Sun-worshippers descended on parks and beaches today amid a 79F heatwave as they declared, ‘If Dominic Cummings can break the rules, we can too’ after Boris Johnson’s Svengali got away with a 260-mile trip during lockdown.
Speaking this afternoon at a press conference in the No10 Rose Garden, Mr Cummings said his decision to drive to County Durham was based on fears about a lack of childcare if he became incapacitated with coronavirus, and because he did not want to leave his wife and four-year-old boy alone if ‘the situation got worse’. He said allegations he returned to Durham for a second visit after April 14 were ‘false’.
But the furious response to his actions continued today, with critics saying that the senior aide’s behaviour – and the decision of the Prime Minister to stand behind him – risked sending out the dangerous signal that ‘lockdown is finished’, potentially leading to a second wave of infections.
Russell Martin tweeted: ‘So are you telling us that the lockdown is now officially over and we can do whatever we like whenever we like? Because if Dominic Cummings can break the rules with impunity, the rest of us can too.’
Meanwhile, surfers in Woolacombe, Dorset, claimed they had every right to defy appeals to stay at home from locals at tourist spots, with Jen, 26, from Warwick, telling MailOnline: ‘If Dominic Cummings can travel from London to Durham during the height of lockdown, then really no one can say anything.’
Her friend, Liching, 26, from London, added: ‘I was a little apprehensive of what the locals would think and worried we might upset them but I’ve not left my house, except for daily walks, since lockdown started. I feel that if Dominic Cummings thought it was acceptable to drive that distance in lockdown, no one can get upset at us for driving now when the government have also said that it’s ok.’
Some of the Government’s scientific advisers also weighed into the debate, with Professor Stephen Reicher saying the PM had ‘trashed’ all the advice he’d been given, while a former police chief argued that his failure to condemn Cummings meant enforcing lockdown is now ‘dead in the water’.
Elsewhere, queues of swimmers gathered outside the Serpentine in London’s Hyde Park, while by midday beaches in Sussex, Essex and Dorset had quickly filled up with visitors looking to enjoy the dry and sunny conditions forecast to last the whole of Bank Holiday Monday.
People in England are now allowed to travel for day trips but must stay at least six feet away from people who are not from their household, something that could be impossible in crowded areas.
Thousands of sunbathers and visitors flock to Durdle Door at Lulworth in Dorset this afternoon on a day of clear blue skies and scorching hot sunshine
Friends Amy Louise Thomas, 20 and Elli Wilson, 20, enjoying the hot bank holiday weather on Formby beach in Merseyside this morning
Twitter users claimed Boris Johnson’s failure to censure his senior adviser sent out the dangerous signal that ‘lockdown is finished’
With parts of Britain set to bask in temperatures hotter than Athens, Nice and Barcelona, social media users claimed Mr Cummings’ behaviour sent out the wrong message
The packed beach in Bournemouth this afternoon. People in England are now allowed to travel for day trips but must stay at least six feet away from people who are not from their household, something that is difficult in such crowded areas
The seafront at Bournemouth was packed with walkers and cyclist heading to the beach this afternoon
Speaking this afternoon at a press conference in the Downing Street Rose Garden, Mr Cummings said his decision to drive to County Durham was based not only on fears over a lack of childcare if he became incapacitated with Covid-19
Two women enjoy the Bank Holiday sun today by lying on deckchairs on Brighton Beach. Temperatures in the city should reach 66F (19C)
Visitors queued up to take a dip in the Serpentine in London today as Britain looked set to bask in warm weather on Bank Holiday Monday
Police community support officers patrol the beach in Brighton today checking to see if large groups come from the same household – and if not telling them to observe the six-feet rule
A group of women enjoy a tipple today on Brighton beach – which was being patrolled by officers ensuring people stayed socially distanced if they were not from the same household
A happy beach-goer in Brighton gives a thumbs-up while enjoying a bottle of beer on a deckchair this afternoon
There was still room for social distancing on Brighton beach this afternoon, where women are seen taking a dip in the sea
Beach-goers enjoy the sunshine as they sunbathe on the beach and play in the sea at a packed beach today in Southend, Essex
The sands of Bournemouth beach were packed with parasols, wind breaks and inflatables during the hot weather this afternoon
Tens of thousands of people have flocked to a packed Bournemouth beach today despite pleas from the local council to ‘stay away’ during the lockdown
An elderly couple look down at Bournemouth beach from the cliff above. In recent days the RNLI have warned beach-goers that lifeguards will not be on duty to protect them
