Dominic Cummings reveals son was hospitalised as he says he acted ‘reasonably and legally’ in lockdown visit to Durham
Dominic Cummings has revealed that his young son was hospitalised after the Number 10 adviser and his wife travelled more than 250 miles from London to Durham during the coronavirus lockdown.
Boris Johnson's most senior aide said he understood the “intense hardship and sacrifice” the country had been through during the crisis.
And he insisted he had acted “legally and reasonably” as he gave his first on-the-record account of the trip, which has caused a major political row and growing calls for him to resign or be sacked.
Speaking in the Rose Garden behind 10 Downing Street, Mr Cummings said: “I know millions of people in this country have been suffering. Thousands have died.
“Many are angry at what they have seen in the media about my actions. I want to clear up confusions and misunderstandings that I can. In retrospect I should have made this statement earlier.”
Recounting the reasons for his journey, the Number 10 aide said he had received a “sudden” call from his wife who had fallen “badly ill” the day after Boris Johnson himself tested positive for coronavirus.
Mr Cummings said a raft of Covid-19 diagnoses at the top of Government meant there was “a distinct possibility” that he had “already caught the disease”.
“I was worried that if my wife and I were both seriously ill, possibly hospitalised, there was nobody in London we could reasonably ask to look after our child and expose them to Covid,” he said.
And he added: “My wife felt on the edge of not being able to look after him safely... I was thinking, what if the same or worse happens to me, there is nobody here I can reasonably ask to help.”
Mr Cummings has been accused of breaking strict lockdown guidelines in place to halt the spread of Covid-19.
But he told reporters of his decision to travel to Durham: “The regulations made clear, I believe, that risks to the health of a small child were an exceptional situation, and I had a way of dealing with this that minimised risk to others.”
The senior Number 10 adviser said media reports about his own views on lockdown, claiming that he “had opposed lockdown and even that I did not care about many deaths”, had created a “very bad atmosphere” around his own home.
Therefore, he added: “I thought the best thing to do in all the circumstances was to drive to an isolated cottage on my father's farm.
“At this farm, my parents live in one house, my sister and her two children live in another house, and there is a separate cottage roughly 50m away from either of them.”
The senior adviser said he had not stopped on the way to Durham, and that he and his wife had both been seriously ill during their stay at the cottage.
And he revealed that his son - who later tested negative for Covid-19 - had had to be rushed to hospital after waking up in the night with a host of symptoms.
Mr Cummings said: “During the night of Thurday 2 April, my child woke up, he threw up and had a bad fever. He was very distressed.
“We took medical advice which was to call 999. An ambulance was sent and they assessed my child and said he must go to hospital.”
He added: “I could barely stand up. My wife went with him in the ambulance. I stayed at home.
“He stayed the night in the hospital. In the morning, my wife called to say he had recovered, seemed back to normal, doctors had tested him for Covid and said they should return home."
SECOND VISIT DENIED
The senior Downing Street aide meanwhile flatly denied media reports that he had travelled back to Durham for a second time in April, instead saying he had made a short journey during isolation to Barnard Castle Town to test his ability to drive the longer journey back to London while still recovering.
“We did not visit the castle, we did not walk around the town,” he said.
“We parked by a river. My wife and I discussed the situation, and we agreed that I could drive safely, we should turn around and go home.”
Mr Cummings said: “We returned to London on the evening of Monday 13 April, Easter Monday.
“I went to work in No10 the next morning. At no point between arriving and leaving Durham did any of the three of us enter my parents' house or my sister's house.
“Our only exchanges were shouted conversations at a distance. My sister shopped for us and left everything outside.”
LONDON HOME ‘A TARGET’
In a direct plea to the country, Mr Cummings said: "I believe in all circumstances I behaved reasonably and legally, balancing the safety of my family and the extreme situation in No10 and the public interests and effective government to which I could contribute."
He added: “I understand that some people will argue that I should have stayed at my house in London throughout.
“I understand these views, I know of the intense hardship and sacrifice the whole country has had to go through. However, I respectfully disagree.
“The legal rules, inevitably, do not cover all circumstances, including those that I found myself in.
“I thought and I think today that the rules, including those regarding small children and extreme circumstances allowed me to exercise my judgement about the situation I found myself in, including the way my London home had become a target, and all the complexity of the situation.”
Mr Cummings said he had now “explained all of the above” to Boris Johnson, and said he had previously told the Prime Minister of his actions “during the first week when we were both sick and in bed”.
“Unsurprisingly given the condition we were in, neither of us remember the conversation in any detail,” he said.
“I did not make my movements public at the time because my London home was already a target, I did not believe I was obliged to make my parents and sisters home a target as well.”
And, taking aim at the media over its coverage of the row, Mr Cummings said: “It’s extremely regrettable, but the media that were reporting some of these things that were wrong were told that they were wrong but they reported them anyway.
“And that has caused a lot of anger. I know. People have shouted at me in the street.”
PM HAD ‘A MILLION THINGS ON HIS PLATE’
Pressed on whether he regretted not asking for permission from the Prime Minister for a trip that was likely to cause serious alarm during a nationwide lockdown, Mr Cummings said: “He himself had just tested positive hours earlier. He was ill. He was upstairs in Number 10, in bed.
“He had a million things on his plate. We all had a million things on our plate. We were trying to do lots of things.”
And the strategist added: “One of the things I have to decide every day is what to bother the PM with and what not to bother the PM with.
“And you know, the honest truth about my job is, that there are endless problems all day and I can’t go to him all day, asking him what do you think about that, what do you think about this that and the other?
“Otherwise what’s the point of having people like me around?”
Mr Cummings said: “Sometimes I do the right thing. Sometimes I make mistakes.”