UK PM faces backlash for defending aide who broke coronavirus curbs

This article is more than 12 months old

LONDON : Prime Minister Boris Johnson faced mutiny in his party and fury across Britain yesterday for refusing to sack his closest aide, Mr Dominic Cummings, who is accused of flouting the coronavirus lockdown.

Mr Cummings had driven 400km with his wife who was ill with Covid-19 and his child from London to his parents' home. He was afraid he would get it too and there would be no one to look after the child. At the time, the government's instruction to anyone showing symptoms was not to leave the house for 14 days.

The Observer and Sunday Mirror reported that he had broken lockdown restrictions again and was seen in Durham a second time on April 19, days after he had returned to work in London following his first trip north.

Durham police chief Steve Whit, said he had asked police to "establish the facts concerning any potential breach of the law" and said it was "a major issue of public interest and trust".

Mr Cummings was due to make a statement and answer questions later on Monday, media reported.

Defending one of Britain's most powerful men, Mr Johnson said at the weekend that Mr Cummings acted "responsibly and legally and with integrity" by heading from London to northern England with his son and his wife, who was ill with Covid-19 symptoms.

Many believe that was hypocritical given the government's mantra at the time to avoid such movements.

"What planet are they on?" asked the Daily Mail, an influential right-wing paper usually supportive of Mr Johnson and his adviser.

Scientists and lawmakers said the furore would make it harder to ensure the public kept complying with official social distancing guidance. Britain's death toll of around 43,000 is highest in Europe.- REUTERS