People enjoy the hot weather today on Durley and Alum Chine beaches in Dorset, where the number of people sitting closed together will concern scientists
The Met Police tweeted that they had been ‘called to reports of a large gathering’ at Ruislip Lido in north-west London
Tourists in Devon were fined as they overwhelmed the picturesque coastal village of Woolacombe this bank holiday Monday
There was gridlock on a road in Burnsall in the Yorkshire Dales this afternoon as people headed to open spaces to enjoy the sun
The busy car park at Durdle Door in Dorset today, where hundreds of visitors arrived this morning to visit the beach and go for walks
The Princess of Wales pub in Primrose Hill, London was open for takeaway beers and cocktails this afternoon
People queue for ice cream in Greenwich Park, south-east London today, as some food shops opened for takeaways
There was a short queue outside the Prince of Wales in Primrose Hill as people waited to pick up beers to take to the grass nearby
Dozens of cyclists queue at the lights outside the Houses of Parliament this afternoon on a day of warm and sunny weather
A group pose for a swimwear selfie outside the gates of Buckingham Palace in London today amid the summer heatwave
A group of Londoners enjoying the sunshine at Battersea Park this morning. Temperatures hovered around 77F just after midday
A swimmer dives into the Serpentine in Hyde Park this afternoon while others bob around in the cool water
Visitors in Windsor Great Park (left) and long queues for one of the few public toilets open in Brighton as visitors enjoyed the Bank Holiday Monday sunshine
Surfers Jen and Liching, 26, from said they had every right to travel to Woolacombe in Dorset today following Mr Cummings’ actions at the height of lockdown
Tourists today said Boris Johnson’s failure to condemn Mr Cummings had weakened his authority to enforce the lockdown, while others suggested it had further confused the official guidance.
Jan Herrod, 48, a teaching assistant from Birmingham, told MailOnline: ‘I think this whole situation is very confusing. During the height of lockdown, Dominic Cummings travelled over 200miles when we were meant to stay at home?
‘Now the government says its ok to travel wherever you like for outdoor activities but also to stay at home?
‘I’m sorry but if Dominic Cummings felt that it was ok to go from London to Durham in March, then it is absolutely fine for us to travel down for the day from Birmingham to visit the beach as unlike Mr Cummings, we are not breaking any rules.’
There were similar views from visitors to Weston-super-Mare in Somerset, including from 44-year-old Charmaine Forsythe, who had come from Gloucester with her family.
When asked if Mr Cummings’ actions had changed her view, she said: ‘Definitely – we look up to them and he showed us a bad example – so we’re going to follow it,’ she said. ‘They’re trying to make excuses, but it’s too late. It’s mixed messages. We can’t expect to keep kids inside. I’ve given up altogether.’
Britain is set to bask in warm and dry weather all day today, with temperatures reaching 79F (26F) in London, 70F (21C) in Newcastle and 68F (20C) in Edinburgh. It will be slightly cooler in the south-west, with 63F (17C) the forecast top for Land’s End.
Tomorrow, it will be cloudy across central areas with some drizzle and flog in the west, but mostly sunny elsewhere, while Wednesday will be dry except for some rain in Northern Ireland and northern Scotland.
In further developments as the Dominic Cummings’ lockdown row rumbled on for a third day:
- Dominic Cummings said in a press conference in the Rose Garden of No10 that he had only travelled to Durham to get childcare for his young boy;
- Insisted he had behaved ‘responsibly and legally’ – and said reports he had made a second trip to Durham were ‘false’;
- It came after Boris Johnson backed him in a press conference last night and said he had behaved with ‘integrity’;
- PM insisted Mr Cummings had ‘followed the instincts of every father’ by driving to his parents’ farm after his wife developed symptoms of coronavirus so they could get childcare;
- Mr Cummings and his wife, Mary, travelled from London to Durham between March 27 and 28 , before an unnamed neighbour saw him in the garden of his parents’ home on April 5, a claim he denied today;
- On April 12, Robert Lees, a retired chemistry teacher, said he saw Mr Cummings 30 miles away from his parents home in Barnard Castle – reports that he confirmed today;
- Today critics said PM’s failure to condemn behaviour could result in the public thinking they no longer had to obey lockdown rules;
- London could see temperatures of 79F (26C) – warmer than 77F in the Greek capital and 73F in the tourist hubs in France and Spain – leading to appeals for tourists to stay away from UK beauty spots;
- Ministers prepared for a rare Bank Holiday meeting of the Cabinet which is expected to focus on the next stage of easing the lockdown;
- Figures showed 118 deaths were recorded on Saturday – the lowest number since March. The total death toll has now risen to 36,793.
