Police spoke to Cummings about lockdown breach
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.
Dominic Cummings rushing out of No 10 on the day the PM tested positive