Well. What a day.
- Dominic Cummings has the ???full support??? of the prime minister, despite travelling 250 miles to County Durham during the lockdown. Boris Johnson faced rising pressure to sack his key adviser after the Guardian and Mirror revealed he drove from London with his wife and child to his parents??? property in Durham after his wife developed coronavirus symptoms after lockdown was introduced in March. It remains unclear what the prime minister knew about Cummings??? whereabouts while he was self-isolating with the illness and ???staying put???. Pressed on the issue at the daily press briefing, Grant Shapps said:
I can tell you the PM provides Mr Cummings with his full support.
- Senior cabinet ministers publicly backed the PM???s top aide, suggesting the issue was simply one of good parenting and had been politicised. This contradicted an earlier statement from Durham police which said it acted in line with national policing guidance when officers reiterated the advice around essential travel to the owner of the property in Durham. Cummings justified the journey by saying his four-year-old son would have been left without care and so they were ???doing the right thing???, even though his wife was symptomatic at the time and the public had been advised against all but essential travel, not to let children be around their grandparents, and for anyone with symptoms (and their households) to self-isolate immediately for 14 days.
- Labour and the SNP have each written to the cabinet secretary, Mark Sedwill, asking for an urgent inquiry into what the prime minister knew about the incident and what role the government played in keeping it under wraps. The SNP have called on the head of the civil service to investigate ???the rule-breaking and the Tory government???s cover-up??? of Cummings??? lockdown journey ???as a matter of serious public concern???. Ian Blackford, the SNP???s Westminster leader, said:
I have written to Sir Mark Sedwill seeking an immediate investigation into the rule-breaking and the Tory government???s cover-up - and to call for Dominic Cummings to resign or be sacked.
Boris Johnson must answer serious questions about his role in this incident and the cover-up - including when he found out, when he heard about the police action, why Mr Cummings wasn???t sacked immediately, and why he kept the public in the dark for eight weeks until a newspaper broke the story.
Dominic Cummings??? position is completely untenable.
This is a matter of leadership and judgment for the prime minister who must prevent lasting damage to his government and his own reputation.
Millions of us have made huge sacrifices over the months to obey the rules, while Boris Johnson???s most senior adviser was breaking them.
There cannot be one rule for the Tory government and another for the rest of us.
- The government seemed to suggest it is now up to individuals to ensure they are safeguarding themselves or people within their household. This has left many people wondering why, if there was always room for interpretation, people were instructed clearly to stay at home and observe social distancing since 23 March. It has left many parents across the country angry that they have struggled during lockdown with childcare, made sacrifices and not accepted help from relatives in order to adhere to the rules and protect loved ones.
- However, the guidance remains that anyone showing symptoms should take themselves out of society immediately and the whole household should self-isolate, Dr Jenny Harries reiterated. The deputy chief medical officer for England added that there was an element of ???common sense??? when it came to safeguarding if there was an individual at extreme risk, eg a sick child, elderly person or clinically vulnerable individual.
- And the government released new funding to restore public transport back to a full timetable.
And that brings us to the end of a long, tumultuous day for Boris Johnson???s government. A huge thank you to everybody who got in touch with thoughts and comments throughout the day, and to all of you for reading along.
That???s all from us on the UK side. If you???d like to continue following the Guardian???s coverage of the coronavirus pandemic, head over to the global live blog for the worldwide picture.
Shapps reminds people to avoid travelling at peak times, and to walk, cycle or drive if possible.
And that concludes this afternoon???s very turbulent press conference.
Q. Is the government going to introduce compensation for the families of transport workers who have died?
Shapps says he is concerned that many of the people on the frontline who have died have come from ethnic minorities.
He doesn???t answer the question of compensation being extended.
Q. What measures are being taken to protect BAME workers when the transport system opens up further?
Shapps says he has written to the transport operators to make sure they???re aware of what equipment, procedures and processes should be in place to protect workers.
It???s of great concern that 53 transport workers have died during the pandemic, he says.
Prof Kevin Fenton???s report should be available at the end of this month, he says.
Q. We???ve already had two resignations from senior aides who have broken the rules [Neil Ferguson and Catherine Calderwood]. Is there one rule for certain aides and one rule for the Downing Street aides? What???s different about Dominic Cummings to other aides in senior positions?
Shapps says most people would be thinking what would they do in that situation.
This wasn???t visiting a holiday home or to visit someone; this was to stay put for 14 days and to remain in isolation and to get over a significant bout of illness with coronavirus and return to London only when well to do a job that couldn???t be done elsewhere, he says.
So I think there???s every difference, he adds.
Q. Did the prime minister know about this? The public have a right to know what he knew about the visit and what he was told about it.
Shapps says Boris Johnson knew he was staying in one place with his family, and gives Cummings his full support.
Q. Can you clarify whether anyone from Durham Constabulary spoke to any member of Cummings??? family?
Shapps says Cummings??? statement says at no stage was any member of the family spoken to by the police.
Q. Does that mean the police are not speaking straightforwardly?
Shapps says he???s unsure where that confusion comes in but the statement is black and white.
