By Jack Parker
Dominic Cummings, the chief aide to Prime Minister Boris Johnson, travelled to Durham while exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19, a source close to Mr Cummings confirmed on Friday evening (22nd May).
The source explained that Mr Cummings travelled from London with his wife, who was also ill with coronavirus symptoms, to his parents’ home near Durham, so that his parents could help to care for their young child.
The trip took place at the end of March, just days after the Prime Minister announced strict lockdown measures, including banning all non-essential travel, and giving the police powers to impose fines on anyone breaking lockdown rules.
It is not clear whether Mr Cummings was indeed fined for making the 270-mile journey.
Official government advice at the time was, and remains, for those showing symptoms of coronavirus to self-isolate at home and not leave even for essential reasons, for at least seven days.
The story was first reported on Friday following an investigation by The Guardian and The Mirror.
The trip took place just days after strict lockdown measures were announced
A spokesperson for Durham Constabulary said: “On Tuesday, March 31, our officers were made aware of reports that an individual had travelled from London to Durham and was present at an address in the city.”
Downing Street confirmed on the 30th March that Mr Cummings was showing symptoms of coronavirus, three days after the Prime Minister and Health Secretary Matt Hancock had both tested positive.
The spokesperson continued: “Officers made contact with the owners of that address who confirmed that the individual in question was present and was self-isolating in part of the house.
“In line with national policing guidance, officers explained to the family the guidelines around self-isolation and reiterated the appropriate advice around essential travel.”
However, the source close to Mr Cummings denied that he had been spoken to by police, insisting that he and his wife had stayed in a separate building to his parents, both of whom are reportedly in their 70s.
In a speech on 18th March, the Prime Minister said that “children should not be left with older grandparents, or older relatives, who may be particularly vulnerable or fall into some of the vulnerable groups.”
Downing Street has so far refused to comment on the reports.
The source denied that Cummings had been spoken to by police
Mr Cummings was reportedly again seen at his parents’ house on 5th April by a neighbour, who overheard ABBA’s Dancing Queen playing loudly from the property as they passed on their regular exercise route.
Speaking to The Mirror and The Guardian, the neighbour, who has not been named, said: “I got the shock of my life, as I looked over to the gates and saw him.
“There was a child, presumably his little boy, running around in front. I recognised Dominic Cummings, he’s a very distinctive figure.
“I was really annoyed. I thought it’s okay for you to drive all the way up to Durham and escape from London. […] It’s one rule for Dominic Cummings and one rule for the rest of us.”
He was then next photographed on 14th April, at Downing Street.
Several Westminster figures have called for his resignation
Dominic Cummings is not the first key figure to be called out for breaking lockdown rules. Scotland’s chief medical officer Catherine Calderwood and Professor Neil Ferguson, one of the government’s scientific advisers, have both admitted to breaking the rules in recent weeks – and have both resigned from their posts.
Several figures in Westminster have already called for Mr Cummings’s resignation. Ed Davey, the acting leader of the Liberal Democrats, tweeted: “If Dominic Cummings has broken the guidelines he will have to resign. It’s as simple as that.”
The call was echoed by the Scottish National Party’s Westminster leader Ian Blackford, calling Mr Cummings’s position “completely untenable”.
He added that “Boris Johnson must now show Dominic Cummings the door – otherwise people will conclude the Tories were so keen to leave lockdown because they weren’t following the rules in the first place.”
Boris Johnson must now show Dominic Cummings the doorIan Blackford, the Westminster leader of the Scottish National Party
Meanwhile, Tulip Siddiq, the Vice Chair of the Labour Party, said that No 10 “needs to provide a very swift explanation for his actions.
“The government’s guidance was very clear: stay at home and no non-essential travel. The British people do not expect there to be one rule for them and another rule for Dominic Cummings.”
The BBC’s Political Editor Laura Kuenssberg tweeted on Friday night that some Conservative MPs were also privately calling for his resignation.
Born in Durham, Dominic Cummings attended state primary school before moving to Durham School, an independent boarding and day school. In 1994, Cummings graduated from Exeter College, Oxford, with a degree in Ancient and Modern History.
For a time, he was employed at Durham nightclub Klute, run at the time by his father and uncle. Cummings exclusively confirmed to Palatinate last July that his role was to take money on the door.
In recent years, Cummings has worked as Chief of Staff to then-Education Secretary Michael Gove, before masterminding the successful Vote Leave Brexit campaign in 2016.
He has served as Senior Advisor to the Prime Minister since Boris Johnson’s arrival in Downing Street in July 2019.
As of 9am on Friday 22nd May, there are 1,898 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in County Durham, out of a population of around 530,000.
Image: Radical Larry 1 via Wikimedia Commons