Lockdown rules clear and apply to all, says Government medic

Caitlin Doherty, PA
·3-min read

The coronavirus lockdown rules are clear and apply to everybody, one of the Government’s top medics has said in the wake of the Dominic Cummings row.

Deputy chief medical officer for England, Professor Jonathan Van-Tam made the remark when asked whether people in authority should lead by example and obey the rules following a week of pressure on the Government over the actions of Boris Johnson’s chief aide.

Speaking at the Downing Street daily briefing, Professor Van-Tam said : “In my opinion the rules are clear and they have always been clear.

“In my opinion they are for the benefit of all.

“In my opinion they apply to all.”

Prof Van Tam said he was happy to answer a question on the issue, something chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty and chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance have previously refused to do.

Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden was also asked about the public reaction over Mr Cummings, who travelled to Durham from London while the most stringent lockdown measures were in place, after an online petition attracted more than a million signatures.

Mr Dowden said: “Dominic Cummings gave a very extensive explanation of his behaviour on Monday and answered all questions in relation to that.

“The Prime Minister accepted that explanation and on that basis kept him in post and that remains the position.”

When asked whether the Government had listened to the public over the issue, Mr Dowden added: “Of course the Prime Minister and the Government listen to the public. In respect of Dominic Cummings this has been dealt with extensively.

“The Prime Minister has answered questions on it repeatedly, Dominic Cummings has answered questions repeatedly on it.”

He added: “I understand that people have a range of views in respect of it.

“It is worth noting that Durham Police have made their statement in respect of that in terms of not taking any further action.”

The news comes as polling for one Sunday newspaper suggested more than four in five people thought the Prime Minister’s senior adviser broke the rules.

The survey by Opinium for the Observer found that 81% of people thought Mr Cummings broke the rules, and 68% think he should resign.

Coronavirus – Sat May 30, 2020
Deputy chief medical officer Jonathan Van-Tam during a media briefing in Downing Street (Pippa Fowles/10 Downing Street/Crown Copyrigh)

Earlier on Saturday, one scientist said the “Cummings affair” could impact trust in the authorities issuing the rules.

Professor Robert West, a participant in the Scientific Pandemic Influenza Group on Behaviours (SPI-B) which advises Sage said: “Trust in authority telling you to do things is very important when it comes to people adhering to those rules.

“This is going to become even more important as we move to a situation where it’s not everybody having to do it, it’s people who have drawn the short straw.

“So they will be seeing other people out there being able to engage in activities which they can’t do for up to 14 days.

“People will feel really cheesed off about it and they must, absolutely must, feel that what they are doing they are doing it because it’s the right thing to do, so anyone who was in their position would do that.

He said that “when people see something like the Cummings affair… that’s not a recipe for trust.”