Pressure has mounted on UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s chief adviser Dominic Cummings amid reports the top government aide flouted Covid-19 lockdown rules a second time.
Calls had been made for for Mr Cumming's resignation following revelations the arch Brexiteer travelled 400 km to his parents’ home and was spotted in Durham on April 5 while self isolating with Covid-19
However, the Sunday Mirror and Observer newspapers have revealed the adviser was spotted for a second time at a local beauty spot near the northern English city on April 19, five days after he had returned to London to restart work.
Downing Street had maintained Mr Cummings made the first trip on the basis he needed to ensure his children had sufficient childcare and said the journey was "essential".
A statement said Mr Cummings “behaved reasonably and legally” and had to make the “essential” trip to ensure his children had adequate childcare after his wife displayed symptoms of Covid-19.
It also rejected reports that Mr Cummings' family was spoken to by police after he made the drive from London to Durham in the north of England in late March when nationwide lockdown was in place.
Mr Cummings said he did the "right thing" and reminded a crowd of reporters and photographers outside his London home to remember about social distancing.
"You're supposed to more than two metres apart," he said, clutching a child's bicycle and helmet.
The-then guidelines said people should stay at home and refrain from visiting family members unless they need essential items such as food or medication. Anyone with symptoms was told to completely isolate themselves.
The Guardian and Mirror newspapers first reported the news on Friday night and said Mr Cummings had been seen at the property in Durham in early April. Local police said they went to a house on March 31 to explain the self-isolation rules but did not mention the Cummings family by name.
"Owing to his wife being infected with suspected coronavirus and the high likelihood that he would himself become unwell, it was essential for Dominic Cummings to ensure his young child could be properly cared for,” a spokesperson said.
"His sister and nieces had volunteered to help so he went to a house near to, but separate, from his extended family in case their help was needed. His sister shopped for the family and left everything outside.
"At no stage was he or his family spoken to by the police about this matter, as is being reported."
Mr Cummings began developing Covid-19 symptoms in late March.
The local police chief in Durham said the journey from Mr Cummings “was most unwise”.
The incident has provoked uproar from opposition parties but strong support for Mr Cummings from senior figures in the ruling Conservative Party.
Labour, the UK’s main opposition party, demanded answers from the government over Mr Cummings’ actions, who is a highly divisive figure credited with playing crucial rule in driving the Brexit campaign.
"The public have made extraordinary sacrifices during this pandemic and the lockdown,” the Labour Party said.
"It cannot be one rule for those who set them and another for the British people."
Health minister Matt Hancock, who also contracted the diseased, said: "I know how ill coronavirus makes you. It was entirely right for Dom Cummings to find childcare for his toddler, when both he and his wife were getting ill."
Mr Johnson’s de-facto deputy and foreign minister, Dominic Raab, said those “seeking to politicise” the matter “should take a long hard look in the mirror”.
“It’s reasonable and fair to ask for an explanation on this. And it has been provided: two parents with coronavirus, were anxiously taking care of their young child,” he added.
Finance chief Rishi Sunak also defended Mr Cummings, saying: “Taking care of your wife and young child is justifiable and reasonable, trying to score political points over it isn’t.”