Today, locals at English beauty spots appealed for day-trippers to stay away to avoid large crowds that could make it impossible for people to remain six feet apart.
Caroline Lucas, the MP for Brighton Pavilion, tweeted: ‘If you were thinking about visiting #Brighton & #Hove this Bank Holiday, please don’t.
‘Our beautiful city would love to welcome you back as soon as it’s safe – but that’s not yet. With so many services still closed & challenges with social distancing, its not business as usual.’
But visitors to Woolacombe in Dorset claimed the lack of any punishment for Dominic Cummings jarred with the government’s efforts to enforce the lockdown.
Peter Hunter, 34, a Bristol office worker, said: ‘There are so many times in March and April that I wanted to come down to the beach for the day and surf but I didn’t because we were specifically told by the government to ‘Stay At Home, Save Lives’.
Four of Boris Johnson’s top scientists accuse him of trashing their efforts to promote lockdown
Boris Johnson has ‘trashed’ public trust and adherence to lockdown, four of the government’s scientific advisers warned last night.
Professor Stephen Reicher, who is a member of SPI-B, the government advisory group on behavioural science, said the row meant members of the public will question the rules they have been told to follow because of the sense that people were not ‘all in this together’.
Fellow SPI-B professors, Susan Michie and Robert West, backed his comments.
Prof West said it was vital the public did not abandon social distancing. ‘The key thing we need to remember is that the reason for the lockdown is not for the sake of people like Dominic Cummings or the prime minister, it is for our friends and families’ sake so the rules are really, really important,’ he said.
Prof Michie called for Professor Chris Whitty, England’s chief medical officer, to provide his own briefings independently from the cabinet in the future.
She wrote: ‘I hope that @CMO_England @uksciencechief & colleagues will in future give their own scientific briefings to the British public unencumbered by distrust of @BorisJohnson & co. Never thought I’d say this but don’t want science to be dragged down by association with dishonesty.’
Meanwhile, Adam Kucharski, an epidemiologist on the Government’s Scientific Pandemic Influenza Group on Modelling, added: ‘I spent this weekend refining our contact tracing analysis. One of the things that’s always stood out is that for these targeted measures to work, we need public adherence to quarantine to be very high. But I fear it’s now going to be far more difficult to achieve this.’
‘Now it turns out that only applied to the general public and not the government. I would’ve loved to visit my family but unlike Dominic Cummings, I listened to Boris Johnson.
‘I absolutely do not feel like I should feel guilty for driving down to the beach today, if I had known the government was breaking the rules all along, I probably would’ve come down sooner.’
Their comments were echoed by 44-year-old builder Tommy Morton, who added: ‘I feel well within my rights to visit the beach today.
‘It’s a bit of a drive from Birmingham to Woolacombe but if Dominic Cummings can drive however many miles it was from London to Durham in lockdown, I’m absolutely allowed to drive down from Birmingham to spend my day outside at the beach.
‘The kids have been needing a day out for months. If Boris Johnson wants to kid himself that Dominic (Cummings) did nothing wrong, he can do that, but I’m done with listening to the government for advice now. I’m just going to enjoy my day out and be sensible.’
Glen Cashmore, 62, and his partner Kerry Butcher, 50, have travelled down from the West Midlands for the day.
He said of Mr Cummings’ actions: ‘It has changed my opinion, yeah. What he did was totally wrong – it changed my point of view.
‘If it’s a rule it should be for everybody. We are going to keep ignoring the rules now. We can finally come to the beach.’
Meanwhile, there fears today from scientists, senior policemen and MPs that Mr Johnson’s decision to stick with Mr Cummings will make it harder to continue the lockdown.
