Dominic Cummings, special advisor for Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson, with a police officer as he leaves his home in London, following the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), London, Britain, May 29, 2020. REUTERS/John Sibley
LONDON (Reuters) – Britain’s COVID-19 lockdown rules are clear and apply to everyone, a senior medical officer said when asked about a long road trip made by the prime minister’s top adviser, Dominic Cummings, at the height of the lockdown.
England’s Deputy Chief Medical Officer Jonathan Van-Tam has become a favourite on social media during the pandemic due to his colourful turn of phrase, including his insistence on Saturday that the public must not “tear the pants” out of new, slightly looser guidelines.
Asked at a daily news conference whether people in authority should set an example and obey the rules, he willingly addressed the issue in contrast to his boss and the country’s chief scientific officer, who did not comment on the matter at a previous briefing.
“Thank you for the question and I’m quite happy to answer it,” he said.
“In my opinion the rules are clear and they have always been clear. In my opinion, they are for the benefit of all and in my opinion they apply to all.”
Cummings, the campaigner who helped deliver the 2016 Brexit referendum win and Boris Johnson’s 2019 election landslide, has been fighting to keep his job this week after his long road trip at the height of the lockdown provoked outrage across Britain.
Cummings has refused to apologise for the trip, involving a 400 km (250 mile) trip to his parents’ property in northern England and another trip to a local castle that he said he took to test his eyes and driving ability after falling ill.
The local police force said he may have breached lockdown rules with the shorter drive but said they would take no further action. Johnson has said he accepts the explanation and believes the matter is now closed.
Reporting by Kate Holton; Editing by Giles Elgood and Helen Popper