Downing Street Defends Housing Secretary Who Visited Parents During Coronavirus Lockdown

Housing secretary Robert Jenrick speaks during a daily COVID 19 coronavirus press briefing last month. (Photo: ASSOCIATED PRESS)

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Downing Street has defended the housing secretary after it was revealed he visited his parents during the nationwide coronavirus lockdown.

The prime minister’s official spokesman has said he is confident Robert Jenrick “complied with the social distancing rules” adding he had “set out in two different statements” the reasons for travelling 40 miles from his home in London to Shropshire last weekend.

When the story broke on Thursday evening Jenrick wrote on Twitter: “For clarity - my parents asked me to deliver some essentials - including medicines.

“They are both self-isolating due to age and my father’s medical condition and I respected social distancing rules.”

Paul Cosford, emeritus director of Public Health England (PHE), said Jenrick seemed to act “within the guidelines” by visiting his parents.

Cosford said it sounded like the housing secretary had remained within the four “clear” guidelines by travelling 40 miles to deliver medicine and other essential items, PA Media reports.

Shadow home secretary Nick Thomas-Symonds said it was “very important for public confidence” that Jenrick explained himself, but that if the housing secretary had delivered medicine to his parents, “clearly… it fits within the four exceptions”.

While the government’s guidelines state you should not visit anyone who lives outside your own home, including elderly relatives, you are allowed to “leave your house to help them, for example by dropping shopping or medication at their door”.

Commenting on Jenrick visiting his parents, the PM’s official spokesman said: “The secretary of state has set out in two different statements the reasons for the journeys which he made.

“We’re confident that he complied with the social distancing rules.”

Asked about Cabinet ministers commuting to and from London, the spokesman added: “Like everybody else, ministers have been told to work from home wherever possible, and not make unnecessary journeys.

“As part of the coronavirus response there will be occasions when ministers have no option but to work from Whitehall.

“In the event this is required, and the rest of their household is living elsewhere, it’s not an unnecessary journey for them to travel to rejoin their family.”

The Daily Mail reported that Jenrick had travelled from his residence in London to a “second home” in Herefordshire during the lockdown – which he told the paper was what he considered to be his “family home”.

He is said to have travelled to his parents’ house in Shropshire from the Herefordshire address.

According to his website, the housing secretary lives in Southwell, near Newark, as well as a residence in London. 

Thomas-Symonds also told BBC Breakfast: “There are the four reasons for leaving your house. One of them is to deliver essential supplies to vulnerable people.

“Clearly if that is what Robert Jenrick has done, then it fits within the four exceptions. It is for him to answer precisely what the purpose of the journey he undertook was.”

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This article originally appeared on HuffPost.