The media have not given it much coverage, but besides his trips to Durham and Barnard Castle, Dominic Cummings breached the lockdown rules by returning to No.10 Downing Street on 27 March when he should have been self-isolating. This was a breach of the lockdown regulations and brought Covid-19 into the heart of government, putting people at risk who were central to the government’s response to Covid-19.
According to Cummings, on the morning of 27 March, he went into work in Downing Street as normal but received a call from his wife later in the day saying that she felt badly ill. He says he left Downing Street shortly afterwards and returned home. After a couple of hours, Cummings said his wife felt better and “there were many critical things at work and she urged me to return in the afternoon and I did”.
Cummings says that his wife had vomited but she did not have a cough or a cold. Nonetheless, he and his wife thought that she might have Covid, so much so that they drove to Durham later that evening to ensure appropriate childcare was in place should they both succumb to Covid. Cummings wife, Mary Wakefield, is clear in the Spectator article she wrote about her illness that she thought she might have Covid-19, writing:
“that evening, as I lay on the sofa, a happy thought occurred to me: if this was the virus, then my husband, who works 16-hour days as a rule, would have to come home“.
The guidance on this scenario that was in force at the time is clear:
“If you live with others and you are the first in the household to have symptoms of coronavirus, then you must stay at home for 7 days, but all other household members who remain well must stay at home and not leave the house for 14 days.“
By going into Downing Street on the afternoon of 27 March Dominic Cummings breached the guidance as well as the lockdown regulations, a criminal offence. The lockdown regulations at the time of Cummings’ return to Downing Street included an offence for anyone who during the lockdown period leaves the place where they are living without reasonable excuse.
There is a non-exhaustive list of reasonable excuses, including “to travel for the purposes of work or to provide voluntary or charitable services, where it is not reasonably possible for that person to work, or to provide those services, from the place where they are living”. I do not see how Cummings could have relied on this as a reasonable excuse given surely the No.10 policy at the time would have been that he should self-isolate at home and not travel to No.10 for work.
Not only were Cummings actions a breach of requirements that he himself was involved in telling others to comply with but his behaviour put at risk others who were working in one of the most strategically important buildings in the country, 10 Downing Street, where staff were working on the response to Coronavirus. The next day, Cummings had Covid-19 symptoms, meaning that he is likely to have had it when he went back into 10 Downing Street the previous day.
The Durham Constabulary stated that the considered Cummings’ trip to be a minor breach of the lockdown regulations as social distancing was maintained. This is not the case for his visit to 10 Downing Street on the afternoon of 27 March. It seems like this breach of the lockdown regulations is something that the Metropolitan police should be considering and investigating.
Omar Salem writes in a personal capacity.