Social media users today declared ‘If Dominic Cummings can break the rules, we can too’ amid fears crowds would descend on beauty spots amid a 79F heatwave after Boris Johnson’s Svengali got away with a 260-mile trip during lockdown.
The PM last night defended his senior aide over the journey from London to his parents’ home in Durham while he and his wife were self-isolating with coronavirus symptoms, prompting a furious reaction from Britons who have been making huge sacrifices to abide by the restrictions.
With parts of Britain set to bask in temperatures hotter than Athens, Nice and Barcelona, social media users claimed that Mr Johnson’s decision to stand behind Mr Cummings 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.’
Another Twitter user, Andrew Hirst, wrote: ‘Johnson has basically signalled lockdown is over by backing Cummings. Just wait for the good weather and a Bank Holiday…’
Some of the Government’s scientific advisers echoed their concerns, with Professor Stephen Reicher saying the PM had ‘trashed’ all the advice he’d been given, while police argued that his failure to condemn Cummings meant enforcing lockdown is now ‘dead in the water’.
This morning, crowds formed outside the Serpentine in London’s Hyde Park, while beaches in Brighton and Dorset were quickly filling up with day-trippers looking to enjoy the dry and sunny conditions forecast to last the whole of Bank Holiday Monday.
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
Two women enjoy the Bank Holiday sun today by lying on deckchairs on Brighton Beach. Temperatures in the city should reach 66F (19C)
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 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.
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.
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.
The row rumbled on today as Britain woke up to glorious morning. Among the developments in the fast-moving political crisis for the government:
- Twitter users claimed declared, ‘If Dominic Cummings can break the rules, we can too!’ after the PM failed to criticise his aide;
- London could see temperatures of 79F (26C) – warmer than 77F in the Greek capital and 73F in the tourist hubs in France and Spain – raising the prospect of large crowds at beauty spots;
- Influx of tourists could risk a repeat of Wednesday’s scenes, as 80F temperatures saw clashes between locals and sun-seeking tourists on the hottest day of the year so far.
- 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.
- Officials were investigating a tweet from the account of the Civil Service after the PM’s press conference which read: ‘Arrogant and offensive. Can you imagine having to work with these truth twisters?’
Disgusted locals said yesterday that meant 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.’
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
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
A heat map for 2pm today, showing how heat has been circulating in the Atlantic Ocean and sweeping over towards the UK and Ireland
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.
The Met office says while there will be early mist and low cloud in the west early on, this should give way to fine and dry weather in most parts of the country. There will be long sunny periods, with inland areas becoming warm.
Temperatures should reach 79F (26F) in London, 70F (21C) in Newcastle, 68F (20C) in Edinburgh and Belfast, and 72F (22C) in Southampton. It will be slightly cooler in the south-west, with 63F (17C) the forecast top for Land’s End.
No rain is forecast but a band of cloud descending from the north-west is expected to bring some showers later on.
Tomorrow, it will be cloudy across central areas with some drizzle and flog in the west, but mostly sunny elsewhere.
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
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.’