Daily briefing: England’s deputy CMO makes views on Cummings clear

ONE of the UK Government’s top scientific experts gave his honest opinion on the Dominic Cummings row during this afternoon’s daily briefing.

Professor Jonathan Van-Tam, who is the deputy chief medical officer for England, was asked about the Prime Minister’s adviser’s decision to travel 250 miles to his parents’ Durham farm during lockdown while sick with Covid-19. He also travelled to tourist spot Barnard Castle while in the north east to test his eyesight before driving back to London.

The Prime Minister has stood by his top aide despite widespread calls for his resignation over the matter.

Durham Police said this week that Cummings’s trip to Barnard Castle “might” have been a breach of lockdown rules but said no further action was required.

At previous daily briefings this week scientific advisers have been reluctant to comment on the story, calling it a “political” matter.

However there has been concern raised that if government figures are not seen to follow the coronavirus guidelines, the public may not take them so seriously.

Responding to an Observer journalist tonight, Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden, who was leading the briefing, said the matter was closed.

But Van-Tam was honest in his view. He told the reporter: “In my opinion the rules are clear and they have always been clear.

“In my opinion they are for the benefit of all and they apply to all.”

Dowden finished the conference afterwards.

During the conference tonight Van-Tam was clear that this is “dangerous” time to relax the lockdown measures in England and urged members of the public to follow the guidance.

He spoke extensively on the dual need for an effective track and trace system and members of the public complying with official social distancing rules.

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