Boris Johnson resists calls to sack adviser for coronavirus lockdown breach

Dominic Cummings masterminded the 2016 campaign to leave the European Union during the Brexit referendum. (AP file photo)
Short Url
Updated 23 May 2020

Boris Johnson resists calls to sack adviser for coronavirus lockdown breach

  • Dominic Cummings masterminded the 2016 campaign to leave the EU during the Brexit referendum

LONDON: British Prime Minister Boris Johnson resisted calls on Saturday from opposition parties to sack adviser Dominic Cummings after he traveled 400 kilometers while his wife showed COVID-19 symptoms so that their son could be looked after by his family.
Cummings, who masterminded the 2016 campaign to leave the European Union during the Brexit referendum, traveled to Durham in northern England in late March, when a strict lockdown was already in place.
Johnson’s office said his adviser made the journey to ensure his young son could be properly cared for as his wife was ill with COVID-19 and there was a “high likelihood” that Cummings would himself become unwell.
“His sister and nieces had volunteered to help so he went to a house near to but separate from his extended family in case their help was needed,” a Downing Street spokesman said.
“His actions were in line with coronavirus guidelines,” the spokesman said. “Mr. Cummings believes he behaved reasonably and legally.”
One of Johnson’s most senior ministers, Michael Gove, said of the situation: “Caring for your wife and child is not a crime.”
But opposition parties called for Johnson to sack Cummings.
“Dominic Cummings should have done the right thing, he should have resigned but now that he hasn’t, Boris Johnson must show leadership and he must remove him from office immediately,” the Scottish National Party’s parliamentary leader, Ian Blackford, said.
The Labour Party said there should not be one rule for politicians and another rule for the British people. The Liberal Democrats said that if Cummings broke the guidelines, he should resign.
British guidelines say people should stay at home and refrain from visiting family members unless they need essential items such as food or medication.
Other prominent figures have resigned after having broken lockdown rules.
Epidemiologist Neil Ferguson quit as a member of the UK government’s scientific advisory group after was visited at home by his girlfriend. Scotland’s chief medical officer, Catherine Calderwood, also stepped down after she was caught making two trips to her second home.


Afghan refugee helping war widows escape poverty cycle

Updated 27 min 41 sec ago

Afghan refugee helping war widows escape poverty cycle

KABUL: When Hanan Habibzai became a refugee in 2008, he left Afghanistan with a sense of responsibility toward all those left behind, especially widows and orphaned children.
As he made the UK his new home and managed to establish himself, Habibzai founded Helping Orphans in 2016, a charity that gives vocational training and literacy courses to women and children.
Helping Orphans estimates that there are as many as 3.5 million widows and 2.6 million orphans in Afghanistan today. Often uneducated, the women face few options if their husbands die, while children end up working out of necessity and never receive an education.
“What will happen to these children when they grow up? Their parents are taken away and they are left alone in poverty and hardship, and they have never been in school,” Habibzai told Arab News.
“What can we expect from these children when they grow and take control of their communities except problems? So, I established this charity to help vulnerable children and orphans join school. These are the exact reasons as to why I established Helping Orphans.”
As his family was displaced by the Afghan-Soviet war of the 1980s, Habibzai knows from his own experience what hunger and poverty mean. The situation in the country has become even worse now, he said, after the US-led invasion to oust the Taliban in 2001.
Before he left Afghanistan, Habibzai worked as a journalist, traveling across the country’s provinces, witnessing hopelessness and despair.
“Within the Afghan poverty-stricken and war-torn nation, I see displaced families, a refugee going through many difficulties, a 10-year-old orphan becoming responsible for feeding his family, or a woman who has lost her husband and now has to look after her children while she has nothing,” he said.

FASTFACT

Helping Orphans estimates that there are as many as 3.5 million widows and 2.6 million orphans in Afghanistan today. Often uneducated, the women face few options if their husbands die, while children end up working out of necessity and never receive an education.

“Today I live in the UK. I have everything here. My family and I have three full meals a day. But back in Afghanistan, there are many people who do not even have a single meal a day and are facing severe poverty and hardship.”
The latest survey by the UN indicates that 18 million people in Afghanistan — half of the country’s population — are in need of emergency aid.
In the beginning, through donations from individuals, Helping Orphans provided direct relief in the form of food and cash, but in June last year Habibzai realized that more sustainable efforts were needed.
In Kabul, the charity now enrolls children in school while their mothers take part in three-month courses to become tailors, allowing them to be self-reliant. About 20 women have completed the first training courses. One of them is Shamila, who lost her husband, a commando soldier, and was left alone with a young son about two years ago.
“The world had come to an end for me with the death of his father when my child wept,” she told Arab News.
“I joined the workshop of the charity, learned tailoring and it has been a big change both mentally and financially,” she added. “I am a tailor at home now. I earn money this way and have been able to stand on my feet.”
The charity is now planning to open more courses and teach other professions, like hairdressing, to help women provide for themselves.
“We want the aid to have a long-term impact on the lives of people, so beneficiaries can learn a profession,” said Helping Orphans Director Abdul Fatah Tayeb.
“We want them to learn how to fish rather than giving them a fish. The fundamental goal is to make people self-sufficient.”