UK leader's aide says he won't quit over lockdown road trip

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Prime Minister Boris Johnson's senior aide Dominic Cummings leaves his north London home, Monday May 25, 2020. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is standing by his top aide, Cummings, who is accused of breaking lockdown rules by traveling 250 miles (400 km) to his parents house while coming down with COVID-19. (Aaron Chown/PA via AP)

LONDON – British leader Boris Johnson’s powerful chief aide insisted Monday that he wouldn't resign for driving the length of England while the country was under strict lockdown — a trip he made without informing the prime minister first.

The government is facing a tide of anger from politicians and the public over the revelation that Dominic Cummings traveled more than 250 miles (400 kilometers) from London to his parents' home in Durham, northeast England at the end of March.

Cummings says he traveled so that extended family could care for his 4-year-old son if he and his wife, who had suspected coronavirus, both fell ill. He said the three of them stayed in isolation in a building on his father's farm.

His trip came after the government imposed a strict “stay home” order, and Cummings is being accused of flouting the rules he expected the rest of the country to follow. Many Britons have taken to social media and radio phone-ins to recount how the lockdown had prevented them from visiting elderly relatives, comforting dying friends or attending the funerals of loved ones.

In a televised news conference in the garden of 10 Downing St. — all but unheard of for an unelected adviser — Cummings tried to quash the controversy with a detailed but unrepentant account of his movements.

Cummings insisted that “the rules … allowed me to exercise my judgment” and that his need to ensure childcare for his son was an “exceptional situation.”

The government's stay-at-home rules, introduced March 23, said people with children should comply ”to the best of your ability." Deputy Chief Medical Officer Jenny Harries later said that “if you have adults who are unable to look after a small child, that is an exceptional circumstance.” She said in that case people without child care or family support should contact their local authority for help — something Cummings didn't do.

“I don’t regret what I did,” Cummings said, though he acknowledged that “reasonable people” might disagree with his actions.