the coronavirus. He said neither he nor his wife had been tested.
At least 15 Conservative back benchers have called for Cummings to step down, with many arguing that his actions made it seem as though there was one set of rules for the political elite and another for the public.
In a statement on Monday, Steve White, acting Durham police, crime and victims commissioner, said that the Durham force had so far handled the matter proportionately and appropriately, but that he had written to the chief constable asking her to establish the facts concerning any “potential breach of the law or regulations” on this matter at any juncture.
“It is clear, however, that there is a plethora of additional information circulating in the public domain which deserves appropriate examination. I have today written to the chief constable, asking her to establish the facts concerning any potential breach of the law or regulations in this matter at any juncture,” White said.