LONDON (Reuters) – Lawmakers from Britain’s ruling Conservatives Party on Sunday called for the resignation of Dominic Cummings, the senior adviser to Prime Minister Boris Johnson who travelled 400 km (250 miles) to northern England during the coronavirus lockdown.
Cummings, who masterminded the 2016 campaign to leave the European Union, travelled from London to Durham in late March while his wife showed COVID-19 symptoms, when measures to combat the spread of the coronavirus were in place.
Johnson had ordered Britons to mostly stay at home and shut down large parts of the economy to curb the outbreak which has left the United Kingdom with one of the world’s highest official death tolls.
Johnson’s office said Cummings made the journey to ensure his 4-year-old 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.
A number of cabinet ministers and the attorney general have also said that the journey was justified. Transport minister Grant Shapps reiterated the government’s support on Sunday, saying the advisor would not be quitting.
“Perfectly legitimate questions to ask about these things…Straightforward answers have been forthcoming,” Shapps told Sky News.
However, high profile Brexit campaigner Steve Baker, was the first of a number of Conservative lawmakers who said Johnson’s adviser should now quit.
“I just see this rattling on now for day after day, wasting the public’s time, consuming political capital and diverting from the real issues we need to deal with,” he told Sky News. “No-one is indispensable.”
Baker has long opposed Cummings taking a role in Downing Street.
Opposition politicians have called for Cummings, who wields huge influence on the government, to go, saying his actions were hypocritical at a time when millions of Britons were staying in their homes.
The number of confirmed UK deaths from COVID-19 has reached 36,675, the government said on Saturday.
The Daily Mirror newspaper on Saturday reported that the advisor made a second trip from London during the lockdown and was spotted near Durham on April 19, days after returning to London from his first trip.
Johnson’s Downing Street office described the newspaper reports as “false allegations”.
Other prominent British figures have resigned after breaking lockdown rules.
Epidemiologist Neil Ferguson quit as a member of the government’s scientific advisory group after he was visited at home by his girlfriend.
Scotland’s chief medical officer, Catherine Calderwood, stepped down after she was caught making two trips to her second home.
Reporting by Costas Pitas; Editing by Toby Chopra