THE UK Government’s daily briefing has been condemned as a “mess” after the Transport Secretary and deputy chief medical officer struggled to explain Dominic Cummings’s 250-mile journey from London to Durham during lockdown.
Number 10 said after Cummings’s wife developed coronavirus symptoms, they travelled with their son to his parents’ home to stay with them. Downing Street said the adviser wanted to ensure he had childcare for his son if he got sick too.
When the Prime Minister’s top adviser made the journey in March, the UK Government advice on essential travel clearly stated people must not visit second homes or leave their home to stay at another home.
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People who have Covid-19 also must self-isolate for seven days, while the full household self-isolates for 14 days. Despite these rules, Number 10 has insisted the adviser acted in line with the rules.
At today’s daily briefing, Grant Shapps and Jenny Harries made the argument that the most important thing in Cummings’s situation was the welfare of his four-year-old child.
Harris said the official guidance is that if you develop Covid-19 symptoms you must remove yourself from the public domain, but that there is “always an element of safeguarding”.
Shapps asked people with children to continue following advice but said ministers are “aware not all these measures will be possible depending on circumstances”.
The Transport Secretary said the official guidance “essentially” encourages people to follow the rules as best they can, adding: “The fact of the matter is the four-year-old child’s welfare is the important thing.
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“Parents ask themselves what they would do if they had if they no one else around and eventually you would have to turn to external support or try and be close enough to your family to provide that care, which is what happened in this case here.”
Shapps appeared to contradict official guidance throughout the briefing, stating at one point: “The reality is people should of course follow the guidance… and it clearly says to the best of your ability.
“Then it is for an individual to make the decision of how do I ensure I have enough support around the family.”
However legislation makes clear that people with the virus should remain in their home and not make contact with anyone else at all for seven days at least.
Responding to the turbulent briefing on Twitter, BBC Breakfast presenter Dan Walker said simply: “This is a mess #DailyBriefing.”
Meanwhile, Piers Morgan said the briefing was a “humiliating fiasco” for the Government.
This briefing is a humiliating fiasco. Cummings has destroyed any credibility the Govt had left on lockdown.One rule for them, another for we plebs.
— Piers Morgan (@piersmorgan) May 23, 2020
He posted: “This briefing is a humiliating fiasco. Cummings has destroyed any credibility the Govt had left on lockdown.
“One rule for them, another for we plebs.”
Columnist Nesrine Malik said the situation was “unbelievable”. “They are literally changing the guidance live to accommodate Cummings’s violation. In front of our eyes,” she wrote.
Despite calls for Cummings’s resignation, Shapps insisted that the adviser has the Prime Minister’s “full support”.
Downing Street has insisted that the aide acted in line with guidelines.