Boris Johnson defends UK adviser accused of violating quarantine while showing coronavirus symptoms

Updated: 2020-05-25 20:50:26

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Prime Minister defended his chief adviser, , who said in a statement Monday that he did not regret driving 260 miles from London during the country’s coronavirus lockdown while showing symptoms of the virus.

Johnson has stood by Cummings, saying he “followed the instincts of every father and every parent.”

“I really feel that it would be wrong of me to try to comment further. I think people will have to make their minds up. I think he spoke at great length. To me, he came across as somebody who cared very much about his family and who was doing the best for his family,” Johnson . “I think, as he said himself, reasonable people may disagree about some of the decisions that he took, but I don’t think reasonable people can disagree about what was going through his head at the time and the motivations for those decisions.”

“Of course I do regret the confusion and the anger and the pain that people feel,” Johnson said at the government’s daily news briefing, as The Associated Press reported. “That’s why I wanted people to understand exactly what had happened.”

Johnson , “I do not believe that anybody in Number 10 has done anything to undermine our messaging,” referring to his Downing Street office.

Making a public statement, an unusual play for an adviser, Cummings told reporters in the Downing Street garden Monday that he believed he was acting “reasonably” and within the confines of the law in making the cross-England journey to care for his wife and children, the reported.

While displaying symptoms for COVID-19, Cummings drove from his home in London to his parents’ Durham farm on March 27, only a few days after Johnson had implemented a national lockdown. In the press conference Monday, he insisted he made another trip 30-miles away to Barnard Castle on April 12 to check his eyesight and confirm it was safe for him to drive back to London.

"I don't think I am so different and that is one rule for me and one rule for other people," he said.

Johnson’s lockdown banned all non-essential travel, but Cummings was spotted entering the Durham property with ABBA’s “Dancing Queen” blasting from his car. After traveling to Barnard Castle on April 12, he returned to Durham on April 19.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson and his political adviser Dominic Cummings in October 2019. (Peter Summers/Getty Images, File)

Prime Minister Boris Johnson and his political adviser Dominic Cummings in October 2019. (Peter Summers/Getty Images, File)

Cummings, who usually has exerted power from the sidelines, looked uncomfortable but didn’t admit fault during a live media grilling that lasted more than an hour.

He said that people felt “understandable anger,” but insisted much of it was “based on reports in the media that haven’t been true.” However, he confirmed most of the details in media reports of his travels, including the journey to Durham and an April 12 drive to a scenic town half an hour away — taken, Cummings said, to check whether his eyesight, which had been affected by illness, had recovered enough for him to drive.

“I don’t think there is one rule for me and one rule for other people,” he said, insisting he had done what he thought was right at the time.

He said he hadn’t considered resigning. Asked whether Johnson should consider sacking him, Cummings said: “That’s not for me to decide. It’s up to him to decide.”

The 48-year-old Cummings has been essential to Johnson’s rise to power. He was one of the architects of the successful campaign to take Britain out of the  and orchestrated champion Johnson’s thumping election victory in December.

Five months on from that triumph, Johnson’s government has faced criticism for its response to the pandemic. Britain’s official coronavirus death toll has stood at over 36,000.

Johnson himself spent several days in intensive care at a London hospital in April.

The U.K. gradually has been easing its lockdown, initially by allowing more outdoor recreation. The government planned to reopen schools starting on June 1, and Johnson said Monday that the vast majority of shops in England will be able to open two weeks later, as long as they can become “COVID-19 secure.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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