UK’s Johnson struggles to shift attention from aide’s trip

The British government faced accusations of hypocrisy on Saturday after the revelation that Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s top adviser Dominic Cummings, traveled more than 400 kilometers to his parents’ house during a nationwide lockdown while he was showing coronavirus symptoms. (AP Photo/Alberto Pezzali)
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Updated 25 May 2020

UK’s Johnson struggles to shift attention from aide’s trip

  • Conservative leader Johnson is standing by adviser Dominic Cummings, who drove 400 kilometers from his London home
  • Many Britons saw the trip as a clear breach of the government’s national “stay at home” order, introduced on March 23

LONDON: British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s plans to announce further lockdown-easing measures were being overshadowed Monday by an outcry over the movements of a senior aide who allegedly flouted restrictions imposed during the coronavirus pandemic.
Conservative leader Johnson is standing by adviser Dominic Cummings, who drove 400 kilometers from his London home to his parents’ house while he was infected with the virus.
Johnson said Cummings “followed the instincts of every father and every parent,” traveling so that extended family could care for his 4-year-old son if he and his wife both fell ill.
But many Britons saw the trip as a clear breach of the government’s national “stay at home” order, introduced on March 23. Cummings was heckled with calls of “hypocrite” as he returned to his London home Sunday after spending the day in 10 Downing St.
Stephen Reicher, a social psychologist who sits on a group advising the government, said “more people are going to die” because the episode would undermine adherence to the lockdown rules.
Several senior Church of England clergy joined in the criticism. Bishop of Leeds Nick Baines said the public had been “lied to, patronized and treated … as mugs.” Bishop of Manchester David Walker tweeted: “Unless very soon we see clear repentance, including the sacking of Cummings, I no longer know how we can trust what ministers say sufficiently for @churchofengland to work together with them on the pandemic.”
A self-styled political disruptor who disdains the media and civil service, Cummings has been essential to Johnson’s rise to power. He was one of the architects of the successful campaign to take Britain out of the European Union, and orchestrated Brexit champion Johnson’s thumping election victory in December.
Five months on from that triumph, Johnson’s government is facing criticism for its response to a pandemic that has hit Britain harder than any other European country. Britain’s official coronavirus death toll stands at 36,793, the second-highest confirmed total in the world after the United States.
The coronavirus laid low a swath of senior UK officials, including Cummings, Health Secretary Matt Hancock and Johnson himself, who spent several days in intensive care at a London hospital in April.
The UK is gradually easing its lockdown, allowing more outdoor recreation and letting some shops and businesses reopen.
But as Johnson gathered his Cabinet on Monday to discuss plans to reopen schools and more stores starting June 1, the Cummings scandal showed no signs of dying down.
Ominously for Johnson, a growing number of Conservative lawmakers have joined the opposition in criticizing Cummings. Member of Parliament Paul Maynard said the aide’s actions were “a classic case of ‘do as I say, not as I do’ … It seems to me to be utterly indefensible and his position wholly untenable.”
The conservative Daily Mail newspaper, usually supportive of Johnson, blared “What planet are they on?” in a headline about Cummings and the prime minister.
In a front-page editorial, the newspaper said “for the good of the government and the nation, Mr. Cummings must resign. Or the prime minister must sack him. No ifs, no buts.”

Related


India coronavirus cases hit 2.5 million

Updated 15 August 2020

India coronavirus cases hit 2.5 million

  • India is behind the United States and Brazil in the number of cases
  • Subways, schools and movie theaters remain closed

MUMBAI: India’s confirmed coronavirus cases have crossed 2.5 million with another biggest single-day spike of 65,002 in the past 24 hours.
India is behind the United States and Brazil in the number of cases.
The Health Ministry on Saturday also reported another 996 deaths for a total of 49,036. The average daily reported cases jumped from around 15,000 in the first week of July to more than 50,000 at the beginning of August.
The Health Ministry said the rise shows the extent of testing with 800,000 carried out in a single day. But experts say India needs to pursue testing more vigorously.
India’s two-month lockdown imposed nationwide in late March kept infections low. But it has eased and is now largely being enforced in high-risk areas.

The new cases spiked after India reopened shops and manufacturing and allowed hundreds of thousands of migrant workers to return to their homes from coronavirus-hit regions. Subways, schools and movie theaters remain closed.