Dominic Cummings: The Seven Questions That Still Haven't Been Answered

From childcare rules to Barnard Castle, these are the questions that so far have gone unanswered.

Coronavirus has changed everything. Make sense of it all with the Waugh Zone, our evening politics briefing. Sign up now

The row over Dominic Cummings’ 260-mile trip from London to Durham has now raged into its fourth day, and as new details emerge the questions are mounting up.

At Sunday’s daily press conference, Boris Johnson made it clear that his chief advisor was still in with a job – a move that has earned the PM widespread criticism from the public, scientific advisors, faith leaders and even his own MPs.

Addressing the public, Johnson maintained that Cummings’ had acted “responsibly, legally and with integrity”, adding “I think he followed the instincts of every father and every parent”.

While Number 10 has acknowledged that Cummings had travelled once to Durham, they have completely dismissed reports of a second trip.

From why exactly Cummings needed to make the journey, to whether or not the family stopped during journey, here are eight questions that still haven’t been answered by the government:

Why did he need to travel 260 miles north?

The argument pushed by Number 10 is that Cummings, fearing there would be no one to look after his four-year-old son if he and his wife became ill with coronavirus at the same time, travelled to be near his family in County Durham to seek childcare.

Yet Labour shadow policing minister Sarah Jones said, in an interview on Sky News’ Sophy Ridge On Sunday programme, she knew of “single mothers who have had Covid-19, when their child has had to stay with them” and neighbours and volunteers had to “chip-in food so they can eat”.

In the wake of the news, families across the UK have taken to Twitter to share their own stories of struggling to care for their children while battling the virus or shielding to avoid getting infected.

Given these sacrifices, critics have queried why Cummings – as someone involved in setting the lockdown rules – couldn’t call on any friends or family in London to assist him in adhering to the restrictions.

Did he have Covid-19 when travelling?

The PM tested positive for coronavirus on March 26 and Number 10 confirmed that Cummings developed symptoms over the weekend of March 28-29.

He was seen running out of Downing Street on March 27, shortly after it was confirmed publicly that the PM had the virus.

On Friday, a statement issued by Durham Constabulary suggested Cummings’ father had confirmed his son was self-isolating in the North East as of March 31.

Given the average incubation period for Covid-19 is five days, but can be as long as 14, the four-day gap between the two dates suggests he could have been asymptomatic while travelling.

The government rules clearly state that anyone with Covid-19 symptoms – however mild – must stay at home for seven days. Members of their household “must stay at home and not leave the house” for 14 days.

Did he have to stop en route to Durham?

Driving 260 miles (more than four-and-a-half hours) across the country with a four-year-old and his wife – who was already displaying Covid-19 symptoms – Cummings might well have needed to stop for a break.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps was asked during the Sunday morning media round about whether the family took a pit stop, but said he did not know the answer.

But he argued Cummings was a “stickler” for social-distancing rules, indicating he would have abided by them during any stop-off.

The Cabinet minister told Sophy Ridge: “I saw a clip yesterday of him asking journalists to be spaced two metres apart, so I know he is a stickler for those rules…so I’m sure that they took all the necessary precautions.”

Dominic Cummings, special adviser to the prime minister, pictured outside 10 Downing Street on Sunday.
Dominic Cummings, special adviser to the prime minister, pictured outside 10 Downing Street on Sunday.
Chris J Ratcliffe via Getty Images

Did he go on a day trip to Barnard Castle?

The Observer and Sunday Mirror reported that an eyewitness – 71-year-old former teacher Robin Lees – saw Cummings with his wife and child at Barnard Castle, a popular tourist spot 30 miles from Durham, on April 12.

Downing Street has refused to formally address this allegation, but Shapps suggested the Easter Sunday outing, if it took place, “would have been outside the 14-day period” for self-isolation.

Government advice is that anyone suffering from coronavirus symptoms must quarantine for seven days after contracting the virus.

And guidance issued by the National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) and the College of Policing in early April advised officers not to punish people for using their cars to drive “a reasonable distance” for exercise, but the advice from government placed a heavy emphasis on exercising close to home.

Was his son cared for by family while in Durham?

Cummings’ defence for his actions, along with the PM’s justification for keeping him on, hinges on the belief he and his wife could require childcare if they both became unwell.

In No 10’s Saturday statement setting out what went on, it made no reference to his son being looked after by family members, only that Cummings’ sister “shopped for the family and left everything outside” the property they were staying in.

The question of why Cummings and his family had to travel for someone to deliver food when they most likely could have had the same help in London has not yet been formally addressed.

Was the childcare caveat to the “Stay at home“ message actually made clear in the guidance?

Health secretary Matt Hancock said the government’s “Stay at home” guidance was an instruction, “not a request” at a briefing on April 3.

But deputy chief medical officer Dr Jenny Harries had said at a daily Downing Street press briefing on March 24 that a small child could be considered “vulnerable” and therefore provide exemptions from the stringent rules if their carers became ill.

Harries said: “Although we are encouraging everybody to stay in their own households…clearly if you have adults who are unable to look after a small child, that is an exceptional circumstance.”

For those who were listening intently – and Cummings seems to have been among those who were – a loosening of the restrictions was seemingly confirmed.

But many families, some of whom were left struggling to care for their young children, have voiced their anger about the use of this caveat, citing the PM’s order during his March 23 speech that “you must stay at home”.

Who is right: No 10 or the police?

A row between Downing Street and Durham Constabulary over police involvement during the episode refused to abate over the weekend.

No 10 denied, as was first reported, that police had contacted Cummings’ family following a report he had travelled to stay near family.

The government’s denial caused the force to put out a fresh statement on Saturday standing by its earlier assertions, stating that officers had a conversation with the Leave campaigner’s father after he requested to speak to them.

But transport secretary Grant Shapps told the BBC the conversation, while initiated by Robert Cummings, did not touch on the whereabouts of the PM’s aide.

Speaking to the Andrew Marr programme, he said: “For one thing, the father contacted the police, not the other way round.

“And secondly, it was about an unrelated matter, which I think quite rightly they don’t want to go into, about security, so it’s not the case that the police made contact without any reason to discuss this specific matter.”


What's Hot