The Prime Minister’s chief adviser Dominic Cummings has said he believed he was acting “reasonably”, as he explained his actions during the Coronavirus lockdown.
In an unprecedented statement in the Downing Street Garden, Mr Cummings explained his movements and actions during the Coronavirus lockdown as a row has erupted in recent days, with media reports suggesting that he broke lockdown regulations by visiting Durham on two occasions.
Speaking on Bank Holiday Monday, Mr Cummings said he had travelled to Durham once during the lockdown due to concerns about care for his child if both he and his partner became ill, but he had stayed in a vacant house roughly 50m away from his parent’s house and did not come into contact with them at any time.
He said that after arriving in Durham, he became ill and followed the guidelines to self-isolate. His child also became ill and was taken to hospital by ambulance, accompanied by Mr Cummings’ wife. When his child was discharged from hospital, Mr Cummings drove to the hospital, did not leave his car, and picked up his child and wife, driving them back to the house they were staying in, he said.
A few days after arriving in Durham and while both Mr Cummings and Boris Johnson were ill, they spoke on the phone and Mr Cummings’ location was briefly mentioned. The Prime Minister had not been informed by Mr Cummings of his whereabouts beforehand, he said.
He said that before returning to London, he sought medical advice which said it was safe for him to return to working in Downing Street. Before returning to London, he drove with his child and wife for ‘roughly half an hour and ended up on the outskirts of Barnard Castle town’. There, he sat next to a river outside his car for about 15 minutes, before turning around and then heading back home. He said the purpose of the journey to Barnard Castle town was not for sightseeing but was a “test ride” to see if he would be able to safely drive back to London, given some problems with his eyesight while he was ill with suspected but unconfirmed COVID-19.
Travelling to Durham and especially travelling to Barnard Castle town would be seen by many as breaching lockdown regulations. According to Mr Cummings, the lockdown regulations allow you to use reasonable judgement in exceptional circumstances. Mr Cummings said the regulations and advice do not set out what to do in every situation, such as the one he says he faced with potentially both him and his wife facing illness with Coronavirus.
Mr Cummings said he has not offered to resign and has not considered it. At least 20 Conservative MPs have called on the PM’s chief adviser to resign in recent days, along with MPs from other parties, members of the media and members of the public. Mr Cummings also said, “I don’t regret what I did”. He did though say that he thought he perhaps should have made a public statement earlier.
In answering questions from the media, the adviser to the PM said he thought his behaviour in the 14-day isolation period he undertook was reasonable and he hoped people would agree that it was reasonable given the circumstances he faced. He said though that he understands that some people may think he should have acted differently, such as by informing the Prime Minister of his intentions to travel to Durham.
Concerns have been raised that breaches, or at least perceived breaches of lockdown measures of people in power could make enforcing lockdown restrictions more difficult, which could possibly lead to the harming of the nation’s health. Some have claimed that there is one rule for those in power and another rule for the rest of us, though Mr Cummings said he did not believe this was the case.
Mr Cummings said that the media have reported inaccurate stories, and this had caused some of the anger in recent days, including shouting outside his house.
The immediate reaction to the statement by Cummings amongst the public has been mixed. Mr Cummings has said “it’s up to the prime minister” as to whether he keeps his job. Whether the story of Mr Cummings lockdown movements will now pass, or whether it will continue to rumble on remains to be seen.