TORY PM Johnson during the daily Downing Street press briefing yesterday, repeatedly blocked journalists from asking his scientific and medical advisors about the ongoing scandal surrounding chief advisor Dominic Cummings, whom Johnson refuses to sack.
Cummings travelled 260 miles to see his parents, breaking the lockdown rules, leading to an ever-expanding chorus of MPs, including from his own party, calling for him to quit.
Durham police confirmed yesterday that he had broken the law.
At the briefing, journalists repeatedly asked both Patrick Vallance, the UK’s chief scientific advisor, UK’s chief medical advisor, Prof Chris Whitty about the scandal surrounding Cummings.
Johnson butted in and answered for both of them: ‘What the Durham police said was that they were going to take no action and the matter was closed, and I intend to draw a line under it. It is very important for our scientific and medical officers not to get dragged into political controversy.’
Another journalist pressed Johnson again: ‘A number of scientific advisors to the SAGE scientific advisory committee said that Cummings’ behaviour made it more likely that people will not adhere to the lockdown rules.
‘It is perfectly reasonable to ask whether they fear that compliance will be reduced as a result of Cummings’ actions.’
Johnson once again reiterated that he would not accept either his scientific or medical advisers being asked political questions.
Despite 377 deaths in a single day yesterday, Johnson claimed all five tests to ease the lockdown had been fulfilled and as of Monday schools and shops will begin to reopen.
Johnson read out the latest numbers: ‘Of those who have tested positive for coronavirus, sadly 37,837 have died, an increase of 377 fatalities since yesterday.’
However, even though close to 400 more people died in a single day, Johnson claimed that ‘all five tests are being met and the lockdown can now be eased.’
He said: ‘We can now reopen schools to more pupils. On Monday, we will reopen nurseries and reception year one and two.
‘On Monday, we will start to open shops again.
‘Lastly, from Monday we will allow up to six people to meet outside, provided that those from different households remain at a social distance.’
He conceded: ‘There will be further local outbreaks, and when that happens we will put on the brakes and reimpose measures.’
After the publication yesterday on ‘When should a school reopen?’ the final report of Independent Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE), teachers union NEU reiterated its position that it is unsafe to reopen schools on Monday.
Dr Mary Bousted, Joint General Secretary of the National Education Union, said: ‘This latest report casts yet more doubt and concern over the Prime Minister’s decision to press ahead with a June 1st wider opening for schools. The government’s primary duty should be to protect its people, but in England – unlike the rest of the UK – we are hurtling towards the further opening of schools before the scientific evidence says it is safe to do so.
‘This decision threatens not just the health of school communities but also of wider society, with the clear risk of a rise in the R rate. All the sacrifices that have been made to stay indoors and try to contain this virus could be thrown away in the pursuit of fulfilling an arbitrary promise to open schools more widely from June 1.’