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Cummings drove from his home in London to his parents’ Durham farm on March 27, only a few days after Prime Minister Boris Johnson had initiated a national lockdown. Johnson’s lockdown banned all non-essential travel, but Cummings was spotted entering the property with ABBA’s “Dancing Queen” blasting from his car.
Further sightings placed Cummings at Barnard Castle, 30 miles from Durham, on April 12, and returning to Durham on April 19. A BBC timeline noted that Cummings was photographed visiting Downing Street between the latter visits, indicating he was traveling all across the country during a time when only essential travel was allowed.
Johnson and other Cabinet members have spoken in support of Cummings, with Cabinet minister Michael Gove declaring that “caring for your wife and child is not a crime.” However, after pressure from conservative backbenchers and other politicians, Johnson summoned Cummings to Downing Street on Sunday morning.
Cummings left shortly after Johnson finally gave a news briefing, during which he said Cummings “acted responsibly and legally and with integrity.”
When asked directly about Cummings’ visit to Barnard Castle, Johnson replied with a similar message that his Cabinet had taken days earlier, citing the needs for Cummings to care for his child.
“When you look at the guidance, when you look at the particular child-care needs that Mr. Cummings faced at the time, it was reasonable of him to self-isolate as he did for 14 days or more with his family where he did,” Johnson said. “I think that was sensible and defensible and I understand it.”
Even as Johnson gave his speech, retired chemistry teacher Robin Lees reportedly filed a complaint with police stating that he saw Cummings and his family on April 12 in Barnard Castle. The Guardian obtained a copy of Lees’ complaint to police.
“At the time, I felt the three people getting in the car might be breaking lockdown rules. However, in light of recent information, I feel that as well as an important breach of the lockdown, there may also have been concerns over Health Protection regulations,” Lees wrote in an email.
He also provided the license-plate number for the car he said Cummings was driving.
Durham County Councillor Amanda Hopgood of the Liberal Democrats also demanded an investigation into Cummings’ multiple visits to Durham, stating that his visit may have represented a breach of the 2020 Health Protection Regulations.
“I have sent a letter to the chief constable asking them to see if [Cummings] has committed an offense under section 15 of the health protection coronavirus regulations,” Hopgood said. “There have been so many different versions of what has happened, an independent investigation by the police is needed.”
Cummings was not the only prominent figures accused of defying the lockdown. A Scottish medical adviser resigned after she was spotted walking her dog miles from her home in April, and epidemiologist Neil Ferguson resigned as a government adviser after his girlfriend visited him.
A Labour Party spokesman said: “The lockdown rules were very clear: if you or anyone in your household was suspected of having Covid-19 you must immediately self-isolate and not leave the house.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.