Q. When did the prime minister know Dominic Cummings had gone to Durham and does this undermine the ???stay at home??? message?
Shapps says he doesn???t know the answer to this.
The PM provides Cummings with his full support and an explanation has been provided, he says.
Harries says as a doctor she cannot comment on a clinical position of an individual, which she does not have on this case.
If you???re symptomatic, you stay at home, you take yourself out of society with your household as quickly as you can and stay there, unless there is an extreme risk to life, she reiterates.
Q. Are you saying that anyone who becomes ill with the virus, they can go closer to relatives ??? no matter how far away that is?
Shapps says the rules have subsequently changed anyway.
People can now travel, if you???re not symptomatic, any distance to exercise.
If you???re symptomatic, you have to get yourself locked down in the most practical way, he says.
This will be different depending on different family circumstances, he adds.
Q. What are the risks of travelling if you have the virus and would you recommend it?
Harries says if people have symptoms, they should self-isolate immediately and stay in their homes.
The only exception around this is around risk, ie the issue of safeguarding for children or adults, she adds.
In relation to travel, if you???re in a private car, transmission within the vehicle is a higher risk but if you???re in a household group your exposure risk is usually the same, as long as you???re not meeting anyone else, she says.
Q. People have had to make very difficult choices throughout this lockdown. Should they have been using their own interpretation of the ???stay at home??? message?
Shapps says you should of course follow the guidance to the best of your ability.
It???s for an individual to decide if they have enough support around the family, he says.
The decision here [with Cummings] was to go to that location [Durham] and stay in that location, they didn???t move around, he says.
Q. How can you personally be sure that by driving across England, Dominic Cummings didn???t infect anyone else on the way or while he was there?
Q. What do you say to those people who are unable to say goodbye to their loved ones or go to their funerals because they were observing the rules?
Shapps says everyone has tried to do the right thing and has been affected by the virus.
In this case, a four-year-old needed support so a decision was taken, he says.
The child???s welfare was the important thing here, he adds.
He says Cummings??? niece and sister brought food to the property he and his family were staying in. He stayed in the same place and prevented the possibility of the child not having support, he adds.
Q. If the family was just bringing food to the doorstep, why couldn???t he get that in London?
Shapps says Cummings went to where the family was, which was in Durham, and stayed there.
Q. When have you said it was all right to resort to other family members if parents are unable to look after small children because one of them has symptoms?
Harries says the public health advice is to take yourself out of society if you have symptoms.
If two adults are ill and unable to cope for a small dependent, the guidance has a common-sense element which accounts for such safeguarding issues like this, she says.
They are taking questions from the media now. *deep breaths*
Q. Is the advice to parents now that if you don???t have extended family nearby, even when you???re ill with Covid symptoms, you???re allowed to leave your home, travel many miles across the country and isolate closer to your extended family.
Harries says the scientific and medical advice is to take symptomatic people out of the public domain.
The advice is very clear: you self-isolate at home and your household self-isolates with you, she says.
If there is a safeguarding issue, eg with an elderly or clinically vulnerable individual or a sick child, there needs to be some sort of safeguard in place, she says.
Shapps says if younger members of the family can assist then that might be the best place for you to settle and stay while you???re ill.
Harries adds people need to come out of circulation and self-isolate the minute they have symptoms, and stay out of circulation.
Q. Did the prime minister know that Dominic Cummings had travelled more than 250 miles during lockdown and did he approve this?
Shapps says the important thing is that everyone remains in the same place while they???re locked down, which is what Cummings did ??? he stayed put and didn???t come out again until he was feeling better.
Sarah from Newbury asks if under-fives will be able to get tested once early years settings are reopened, to reassure staff and parents it is safe.
Harries says we???re still learning about the disease in children but it is known that children rarely become ill with Covid-19 and there are signals that the transmission from children is reduced.
Testing for under-fives will be progressed going forward, she says.
They are taking questions from the public now.
They don???t know the questions in advance, Shapps notes.
Gordon from Gosport asks how the government is going to prevent travellers from staying a few days in Ireland at the end of a foreign holiday to bypass the government???s 14-day quarantine.
Shapps says Ireland has a form of quarantine in place as well, so it would still apply.
The only positive note on the number of deaths is that it is starting to come down on average, Harries says.
Across the UK???s countries and regions, there is a downward trend in all areas in the number of people in hospial with Covid-19, Harries says.
The ???steady, slow??? downward trend in hospital admissions in England continues, Harries says.
Across the four nations, the percentage of mechanical ventilator beds occupied by patients with Covid-19 is also falling, she says.
Harries says there is a trend upwards in daily testing, varying over weekends, but it???s encouraging as there is a downward trend in new cases.
Dr Jenny Harries is going through the slides now.
Use of parks has gone up, in line with national guidance, she says.
Using parks is good for mental and physical health but please observe social distancing ??? stay two metres away from people from outside your household and only meet one person at a time ??? she says.
She adds that 86% of adults have left their home in accordance with national guidance, ie for essentials or exercise.