Get the latest on coronavirus. Sign up to the Daily Brief for news, explainers, how-tos, opinion and more.
The prime minister’s chief adviser sparked widespread outrage after it emerged he drove 260 miles from London to Durham with his child and sick wife during the Covid-19 lockdown.
However in an extraordinary press conference on Monday, Cummings said he did not regret his decision, which he insisted was motivated by concerns about who would look after his child if he and his wife both developed coronavirus.
As such, he has argued he did not break lockdown rules by making the trip.
Boris Johnson and the cabinet have lined up to defend his actions, with the PM describing his aide as somebody “who was doing the best for his family”.
But the row – which has seen a number of MPs from Johnson’s own benches demand Cummings’ resignation – has left many of the medics on the front line in the battle against Covid-19 furious.
An ambulance worker from the north-west – who asked not to be named – told HuffPost UK Cummings’ actions during lockdown were a “slap in the face to frontline workers”.
“I’ve been out to critically ill patients and you’ve got families in the same household pleading with you to let them go to the hospital with the patient,” they said.
“We have had to be quite brutal and say no. It sounds really harsh and barbaric, but it’s for a reason.
“So for the very person who has put those lockdown rules into place to flout them just completely undermines all the work that we’ve been doing in the last eight weeks.”
And it’s not just patients who have been suffering during the lockdown, they said.
Like many NHS staff, some of the ambulance worker’s colleagues have moved out of their family homes over fears of picking up the virus at work and giving it to their parents, children or partners.
“I have colleagues who are staying in hotels and haven’t seen their husbands, wives or children for weeks during this pandemic so they can continue to go to work and provide a service to the public,” they said.
“So to see such a high-ranking governmental figure flout lockdown, putting us at risk of a second spike and prolonging that is just disgusting. It really does boil my blood.”
They also addressed Cummings’ claim that he drove to Barnard Castle – which is around 30 miles away from where he was staying – to test his eyesight, which he said had been affected while he was suffering from a case of suspected coronavirus.
“If Cummings thinks that it is a good idea to drive for 30 miles to test his eyesight, I openly invite him to come and spend a week on an ambulance with us to see how horrific incidents involving careless driving can be.
“I would then invite him to make a formal apology and resign from his position.”
Theatre nurse Lisa said she was “utterly appalled” by Cummings’ actions, which many have argued broke lockdown rules.
At the peak of the coronavirus pandemic in the UK, she was redeployed to work in the intensive care unit, looking after the sickest Covid-19 patients in the hospital.
“It was 12-hour shifts looking after patients with Covid-19, intubated with lines and catheters, clinging to life,” she said. “We had nurses crying and having panic attacks because they didn’t want to go in.
“I love my job, but I risked my life for other people’s families, not mine.
“So I am pissed at the government’s elitist, circle the wagons attitude... I’m so angry and frustrated it makes me cry.”
She added: “Cummings has to resign. This could polarise the country and we don’t need that at this time. Between Covid-19 and Brexit, the government needs a surplus of good faith.”
It’s a call echoed by a nurse in Scotland who spoke to HuffPost UK, who also asked to remain anonymous.
“Speaking as a nurse who has cared for patients with and dying from Covid-19 and those dying from other conditions, I have been left drained, numb, exhausted, crying in my car at the end of a shift and utterly at odds with myself when I have had to tell relatives that they are not allowed to visit their loved ones in hospital,” they said.
“I have had to refuse and strictly adhere to rules when relatives have asked me to bend them, which has often made for some of the most difficult nursing shifts that I have ever worked.”
They said they felt “let down” by ministers who have rushed to support Cummings’ actions.
“All of this is making it harder and harder to go to work and put on our uniforms.
“I know of people who are already using his behaviour as an excuse to bend lockdown rules to fit in with what they think they should be allowed to do. It is already happening.
“As a result of this I am desperately fearful for the safety of my patients, my colleagues, my family, and the wider population, as people grow in confidence when it comes to disregarding Covid-19 advice.”
But not everyone agrees that Cummings should leave No.10. A GP from Cheshire – who is also a single parent – told HuffPost UK they “take exception to those who blame this one man for the potential second peak”.
“Cummings has made errors of judgement in my view, but as an NHS doctor who has seen patients with coronavirus, I feel more let down by the thousands of people sitting on beaches like sardines and the journalists crowding around Dominic Cummings’ car,” they said.
“They are all literally driving a coach and horses through the coronavirus guidelines. Perhaps they should all resign from their jobs?
“I agree that no one in a position of power should think themselves above everyone else – but on this basis their actions should be assessed with the same understanding as those given to the rest of us. They are only human, after all.”
Any second peak in coronavirus cases will be down to “the premature easing of lockdown”, they added.
“How patronising is it to assume that the public will let the actions of Dominic Cummings determine their adherence to the guidelines? We are not idiots – we are all adults and must make our own decisions.”
This article originally appeared on HuffPost.