Top aide to UK’s Johnson accused of flouting lockdown rules
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Top aide to UK’s Johnson accused of flouting lockdown rules

British newspapers report Dominic Cummings traveled over 250 miles to his parents’ house during nationwide lockdown and while suffering virus symptoms

Dominic Cummings political advisor to Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson arrives at the back entrance to Downing Street in London, May 20, 2020. (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth)
Dominic Cummings political advisor to Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson arrives at the back entrance to Downing Street in London, May 20, 2020. (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth)

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 km) 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.”

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and his advisor Dominic Cummings, left, leave 10 Downing Street in London, and get in a car together to go to the Houses of Parliament, Oct. 28, 2019 (AP Photo/Matt Dunham)

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.

The main opposition Labour party demanded an explanation, saying the reports suggested Cummings viewed himself as above the law, while the smaller Liberal Democrats said it could be a resigning issue.

A Labour spokesman said: “If accurate, the prime minister’s chief adviser appears to have breached the lockdown rules.”

He added: “The British people do not expect there to be one rule for them and another rule for Dominic Cummings. Number 10 needs to provide a very swift explanation for his actions.”

A deserted Westminster Bridge is pictured looking north around Monday lunch time, in central London, March 23, 2020, amid the coronavirus-induced lockdown. (Ben Stansall/AFP)

Ed Davey, acting leader of the Liberal Democrats, said that if Cummings had broken the rules, “he will have to resign.”

Cummings, 48, is one of several senior UK 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.”

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