Dominic Cummings has said how he handled the fallout from his lockdown-breaking trip to Durham was “major disaster”.
But Boris Johnson’s former senior adviser stood by the claim he drove to Barnard Castle to “test his eyesight”.
Giving evidence to a Commons committee on Wednesday, Cummings said while it was a “weird story” it was true.
“If I was going to make up a story, I would have come up with a hell of a lot better story than that one, right?” he said.
Cummings drove from London to Durham with his wife, who had Covid symptoms, and his son in late March 2020.
While there, he also made a 60-mile round-trip to the town of Barnard Castle.
In an infamous press conference in the Downing Street garden on May 25, Cummings said he had done so to test his vision before making the longer journey back to London, as he had been ill.
The trips, revealed by The Guardian and The Mirror, caused a media storm. A study showed it damaged public trust in the government’s handling of the pandemic.
Speaking to MPs, Cummings said he was “extremely sorry” and that “that whole episode was definitely a major disaster for the government and for the Covid policy”.
Cummings said he had taken his family to Durham due to security threats. He said it was decided with the Cabinet Office after that – combined with press coverage with prompted more threats – that he would move his family out of London regardless of lockdown rules.
But Jeremy Hunt, the chairman of the health committee, asked Cummings: “One of things that really upset people wasn’t taking your family out of London, it was that trip that you said was to test your eyes, that others said was a birthday trip for your wife, do you stand by that account?”
Cummings told the committee: “If I was going to make up a story I would have come up with a hell of a lot better story than that one, right? It’s such a weird story.
“The truth is only a few days before then I had been sitting in bed writing a will, what to do if I die.”
Cummings said it “didn’t seem crazy to me at the time” to drive to Barnard Castle from Durham to “see how you feel” before attempting to drive 300 miles to London too return to work in No.10.
Hunt asked: “Did it not seem crazy to do that test with your wife and child in the car with you?”
Cummings said: “No it didn’t. It didn’t seem crazy.”