The Coronavirus Outbreak  05/23/2020 13:34:23   Mark Landler and Stephen Castle

LONDON  Prime Minister Boris Johnson faced a torrent of calls on Saturday to dismiss his most influential adviser, Dominic Cummings, after reports that Mr. Cummings had visited relatives in northern England while he was ill with the coronavirus  a violation of Britains lockdown rules.

Mr. Johnson appeared determined to stand by Mr. Cummings, an enigmatic figure who helped mastermind his election victory last year and the Brexit campaign that resulted in Britains departure from the European Union.

But the reports that Mr. Cummings had driven to his parents house in Durham in April when the government was urging people to stay home  particularly those with symptoms of the virus  set off a political tempest, with critics accusing him of flouting the rules that apply to everybody else.

The British people do not expect there to be one rule for them and another rule for Dominic Cummings, said a spokesman for the opposition Labour Party, who added that he had breached the lockdown rules.

Leaders of two other opposition parties, the Liberal Democrats and Scottish National Party, demanded that he resign or be fired.

Confronted by reporters outside his home on Saturday, Mr. Cummings said, I behaved reasonably and legally. Asked whether his decision had been a good look, he replied: Who cares about good looks? Its a question of doing the right thing. It is not about what you guys think.

The furious reactions to his trip attested to the polarizing role Mr. Cummings has played in British politics since before the 2016 Brexit referendum. He has accumulated a long list of enemies, including some in the Conservative Party, like Iain Duncan Smith, a former party leader, whom he has ridiculed or sidelined.

But it also showed Mr. Johnsons deep reliance on Mr. Cummings. The prime minister dug in his heels on Saturday, releasing a statement, through a spokesman, that defended Mr. Cummings and his wife for making the 260-mile drive to Durham. It said they had been trying to line up care for their young child after he contracted the virus and expected he would fall ill.

ImagePrime Minister Boris Johnson of Britain in London this month. Mr Johnson faced a torrent of calls to dismiss his most influential adviser.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson of Britain in London this month. Mr Johnson faced a torrent of calls to dismiss his most influential adviser.Credit...Chris J Ratcliffe/Getty Images

The adviser went to a house near to but separate from his extended family, the statement said, after his sister and nieces had offered to help.

His actions were in line with coronavirus guidelines, the statement said.

If so, however, Mr. Cummings seemed eager not to disclose the trip. His wife, the journalist Mary Wakefield, wrote an account of her husbands illness in The Spectator that made no mention of their drive and suggested he had been bedridden for 10 days at home with a high fever and spasms that made the muscles lump and twitch in his legs.

Mr. Cummings himself described being shut in with Ms. Wakefield, who also had symptoms, for more than two weeks, beginning at the end of March, when he contracted the virus soon after Mr. Johnson.

Violations of the lockdown by prominent figures have become a recurring theme in Britain, with the penalties falling harder on private citizens and scientific experts than on government officials.

Police officers and Londoners keeping apart this month.Credit...Mary Turner for The New York Times

Neil Ferguson, an epidemiologist and adviser to the government, stepped down from a key scientific panel after acknowledging he had invited a woman with whom he was reported to be romantically involved into his apartment during the lockdown. Scotlands chief medical officer, Catherine Calderwood, resigned in April after reports she had traveled twice to a vacation home.

But Robert Jenrick, the secretary for housing, communities and local government, held on to his job after admitting he had driven an hour outside London to visit his parents. And Stephen Kinnock, a prominent Labour member of Parliament, brushed aside criticism from the police after he visited his father, Neil Kinnock, for his birthday in March.

Though an adviser and not an elected politician, Mr. Cummings has twice been critical to Mr. Johnsons political success. Not only is he an accomplished campaigner, the man behind the pro-Brexit slogan take back control, but he also inspired Mr. Johnsons agenda to spread prosperity to neglected areas of the country, including the north.