Professor Stephen Reicher, who is a member of the Government’s advisory group on behavioural science which feeds into SAGE, said the actions of Mr Cummins would now mean members of the public will question the rules they have been told to follow.
He told Good Morning Britain: ‘If you look at the research it shows the reason why people observed lockdown was not for themselves, it wasn’t because they were personally at risk, they did it for the community, they did it because of a sense of ‘we’re all in this together’.
‘If you give the impression there’s one rule for them and one rule for us you fatally undermine that sense of ‘we’re all in this together’ and you undermine adherence to the forms of behaviour which have got us through this crisis.’
He added: ‘The real issue here is that because of these actions, because of undermining trust in the Government, because of undermining adherence to the rules that we all need to follow, people are going to die. More people are going to die.’
Meanwhile, Mike Barton, ex-chief constable of Durham Police, told The Daily Telegraph: ‘How on earth are the police supposed to enforce the rules now? What has happened has completely holed the legislation that was introduced to keep people safe below the waterline. It is dead in the water.’
It came after Durham’s Police and Crime Commissioner urged the local chief constable to launch a formal investigation into Mr Cummings’ lockdown visit to the city. If the chief constable agrees to look into the matter it
raises the prospect of the police examining ANPR or phone data to determine the aide’s movements.
Miss England contestant Elli Wilson, 20, enjoying the hot bank holiday weather on Formby beach in Merseyside this morning (left) and an idiotic visitor risking his life at Birling Gap in East Sussex
Picnickers sit just feet away from the edge of the cliffs at Beachy Head today, despite the risk of the cliff crumbling away
Londoners photographed enjoying the sunshine and playing football at Burgess Park in Southwark this afternoon
Families and sunbathers flock to Hive Beach at Burton Bradstock in Dorset, prompting the car park (pictured) to quickly fill up
Traffic wardens issued dozens of £60 parking tickets to cars on grass verges and pavements next to Dunham Massey Country Park in Cheshire this afternoon
Sunbathers enjoy the hot weather today on the beach by Boscombe Pier in Dorset, following the introduction of measures to bring the country out of lockdown
A woman takes a photo of her friend on Brighton beach this afternoon, which was full of people enjoying the sunny weather
The Kaur family on the beach at Weston Super-Mare this afternoon, where there appeared to be enough room for social distancing
Beachgoers walk back up the pebbles on Brighton beach after having a dip. The pier is seen in the background
Thousands of people flocked to Bournemouth beach in Dorset today in scenes that will prompt fears about the lack of social distancing
Thousands of people rushed to Bournemouth beach in Dorset today to enjoy the summer heatwave on the last day of Bank Holiday Monday
Community Safety officers, employed by the local Council, patrol the beach at Southend-on-Sea this afternoon
A couple lie on the grass next to Rushmere Pond on Wimbledon Common this afternoon amid bright and sunny conditions
People sunbathing and exercising on Tooting Bec common in south London today – where temperatures hovered around 79F
A sunbather relaxes on Tooting Bec common in London near the famous lido, which is currently closed due to the coronavirus pandemic
Potters Fields next to Tower Bridge in London was busy this afternoon as people enjoy the bank holiday sunshine
Crowds out this afternoon in Potters Fields near London Bridge as Londoners headed to the capital’s parks to enjoy the sun
A man jumps from Durdle Door against the backdrop of a cruise ship as tourists enjoy the hot weather at Durdle Door beach today
Kate Wormald, Lizzie Walker, Fiona Oddy and Millie Arnison enjoy the hot weather today at Bolton Abbey in North Yorkshire, as people flock to parks and beaches with lockdown measures eased
Cars parked on the grass at Edinburgh’s Silverknowles this afternoon as local temperatures hovered at around 66F
Caroline Lucas, Green Party MP for Brighton Pavilion, today urged tourists to stay away from the city, while Twitter user Adam Chamberlain asked Kent Police if it would still enforce the lockdown after Mr Cummings’ actions
Boris Johnson is facing a mounting backlash over his defence of Dominic Cummings. The under fire PM was seen jogging with his dog Dilyn near Lambeth Palace in central London this morning
Mr Cummings (pictured today in London) has sparked a political firestorm after travelling 260 miles from London to Durham (above) to see his parents during lockdown
Huge queues of traffic around Box Hill in Surrey, which was the site of one of the cycle races during the London 2012 Olympics
Tourists make their way down the steps to enjoy the hot weather at Durdle Door beach this morning, which quickly filled up with hundreds of day-trippers
A group of tourists pose for a selfie by Durdle Door, where conditions today resembled those usually seen in the Mediterranean
A couple play beach volleyball on Boscombe beach in Dorset today as people made the most of relaxed lockdown restrictions
A heat map for 2pm today, showing how heat has been circulating in the Atlantic Ocean and sweeping over towards the UK and Ireland
