UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson defended his top aide Dominic Cummings Sunday, saying he acted “responsibly and legally,” a day after allegations emerged that the adviser broke lockdown to travel 250 miles to visit his parents when he suspected he was infected with COVID-19.
Johnson — who himself contracted COVID-19 and ended up in intensive care — rejected calls made from across British party lines for Cummings to resign or be fired since the allegations emerged on Saturday.
According to reports that emerged in the British newspapers the Daily Mirror and the Guardian on Saturday, Cummings was concerned about childcare so he traveled from London to his parents’ house in Durham in the north of England in March when he had coronavirus symptoms.
Castle visit, second journey?
Johnson claimed that Cummings self-isolated once he arrived at the property, while an eyewitness claims he saw him visiting a castle around 40 miles outside of Durham at the start of April. Other media reports claim that Cummings, often derided for his unusually casual clothing choices, traveled the length of England twice.
Cummings is well-known and often criticized for his unusual sartorial leanings
“In every respect, he has acted responsibly and legally and with integrity,” Johnson said, avoiding a question on whether this means the guidelines have changed for others.
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Cummings “followed the instincts of every father and every parent and I do not mark him down for it,” Johnson added. He made the announcement after “extensive” face-to-face talks with Cummings.
Calls to resign from own side
At least seven Conservative lawmakers from Johnson’s own party joined in the calls for Cummings to resign or be removed.
“The government could be better without him,” Damian Collins wrote on Twitter. “Cummings must go,” fellow Conservative Member of Parliament Steve Baker said.
Cummings is one of the most influential people in British politics — either elected or unelected — having led the “Vote Leave” pro-Brexit campaign in 2016 and Johnson’s election campaign late last year.
In the briefing, Johnson also confirmed schools will partially reopen on June 1.
Minutes after the briefing, the UK Civil Service’s official Twitter account tweeted “Arrogant and offensive. Can you imagine having to work with these truth twisters.” The tweet was quickly deleted.
ed/rc (AP, dpa)