Transportation Secretary Grant Shapps defended the behavior of Downing Street assistant Dominic Cummings, who drove London to Durham during the lockout, saying: “In times of crisis, we seek to have our family around us. “
Cummings went to his parents’ home when he thought he might be infected with Covid-19.
Presenting the daily Downing Street briefing, Shapps repeatedly defended Boris Johnson’s primary aide. “As we all do in times of crisis, we seek to have our family around us,” said Shapps. “He went to where the family was.”
He said Johnson was aware of Cummings’ presence in Durham but was reassured that his advisor “stayed put” after traveling.
Shapps said, “The Prime Minister would have known he was not moving and he did not leave until he felt better … the Prime Minister is giving Mr. Cummings his full support.”
Pressed repeatedly about aid behavior, Shapps said that members of the public would ask, “What would I do in this situation? “
He continued, “I have a young child, my wife is sick, I worry about the ability to support the child as a father. So do you end up saying, “We will take the best option possible to provide the best possible care for this child?” “
Jenny Harries, chief medical officer of health, did little to comfort Cummings. Downing Street had previously quoted a comment from Harries, suggesting that parents might seek outside help with child care.
Asked about these comments, she replied, “I think the question I was asked was whether two adults were sick and unable to cope or care for a small child who was totally dependent on them. By the time Cummings was traveling, he hadn’t gotten sick yet.
Pressed to find out if public health boards allowed people with coronavirus to travel, Harries said, “If you are symptomatic, stay home, get out of society as soon as possible and stay there, except in cases of extreme risk to life. This exception does not seem to cover Cummings’ situation.
She also seemed to suggest that it would only be in circumstances where the well-being of a child might be subject to the rules.
Harries said, “There is always something that says, backup: so we don’t want an older person to stay at home without their medication because they feel they can’t go out. If there is a backup problem, and a child for example is also another problem. There is always a safeguard clause in all boards. The interpretation of this advice is probably for others. “
Shapps was the last in a series of cabinet ministers who have put their weight behind Johnson’s senior adviser, since the Guardian and Mirror revealed on Friday that Cummings was in Durham, more than 200 miles from his London home, April 5.
After refusing to comment on Cummings’ whereabouts during the relevant period for several weeks, Downing Street issued a statement Saturday morning, acknowledging that it had traveled to Durham but insisting that it had done so for take care of her son’s children.
A No. 10 spokesperson said, “Due to his wife’s suspected coronavirus infection and the high likelihood that he will not feel well, it was essential that Dominic Cummings ensure that his youngster child is properly cared for.
“His sister and nieces had volunteered to help him, so he went to a house near but separated from his extended family in case their help was needed. Her sister went shopping for the family and left everything outside. “
The spokesman added, “Mr. Cummings believes he behaved in a reasonable and legal manner. “
Number 10 spokesman also denied that Cummings or his family were questioned by police about his presence.
This appears to contradict a statement by the Durham police, who told the Guardian: “On Tuesday March 31, our officers were informed of reports that someone had traveled from London to Durham and was present at an address in the city.
“The agents contacted the owners of this address who confirmed that the person in question was present and isolated himself from part of the house.
“In accordance with directives from the national police, the officers explained to the family the guidelines for self-isolation and reiterated the appropriate advice regarding essential travel.”
Health Secretary Matt Hancock, who is the minister responsible for coronavirus regulation, tweeted that it was “perfectly fine” for Cummings to find child care for his toddler. Cummings’ son is four years old. Chancellor Rishi Sunak also supported Cummings.
I know how sick the coronavirus makes you. It was perfectly normal for Dom Cummings to find child care for his toddler when he and his wife fell ill.
– Matt Hancock (@MattHancock) May 23, 2020
The Labor party rejected the defense of the number 10 trip across the country, taken at a time when Cummings believed he may have contracted Covid-19. The government slogan at the time was “stay home, protect the NHS, save lives”.
A Labor spokesman said, “The lock-in rules were very clear: if you or someone in your household is suspected of having Covid-19, you should immediately isolate yourself and not leave the house. However, the Prime Minister’s chief adviser seems to believe that this is one rule for him and another for the British people.
“This will cause understandable anger for the millions of people who sacrificed so much during this crisis.”