The unanswered questions in the Dominic Cummings row
1. How many ministers, including the PM, knew Mr Cummings had travelled to Durham and was self-isolating there?
2. Did Mr Cummings ask for advice or permission from No 10 before he travelled?
3. Why did Mr Cummings insist neither he nor his family had been spoken to by Durham Police, when his father had contacted the force himself?
4. Can Mr Cummings explain where he was on April 12, when he was allegedly spotted at Barnard Castle?
5. Can Mr Cummings provide details of his whereabouts on April 19, when he was allegedly seen in Houghall Woods?
6. What reason can Mr Cummings provide for allegedly travelling to Durham for a second time after his return to London, given he and his wife had recovered from their symptoms?
7. Why didn’t another family member near Mr Cummings’s London home care for their child when his wife displayed virus symptoms?
8. How many times did Mr Cummings travel between London and the North East during lockdown?
The prospect of large crowds of tourists caused one seaside town to buckle and declare that they would open public toilets to stop visitors relieving themselves in parks and beaches.
Great Yarmouth Borough Council’s leader Carl Smith said yesterday: ‘With the bank holiday weekend and second week of relaxed restrictions bringing the increased possibility of more tourists venturing further afield, we have decided to re-open a limited number of seafront toilets at Great Yarmouth and Gorleston from tomorrow for emergency use in the interests of public health, which remains our top priority.
‘Hand washing and social distancing, will help to manage the risk of inflection as far as practically possible.
‘But while the council is opening public toilets, their message remains unchanged: tourists should be sensible and avoid the coast.’
Boris Johnson has effectively staked his political reputation on trying to protect Mr Cummings but the calls for the adviser to be sacked continue to grow amid fears his actions could persuade some Britons that breaking the remaining lockdown restrictions was now acceptable.
At a dramatic press conference in Downing Street last night, the Prime Minister claimed his chief aide had acted ‘responsibly, legally and with integrity’ while making a controversial 260-mile trip from London to Durham during lockdown.
Bournemouth Beach today, where sun-seekers began arriving early in the morning in preparation for the warm weather ahead
The scene at nearby Boscombe beach in Dorset today. People in England are allowed to go on day trips but must remain socially distanced
A couple set up on the sands of Branksome Chine Beach in Poole, Dorset this morning, where day-trippers were seen arriving from the early hours
Groups of cyclists gathered outside the landmark in Hyde Park today as London was set to be hotter than Athens, Nice and Barcelona
Swimmers queue up to take a tip in the Serpentine in London today as Britain looked set to bask in warm weather on Bank Holiday Monday
Dog walkers enjoying the sunshine in Southwark Park, London. Temperatures are set to top 79F (26C) later on in the day
People took advantage of the cool temperatures at the start of the day to get some exercise in Southwark Park, south-east London
Runners today in Southwark Park in London, which was brimming with picnickers and sunbathers during the sunny weather yesterday
Mr Johnson insisted Mr Cummings had ‘followed the instincts of every father’ by driving to his parents’ farm after his wife developed symptoms of coronavirus.
NHS hospital in Weston-super-Mare shuts A&E and stops taking new patients because of surge in Covid-19 cases
An NHS hospital in a Somerset seaside hotspot has today been forced to stop taking new patients due to ‘a high number’ of coronavirus cases.
Weston General Hospital, Weston-super-Mare, dramatically announced this morning that it could not take any more admissions, including into A&E.
Health chiefs do not know why the hospital has had an influx of Covid-19 cases, with bosses warning all hospitals have ‘frequent’ changes in admissions.
But questions were today asked over whether the blame may lie on crowds who have flocked to the town to enjoy the sun since lockdown was slightly eased.
Thousands of people travelled to the South West and other coastal areas as soon as the government allowed nationwide travel again on May 13.
