British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s chief adviser faced new reports in Sunday newspapers that he had apparently breached the country’s coronavirus travel restrictions more than once.
The Guardian and the Mirror initially reported Friday that Dominic Cummings had travelled some 430 kilometres from London to his parents’ home in County Durham at the end of March while he had coronavirus symptoms.
He was reportedly seen in Durham again on April 19, after he had already recovered and returned to work in London, the two newspapers reported in their Sunday editions.
An eyewitness cited by The Sunday Mirror and The Observer also said he saw Cummings at a well-known tourist spot some 50 kilometres from Durham on April 12.
If the reports are true, they indicate Cummings travelled from London to Durham more than once despite lockdown rules.
At the time, only essential travel was allowed to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus.
A government spokeswoman said the reports that Cummings had returned to Durham a second time after coming back to Downing Street on April 14 and the initial reports from Friday were “inaccurate.”
She did not specify which parts of the Friday reports were inaccurate.
The British government had already admitted that Cummings travelled to Durham with his family.
The government would not waste its time “answering a stream of false allegations about Mr Cummings from campaigning newspapers,” the spokeswoman added.
Cummings himself had disputed that police contacted his family, but local police confirmed that they had visited the County Durham property after allegations that Cummings had travelled there amid the lockdown, according to Britain’s Press Association (PA) news agency.
As of Saturday, the prime minister was standing by his adviser, despite calls for Cummings to resign or be fired.
Some 52 per cent of Britons think Cummings should resign, while 28 per cent think he should not, a poll by YouGov published late Saturday showed.
The survey showed 68 per cent of respondents thought Cummings’ alleged actions broke lockdown rules.
The Scottish National Party and Labour tweeted that they had sent letters to Cabinet Secretary Mark Sedwill calling for an investigation into the alleged rule-breaking.
The Liberal Democrats also contacted Sedwill to call for a probe, PA reported.
Britain has seen other high-ranking officials resign in similar scenarios recently.
Top medical adviser to the Scottish government Catherine Calderwood stood down earlier after ignoring her own advice and travelling to a second home in a rural area of Scotland’s east coast.
Neil Ferguson, an epidemiologist at Imperial College London, also resigned from his government advisory role after admitting he had breached the lockdown rules.
The British government has been the target of criticism for weeks.
The country’s death toll has surpassed 36,000, making Britain the nation with the highest number of fatalities in Europe. (dpa/NAN)