Dominic Cummings clarifies trip to Barnard Castle

25 May 2020, 17:50

Boris Johnson's adviser Dominic Cummings spoke in the Downing Street garden
Boris Johnson's adviser Dominic Cummings spoke in the Downing Street garden. Picture: PA
EJ Ward

By EJ Ward

Boris Johnson's most senior adviser Dominic Cummings has admitted driving to beauty spot Barnard Castle claiming the trip was a way to test his eyesight before driving from Durham to London.

During a Downing Street press conference, Mr Cummings said that by April 11 he had sought medical advice and was told it was safe to return to work.

He said that because his eyesight had been affected by the disease his wife did not want to risk the long drive back to London so they went on a "short drive" to Barnard Castle.

Read more: Dominic Cummings says he has 'not considered' resigning over lockdown breach

He added: "My wife was very worried, particularly as my eyesight seemed to have been affected by the disease.

"She did not want to risk a nearly 300-mile drive with our child given how ill I had been.

"We agreed that we should go for a short drive to see if I could drive safely, we drove for roughly half an hour and ended up on the outskirts of Barnard Castle town.

"We did not visit the castle, we did not walk around the town."

Dominic Cummings: legal rules around lockdown 'did not cover his circumstances'

A tweet from Surrey Police road policing unit said: "A driver's vision is very important.

"If you have any concerns about your eyesight don't drive, until you've sought the advice of a qualified optician.

"A driver must be able to read a standard number plate from 20 metres."

Boris Johnson stands behind Dominic Cummings amid scandal

A reported sighting of Dominic Cummings during lockdown sparked fury among older people living in Barnard Castle, with many saying he should have been sacked.

Boris Johnson backed his de facto chief of staff at the coronavirus briefing on Sunday, but the supportive message did not cut through with older voters in the historic County Durham market town.

Below the medieval ruined castle that gives the town its name, Richard Mulley, 75, said: "He should be gone by now.

"He has been backed by Boris Johnson and that's disgusting. I think Boris is not fit to run the country, saying he has done nothing wrong.

"Everyone else has done what they were asked to do, we were locked in for weeks, while he (Mr Cummings) was coming to our town."

Listen & subscribe: Global Player | Apple Podcasts | Google Podcasts | Spotify

Mr Cummings said he could also understand that some people felt he should not have driven anywhere, but said he had taken expert medical advice and it was 15 days after his symptoms.

The PM's senior adviser added: "I think it was reasonable and sensible to make a short journey before embarking on a five-hour drive to see whether I was in a fit state to do this.

"The alternative was stay in Durham rather than going back to work and contributing to the Government's efforts.

I believe I made the right judgment, although others might disagree with that."