Weston-super-Mare’s mayor even admitted ‘you can’t rule it out’, when questioned if scores of Britons on the beach were to blame for the surge in cases.
Furious Brits warned VE day celebrations on the beach on May 8 were ‘coming home to roost’, and one warned a second wave ‘rolling’ into the South West.
But he refused to deny that while in the North East, Mr Cummings had also driven 30 miles to go for a walk in the countryside in an apparent second lockdown breach.
And he failed to say whether he had given Mr Cummings permission for the Durham trip – or offer any apology for his most senior aide’s behaviour.
Elsewhere, beauty spots prepared themselves for a rush of visitors, with some disgusted locals saying that the closure of public toilets meant that visitors were going to the toilet on beaches, at picnic sites and some are even nipping over the fence to do it in back gardens and on lawns.
Maggie Arthurs, 33, a mother-of-two from Sheringham on the Norfolk coast said: ‘They leave their business all over the place, then they jump back in their cars at the end of their day out and drive home, leaving us to clear it up.
‘With the hotter weather the place has been heaving with families who obviously aren’t local – some have come from Birmingham, others from Sheffield. Residents have found human faeces in their gardens and even near their front doors – it’s just not on.
‘These people must realise the public toilets are shut and they can’t visit pubs or restaurants. If they’re on a day out, they are bound to want to use the loo, so they have complete disregard for our community and just poo and wee wherever they think fit.’
Meanwhile, Waxham Sands holiday park in Great Yarmouth said it had been ‘subject to an invasion of conceited’ day trippers, with many climbing over locked gates and urinating on the dunes of Waxham Sand’s private half-mile beach.
260-mile dash and a tale that keeps unravelling: How the crisis engulfing Boris Johnson’s chief adviser Dominic Cummings unfolded
By Glen Keogh, James Tozer and David Churchill for the Daily Mail
Never before has an unelected Government adviser been so powerful – and divisive.
The Prime Minister’s right-hand man and self-proclaimed architect of Brexit, Dominic Cummings, has already been depicted in a TV film by Benedict Cumberbatch and was the subject of a BBC documentary this year.
He has seemed to revel in his reputation as the ‘dark puppeteer’ – complete with his scruffy attire, abrupt tone and disdain for the Press. But to many, revelations that he may have breached lockdown rules are a controversial step too far. Here the Mail analyses the allegations against him.
To many, revelations that Dominic Cummings (pictured) may have breached lockdown rules are a controversial step too far
FIRST DURHAM TRIP
March 23, 2020 was the day Britain was placed into lockdown. Boris Johnson told Britons they should only leave home for one of four reasons: To shop for essential items, to exercise once a day, to travel to and from work where it was ‘absolutely necessary’ or to fulfil medical or care needs.
Those who had any symptoms of coronavirus were told to stay at home for at least seven days. Other members of that household were told they must self-isolate for 14 days.
The Government unveiled its message ‘Stay home. Protect the NHS. Save lives’ – which would have been drafted with the help of Mr Cummings. Then, four days after lockdown was imposed, Mr Johnson and Health Secretary Matt Hancock tested positive.
Chief medical officer Chris Whitty also showed symptoms. On March 30, Downing Street confirmed Mr Cummings was also suffering symptoms and was self-isolating.
The following day, local police received a report he was at the rural Durham farmhouse of his parents Robert, 73, and Morag, 71 – 265 miles from his London home.
It is thought Mr Cummings travelled there on March 27 or 28 – shortly after his wife, Mary Wakefield, began showing symptoms.
Such a move would have been hugely at odds with Government guidance as Mr Cummings could have looked after their young child in London while his wife recuperated.
At around 5.45pm on April 5, an unnamed neighbour spotted him in his parents’ garden with his son – with Abba’s Dancing Queen being played in the background.
The neighbour said: ‘I got the shock of my life. I was really annoyed. I thought ‘It’s OK for you to drive all the way up to Durham and escape from London’. It’s one rule for Dominic Cummings and one rule for the rest of us.’
In response to questions last week, No10 said Mr Cummings travelled to Durham as his sister and nieces had volunteered to look after his four-year-old son.
At the weekend deputy chief medical officer Dr Jenny Harries said travelling during lockdown was permissible if ‘there was an extreme risk to life’ with a ‘safeguarding clause’ to prevent vulnerable people being stuck at home with no support. She added that a small child could be considered vulnerable.
