A fierce row over the actions of Boris Johnson’s top aide continues as Dominic Cummings faces more allegations that he broke the UK’s strict lockdown rules.
The British prime minister is under renewed pressure to sack Cummings after reports surfaced that the 48-year-old made a second 400km trip from London to County Durham, where his family lives, despite social restrictions.
The PM pledged his “full support” on Saturday to his under-fire chief adviser, who it emerged had travelled the 400km in March to self-isolate with his family while official guidelines warned against long-distance journeys.
According to the Sunday Times, Johnson told allies he would not throw Cummings “to the dogs” following reports he made the journey to ensure his four-year-old child could be looked after as he and his wife were ill.
But according to reports in the Observer and Sunday Mirror, Cummings, who masterminded the 2016 Brexit referendum, made a second trip to Durham and was seen there on April 19 – five days after being photographed on his return to Westminster.
A second eyewitness told the two papers they saw him a week earlier in Barnard Castle on Easter Sunday, a popular tourist location 50km away from Durham, during the period he was believed to be self-isolating.
Downing Street has said it would “not waste time” replying to the fresh allegations from “campaigning newspapers”.
In a statement on Saturday morning, the PM’s office said Cummings had travelled to be close to family to seek help looking after his four-year-old child after his wife became ill with coronavirus symptoms – a virus which has killed more than 45,000 people in the UK.
Speaking at a press conference, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said Cummings had “stayed put for 14 days” while residing at a family property, having pre-empted his own illness once his wife showed Covid-19 symptoms.
But the trip to Barnard Castle on April 12, if correct, would call that testimony into question after a local man said he saw Cummings and his family walking by the River Tees near the town.
The claims prompted fury among MPs, and Ian Blackford, SNP Westminster leader, renewed his calls for the PM to axe Cummings from his team.
He wrote on Twitter: “It is clear that Boris Johnson must sack Dominic Cummings.
“When the PM’s top adviser ignores the Government’s instruction to the public not to engage in non-essential travel he has to leave office. Immediately.”