Cabinet is scheduled to meet later to discuss further easing of the coronavirus lockdown as Boris Johnson continues to be overwhelmed by claims that his senior assistant Dominic Cummings has broken the rules.
The Prime Minister is expected to present details of plans to lift the restrictions this week.
But some Conservative backbench MPs say the dispute has undermined the government’s message and want Cummings to resign.
Mr. Johnson defended his assistant, who had traveled from London to Durham.
Speaking at the Downing Street briefing on Sunday, the Prime Minister said he thought Mr. Cummings had “no other choice” than to make the trip at the end of March for the guard of ‘children’ when he and his wife were about to be incapacitated by a coronavirus’.
At the press conference, Johnson also confirmed that the gradual reopening of primary schools in England will start on June 1.
The plans to be presented by the government are said to contain information about the reopening of some non-essential stores in June.
However, BBC political correspondent Iain Watson said that Johnson was struggling to divert political attention from his key adviser.
Critics of the Prime Minister include scientists on key government committees.
Stephen Reicher, a professor of social psychology who advised the government on behavioral sciences during the pandemic, said that the Prime Minister’s support for Mr. Cummings made him feel “dismayed.”
He said that trust was vital to maintain public health measures. “You cannot trust if people have an idea of them and us, that there is one rule for them and another for us,” he told the BBC.
Two bishops from the Church of England also criticized the Prime Minister.
The Bishop of Leeds, the Very Reverend Nick Baines, said that Mr. Johnson treated people “like cups” and that the Bishop of Bristol, the Very Reverend Vivienne Faull, accused the Prime Minister of ” no respect for people. “
The Labor party called for an urgent investigation into the allegations against Mr. Cummings.
Meanwhile, an investigation was opened into a tweet posted on the UK public service’s official Twitter account, which asked, “Can you imagine having to work with these truths?” ” The post since deleted appeared shortly after Mr. Johnson’s daily press conference.
Boris Johnson failed to close Cummings’ story
If Boris Johnson’s decision to appear at Sunday’s press conference was an attempt to close the story of Dominic Cummings’ behavior during the lockout by managing it himself, it has completely failed.
It was certainly not an attempt to give the public all the information.
Instead, the Prime Minister refused to answer the remaining questions about the details of his adviser’s visit or visits to the north-east of England, while his team said over and over and over at public that they should “stay at home”.
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The Prime Minister said he had “in-depth” discussions on Sunday with Mr. Cummings, who he said “follows the instinct of every father and every parent – and I don’t mark it for that.”
The Observer and Sunday Mirror reported two other allegations of breach by his assistant, although Mr. Johnson described “some” of the allegations as “manifestly false”.
A report says a witness saw Mr. Cummings at Barnard Castle, more than 25 miles from Durham, where he self-isolated, on April 12.
Labor leader Sir Keir Starmer said he would have sacked Mr. Cummings if he had been Prime Minister, and said that Mr. Johnson’s failure to act was “an insult to the sacrifices made by the British people ”.
Sir Keir said: “It was a huge test for the Prime Minister and he has just failed.
“Millions of people across the country have made the most distressing choices – not visiting relatives, not going to the funeral – they deserve better answers than the ones they got from the Prime Minister. “
Ministers who will publicly support Mr. Cummings include Secretary of Health Matt Hancock and Cabinet Minister Michael Gove.
But Sir Roger Gale is one of the conservative backbenchers who publicly challenged Mr. Cummings’ position, telling BBC Radio 5 Live: “It’s up to the Prime Minister to judge who is around him. In this case, I think this judgment is flawed. “
Another Conservative, former Minister Paul Maynard, said of Mr. Cummings: “It is not like he is not familiar with the advice he helped develop. It seems completely untenable to me and his position completely untenable. “
Meanwhile at a statement posted on TwitterAmanda Hopgood, head of the Liberal Democrats at Durham County Council, said that “several local residents have reported seeing Dominic Cummings several times in April and May”.
She said that “taking into account the manifest public interest”, she referred the case to the Durham police to see if there had been a violation of coronavirus regulations.
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