But rather than Mr Cummings’ son staying with other family members, he was in fact with his parents in a farmhouse adjoining the main property. Food was left by Mr Cummings’ sister at the door.
The trip would appear to fly in the face of strict lockdown rules as both parents were showing symptoms and could have taken advantage of help elsewhere in London.
Parents’ home: The home of Cummings’s parents in Durham, 260 miles away, which he visited during lockdown
COULD THEY HAVE STAYED IN LONDON?
Mr Cummings has insisted the Durham trip was necessary for the well-being of his son. The boy would likely have contracted a mild version of the illness, if at all, by staying with his parents.
In contrast, Mr Cummings’ elderly parents were at a much higher risk of contracting a severe and potentially fatal form of Covid-19 – making his actions appear all the more reckless. Family friends have pointed out that his wife, Mary Wakefield, has a brother, Jack, who lives in London with his own young son. She also has a half-brother, Max, who lives in the capital.
It has also been suggested it may have been more sensible for a family member to travel from Durham south to help the Cummings .
On April 12, his wife’s birthday, Mr Cummings and his family were allegedly spotted 30 miles from Durham in the town of Barnard Castle. Retired chemistry teacher Robin Lees, 70, said he was ‘gobsmacked’. Although Mr Cummings could have theoretically completed a 14-day isolation period to recover from symptoms, the Government guidance were still clear: Stay at home and avoid unnecessary travel. Mr Lees said: ‘They looked as if they’d been for a walk by the river. It didn’t seem right because I assumed he would be in London. You don’t take the virus from one part of the country to another.’
Sky News yesterday confirmed the car number plate as belonging to Mr Cummings.
London-to-Durham: The 260-mile journey that Cummings made to reach the home of his parents in Durham
Like all good journalists, Mary Wakefield did not miss an opportunity to turn personal difficulty into tantalising copy. As commissioning editor of political magazine The Spectator, the baronet’s daughter described her and her husband’s battle with coronavirus for a late-April edition.
She said she initially contracted symptoms before Mr Cummings rushed home and ‘collapsed.’ She explained: ‘I felt breathless, sometimes achy, but Dom couldn’t get out of bed. Day in, day out for ten days he lay doggo with a high fever and spasms that made the muscles lump and twitch in his legs. He could breathe, but only in a limited, shallow way.’
Then, in a conclusion which contradicts the sightings in Durham, she said the family ’emerged from quarantine into the almost comical uncertainty of London lockdown.’ On April 14, Mr Cummings returned to work at Downing Street.
RETURN TRIP – OR TWO?
A witness claimed to have seen Mr Cummings at Houghall Woods, a beauty spot near his parents’ home in Durham, on April 19.
He was overheard remarking that the bluebells are ‘lovely.’ The witness said: ‘We were shocked and surprised to see him because the last time we did was earlier in the week in Downing Street.
March 27: Dominic Cummings is pictured running out of Downing Street on the day Mr Johnson and Health Secretary Matt Hancock test positive for coronavirus
‘We thought ‘He’s not supposed to be here during lockdown’. We thought ‘What double standards, one rule for him as a senior adviser to the Prime Minister, another for the rest of us.’ When asked yesterday whether he had been to Durham a second time in April, Mr Cummings said: ‘No I did not’.
On May 10, rumours begin to circulate on social media that Mr Cummings had again been seen in the Durham area. A police source yesterday told the Telegraph officers contacted Mr Cummings’ father around this time but were assured the sightings were not true.
CUMMINGS vs POLICE
When news broke of the alleged lockdown breaches late on Friday evening, Downing Street described Mr Cummings’ actions as ‘essential’ and ‘in line with coronavirus guidelines’. A further No10 statement said: ‘At no stage was he or his family spoken to by the police about this matter.’
Durham Police later issued a statement saying they had been made aware of his presence in the city on March 31 and spoke to his father the following morning.
Mike Barton, ex-chief constable of Durham Police, yesterday insisted Mr Cummings ‘broke the law’. He said: ‘The deputy chief medical officer…made it really clear – it’s got to be a life-threatening issue that allows you to break the coronavirus lockdown.
‘This was not life-threatening, so let’s not beat about the bush.’