Does Cummings believe he broke the rules?
No. He said it was a “very complex situation” and that he found himself in “exceptional circumstances” relating to the care of his four year-old son.
“The rules make clear that if you're dealing with small children, then that can be exceptional circumstances. I think that the way that I dealt with it was the least risk to everyone concerned.” He added: “I have the right to exercise my own judgement".
He also said he did not make a reported second visit to the northeast of England on 19 April.
What were the ‘exceptional circumstances’ that justified leaving London?
Cummings said his wife became seriously ill and nearly passed out on the day Boris Johnson’s coronavirus diagnosis was confirmed - he was filmed running from 10 Downing Street to return home to her.
He said he had also begun to receive worrying abuse and threats to his home in North London. Because of Johnson’s diagnosis and the number of people in Number 10 who were self-isolating with symptoms, Cummings said he feared he could have the illness, but claims there was no one he felt he could ask in London to look after his son if both parents became ill.
By isolating in Durham, on a farm owned by his father, Cummings said he believed the smallest number of people would be at risk.
Did the family self-isolate while outside of London?
The cottage where Cummings, his wife and son stayed is 50 metres from his parents’ home, and also separate from the home where his sister and niece were staying. They stayed “very far” from his parents, who are in their 70s, and had only “shouted conversation” with them. His sister did the shopping.
The family were spotted on a walk in woods on his father’s property, where they were spotted by neighbours.
They also drove around 30 minutes to Barnard Castle, where they sat by the river for 15 minutes, and also stopped for a comfort break on the way back to their cottage in Durham. Cummings said he was “95% sure” that he stopped for petrol on the return journey from Durham to London.
Why did the family go to Barnard Castle?
Cummings said he had sought medical advice that he could return to work, 15 days after first developing symptoms.
However, he felt unwell and had also complained about his eyesight being poor. His wife suggested that they go for a drive to test his ability to complete the 260-mile return journey to London.
Taking their son with them, they drove to Barnard Castle, a town roughly 30 minutes away from Cummings’ parents home.
What did Boris Johnson know, and when?
Cummings revealed that he didn’t ask permission from the Prime Minister, or even tell him before driving from London to Durham - something which he singled out as a possible error of judgement.
Cummings said that in conversation at some point over the following week, he told the Prime Minister of his whereabouts, but that because both of them were at this point ill with coronavirus symptoms, neither can remember any details of the conversation or indeed what day it took place on.
Is Cummings sorry?
No. He denies that he has undermined public health advice and is “not seeking to introduce any element of discretion. To me, the rules are there.” Cummings admitted making mistakes during the coronavirus outbreak, but said: “I don’t think that what I did in these 14 days was a mistake.”
He said that “in retrospect I should have given this statement earlier” but didn’t because “if we started trying to explain everything it would lead to more confusion”.
He expressed sympathy for parents who found themselves in similar situations, but remained at their primary home. And he blamed reporting of the event for public anger, saying: “I understand the people watching the media could be very angry.”
The unanswered questions
- Why did he risk a four-hour drive with his son in the car, when his wife was already feeling in and he suspected he might be too?
- Was the risk to the wider public really lower in County Durham, where medical facilities are less developed than in London?
- If Cummings was concerned about security at his London home, did he contact police or ask for protection - and if not, why not?
- Was there really no one in London who could have provided groceries and checked in on the family?
- When the family left London, did he think he and his wife might have coronavirus, or didn’t he?
- Why contemplate a drive to Barnard Castle at all when Cummings was feeling unwell - couldn’t the family have simply stayed at the Durham cottage another day or two?
- If the trip to Durham was within the rules, why did Cummings and his wife not disclose it in an article they wrote for the Spectator - giving a general location, rather than his parents’ address?
- Why did Downing Street spokespeople respond to reports that Cummings was spotted in Barnard Castle by saying they “not waste our time answering a stream of false allegations” when it was true?