His public profile rose when he was portrayed by the actor Benedict Cumberbatch in a drama about the Brexit campaign, as a sort of tortured genius determined to destroy the political elite. Since the election, he has reveled in his image as an eccentric, disheveled iconoclast, intent on reinventing government  Downing Streets answer to Stephen K. Bannon, President Trumps former strategist.

  • Updated May 20, 2020

    • Over 38 million people have filed for unemployment since March. One in five who were working in February reported losing a job or being furloughed in March or the beginning of April, data from a Federal Reserve survey released on May 14 showed, and that pain was highly concentrated among low earners. Fully 39 percent of former workers living in a household earning $40,000 or less lost work, compared with 13 percent in those making more than $100,000, a Fed official said.

    • If air travel is unavoidable, there are some steps you can take to protect yourself. Most important: Wash your hands often, and stop touching your face. If possible, choose a window seat. A study from Emory University found that during flu season, the safest place to sit on a plane is by a window, as people sitting in window seats had less contact with potentially sick people. Disinfect hard surfaces. When you get to your seat and your hands are clean, use disinfecting wipes to clean the hard surfaces at your seat like the head and arm rest, the seatbelt buckle, the remote, screen, seat back pocket and the tray table. If the seat is hard and nonporous or leather or pleather, you can wipe that down, too. (Using wipes on upholstered seats could lead to a wet seat and spreading of germs rather than killing them.)

    • There is an uptick in people reporting symptoms of chilblains, which are painful red or purple lesions that typically appear in the winter on fingers or toes. The lesions are emerging as yet another symptom of infection with the new coronavirus. Chilblains are caused by inflammation in small blood vessels in reaction to cold or damp conditions, but they are usually common in the coldest winter months. Federal health officials do not include toe lesions in the list of coronavirus symptoms, but some dermatologists are pushing for a change, saying so-called Covid toe should be sufficient grounds for testing.

    • The C.D.C. has recommended that all Americans wear cloth masks if they go out in public. This is a shift in federal guidance reflecting new concerns that the coronavirus is being spread by infected people who have no symptoms. Until now, the C.D.C., like the W.H.O., has advised that ordinary people dont need to wear masks unless they are sick and coughing. Part of the reason was to preserve medical-grade masks for health care workers who desperately need them at a time when they are in continuously short supply. Masks dont replace hand washing and social distancing.

    • If youve been exposed to the coronavirus or think you have, and have a fever or symptoms like a cough or difficulty breathing, call a doctor. They should give you advice on whether you should be tested, how to get tested, and how to seek medical treatment without potentially infecting or exposing others.

    • Charity Navigator, which evaluates charities using a numbers-based system, has a running list of nonprofits working in communities affected by the outbreak. You can give blood through the American Red Cross, and World Central Kitchen has stepped in to distribute meals in major cities.

Pro-European campaigners with a portrait of Mr. Cummings, a key figure in the Brexit campaign, outside the Parliament in London in September.Credit...Andrew Testa for The New York Times

Cabinet ministers and other Conservative lawmakers showed support for Mr. Cummings on Saturday, including the foreign secretary, Dominic Raab; the chancellor of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak; and the health secretary, Matt Hancock.

I know how ill coronavirus makes you, Mr. Hancock tweeted. It was entirely right for Dom Cummings to find childcare for his toddler, when both he and his wife were getting ill.

Others stayed silent, however, perhaps waiting to see whether Mr. Cummings could ride out the storm.

While the Labour Party demanded answers, it stopped short of demanding his resignation. That appeared to reflect a tactical judgment by the party leader, Keir Starmer, that the episode would do more damage to the government, which is already on the defensive for its handling of the virus, if it were dragged out over several days.

And criticism flowed not just from opposition politicians.

Julia Hartley-Brewer, a broadcaster and journalist who generally leans to the right politically, described how she had been separated from her 77-year-old mother, who lives on her own and suffered a heart attack in December.

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