Po­lice spoke to Cum­mings about lock­down breach

The Guardian - - Front Page - Matthew Weaver

Po­lice spoke to Do­minic Cum­mings about breach­ing the govern­ment’s lock­down rules after he was seen in Durham, 264 miles from his Lon­don home, de­spite hav­ing had Covid-19 symp­toms, the Guardian can re­veal.

Of­fi­cers ap­proached Boris John­son’s key ad­viser days after he was seen rush­ing out of Down­ing Street the day the prime min­is­ter tested pos­i­tive for the virus at the end of March, a joint in­ves­ti­ga­tion by the Guardian and the Mir­ror has found.

At the time, the govern­ment had told peo­ple not to travel and to stay at their fam­ily home. Cum­mings, how­ever, was seen in Durham. A mem­ber of the pub­lic is un­der­stood to have seen him and com­plained to the po­lice.

When asked if Cum­mings had been warned about breach­ing the lock­down, a spokesman 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.

“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.

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.”

Down­ing Street has pre­vi­ously re­fused to dis­close where Cum­mings was stay­ing dur­ing the lock­down.

The Guardian has also been told Cum­mings was spot­ted near the gate of his par­ents’ home with a young child, be­lieved to be his son, at 5.45pm on Sun­day 5 April, five days after the com­plaint was made to the po­lice. This was just over a week after he be­gan self-iso­lat­ing with symp­toms of the virus. It was also less than two hours be­fore the PM was ad­mit­ted to hos­pi­tal after his coron­avirus wors­ened.

The dis­clo­sure that po­lice spoke to Cum­mings raises po­ten­tially awk­ward ques­tions for him and No 10.

The act­ing leader of the Lib­eral Democrats, Ed Davey, tweeted: “If Do­minic Cum­mings has bro­ken the lock­down guide­lines he will have to re­sign. It’s as sim­ple as that.”

Ian Black­ford, the Scot­tish Na­tional party’s West­min­ster leader, said his po­si­tion was “com­pletely un­ten­able – he must re­sign or be sacked”.

Labour MP Tulip Sid­diq MP said of the re­ports: “If ac­cu­rate, the prime min­is­ter’s chief ad­viser ap­pears to have breached the lock­down rules … the Bri­tish peo­ple do not ex­pect there to be one rule for them and an­other rule for Do­minic Cum­mings. No 10 needs to pro­vide a very swift ex­pla­na­tion for his ac­tions.”

With the UK in the grip of the pan­demic, the govern­ment’s own ad­vice urged ev­ery­one to stay home to avoid the spread of the virus. “You should not be vis­it­ing fam­ily mem­bers who do not live in your home,” the guid­ance said. “The only ex­cep­tion is if they need help, such as hav­ing shop­ping or med­i­ca­tion dropped off.”

Cum­mings ap­pears to have made the trip from his home in east Lon­don to Durham at a time when John­son and the health sec­re­tary, Matt Han­cock, had tested pos­i­tive. No 10 said Cum­mings had de­vel­oped symp­toms “over the week­end” of 28-29 March. When ques­tioned about Cum­mings’ where­abouts dur­ing the fol­low­ing week, a Down­ing Street spokesper­son said only that he was in con­tact with No 10.

A Durham res­i­dent who lives near the Cum­mings fam­ily home ex­pressed shock and anger after the 5 April sight­ing. The wit­ness, who asked not to be named, said: “I was re­ally an­noyed. I thought it’s OK for you to drive all the way up to Durham and es­cape from Lon­don. I sym­pa­thise with him want­ing to do that, but other peo­ple are not al­lowed. It’s one rule for Do­minic Cum­mings and one rule for the rest of us.”

Break­ing lock­down rules has been a re­sign­ing is­sue for se­nior of­fi­cials.

Prof Neil Fer­gu­son, the epi­demi­ol­o­gist whose modelling prompted the lock­down, quit the Sci­en­tific Ad­vi­sory Group for Emer­gen­cies (Sage) after flout­ing phys­i­cal dis­tanc­ing rules when he was vis­ited by his girl­friend.

After he quit, se­nior To­ries in­sisted he had to go. Han­cock said he was “speech­less” and added: “I think he took the right de­ci­sion to re­sign.”

For­mer Tory leader Sir Iain Dun­can Smith said his be­hav­iour risked un­der­min­ing the govern­ment’s mes­sage.

Cum­mings was seen run­ning from Down­ing Street on 27 March after it was an­nounced that John­son and Han­cock had tested pos­i­tive for coron­avirus.

Cum­mings and his wife, Mary Wake­field, an editor at the Spec­ta­tor mag­a­zine, last month gave a de­tailed ac­count of how they coped with symp­toms of coron­avirus. In the mag­a­zine, Wake­field said Cum­mings rushed home to look after her. A day later he be­gan feel­ing “weird” and then could not get out of bed. “Day in, day out for 10 days he lay doggo with a high fewer and spasms,” she wrote.

The ar­ti­cle goes on: “Just as Dom was be­gin­ning to feel bet­ter … Boris was head­ing in the other di­rec­tion, into hos­pi­tal.” This was the evening when Cum­mings was first seen near Durham with the child. On the same evening, Scot­land’s chief med­i­cal of­fi­cer, Cather­ine Calder­wood, was forced to re­sign after she was pho­tographed at her sec­ond home in Fife.

Wake­field’s ar­ti­cle does not say where they were dur­ing quar­an­tine, but it adds: “After the un­cer­tainty of the bug it­self, we emerged from quar­an­tine into al­most com­i­cal un­cer­tainty of Lon­don lock­down.” Wake­field has been asked to clar­ify if they were in their Lon­don home at the time.

In the same is­sue of the Spec­ta­tor, Cum­mings wrote: “At the end of March and for the first two weeks of April I was ill, so we were both shut in to­gether.” He de­scribed the ex­pe­ri­ence as “sticky … ev­ery­thing is cov­ered in a layer of spilt Ribena, honey, peanut but­ter and playschool glue”.

A wit­ness said they were go­ing past the Cum­mings fam­ily home on 5 April on their reg­u­lar ex­er­cise route when they heard Abba’s Danc­ing Queen play­ing loudly from the prop­erty.

“I got the shock of my life, as I looked over to the gates and saw him,” they said. “There was a child, pre­sum­ably his lit­tle boy, run­ning around in front. I recog­nised Do­minic Cum­mings, he’s a very dis­tinc­tive fig­ure.”

The Guardian ap­proached No 10 for com­ment but had not re­ceived a re­sponse by time of pub­li­ca­tion.

PHO­TO­GRAPH: PIXEL8000

Do­minic Cum­mings rush­ing out of No 10 on the day the PM tested pos­i­tive

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