Johnson aide made ‘minor’ lockdown rule breach, say UK police

LONDON (AP) — British Prime Minister Boris Johnson will be hoping a near week-long furore over his adviser’s travels during the coronavirus lockdown will peter out, following news yesterday that police will not take any action on the matter.

Johnson, who is set to make a statement later on plans to ease the lockdown, has faced scorn for keeping Dominic Cummings in post after he drove 400km to his parents’ house in Durham, northeast England, at the end of March while the country was under a “stay-at-home” order. Cummings made a later journey to a scenic town 50km away.

Following an investigation, Durham Constabulary said the drive to Durham did not breach the rules but the second trip, to the town of Barnard Castle, might have been “a minor breach” of lockdown rules “that would have warranted police intervention.”

But the force said “there is no intention to take retrospective action” because no one else has been fined retrospectively.

More than 14,000 people in Britain have been fined by police for violating a ban on all but essential travel that was imposed March 23 to help slow the spread of the virus.

Top aide to British Prime Minister Boris Johnson Dominic Cummings leaves his north London home as the row over his trip to Durham during lockdown continues. PHOTO: AP

Johnson has resisted calls to fire Cummings, the architect of the Conservative Party’s December election victory, for flouting at the very least the spirit of the lockdown restrictions.

Cummings has defended his actions, saying he travelled to ensure that his four-year-old son could be looked after if he and his wife, who both had coronavirus symptoms, became sick. He said he drove to Barnard Castle to test whether his eyesight, which had been affected by illness, was good enough for the long trip back to London.

Johnson is also facing pressure to scrap a government immigration-related policy after he appeared to be caught unaware of the fact that many migrants to the United Kingdom (UK) cannot access financial support during the pandemic.

Introduced in 2014, the “no recourse to public funds” status is a standard condition applied to mainly non-European people staying in the UK with temporary immigration status.

Johnson said on Wednesday he would “see what we can do to help” people who have no recourse to public funds after he was challenged by Stephen Timms, a lawmaker from the main opposition Labour Party.