Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s senior adviser Dominic Cummings ignored lockdown rules for a second time to visit his parents in Durham, according to reports.
The PM’s top aide was reportedly seen with his wife more than 250 miles from London near the family’s Durham home two weeks after the first sighting, which hit the headlines on Friday.
Fellow walkers said they spotted Mr Cummings in Houghall Woods, located near the property, at the height of lockdown on April 19, MirrorOnline reports.
One person claimed Mr Cummings commented on some of the flowers to people as he passed by asking: “Aren’t the bluebells lovely?”
The PM’s advisor had been photographed in Downing Street two days earlier after he returned to work from his own brush with coronavirus.
The UK Government was thrown into chaos on Friday after it was reported that Mr Cummings broke lockdown rules to self-isolate with his family in the north-east of England.
Downing Street said Mr Cummings had needed his relatives to help after he and his wife Mary Wakefield fell ill.
But the claims were mired in confusion after it emerged that the couple continued to look after their four-year-old son themselves in Durham.
The UK Government’s deputy chief medical officer Dr Jenny Harries cast further doubt when she told the Downing Street daily briefing on Saturday that the only exception to the rules was if there was “an extreme risk to life”.
A joint investigation by the Sunday Mirror and Observer now claims Mr Cummings was spotted for a second time apparently breaching the rules – after he had recovered from Covid-19.
A local couple, who did not want to be named, claimed they saw him while out walking in Houghall Woods near his parents’ home on Sunday, April 19.
One told the Mirror: “We were shocked and surprised to see him because the last time we did was earlier in the week in Downing Street.
“We thought ‘he’s not supposed to be here during the lockdown’. We thought ‘what double standards, one rule for him as a senior adviser to the Prime Minister and another for the rest of us’.”
Mr Cummings, wearing his trademark beanie hat and outdoor clothes, was said to be walking with a woman believed to be his wife Mary in the woods which are famous locally for their bluebells.
The locals stepped back a couple of metres, in line with social distancing, to let the couple past and Mr Cummings commented: “Aren’t the bluebells lovely” before going on his way.
The new witness account came after a torrid day at the top of the UK Government over the fate of the PM’s right-hand man.
Mr Johnson was under growing pressure from opposition leaders to sack his top aide – while Tory MPs were grumbling about the double standards.
Ministers insisted that Mr Cummings had “stayed put” at his family property in Durham during his 14-day self-isolation period came under fire after further witnesses came forward last night.
But Robin Lees, 70, a retired chemistry teacher from Barnard Castle, claimed he saw Mr Cummings and his family walking by the River Tees in the town before getting into a car around lunch time on 12 April.
Although he may have completed his period of self-isolation, strict lockdown rules were still in place and the family were 30 miles from his parents’ Durham home.
When asked if he was going to consider resigning following Friday’s allegations, Mr Cummings said: “Obviously not”.
The architect of the Vote Leave campaign added: “You guys are probably as right about that as you are about Brexit, remember how right you were?”
When challenged by a reporter who said his decision to self-isolate in Durham “didn’t look good”, he said: “Who cares about good looks?”
He added: “It’s a question of doing the right thing. It’s not about what you guys think.”
A No. 10 spokesman had insisted earlier in the day that Mr Cummings had not breached guidelines by travelling 264 miles to Durham after his wife contracted coronavirus.
Downing Street also denied Durham Police had spoken to Mr Cummings or his family, following their confirmation they had visited the property on March 31.
But the force has stood by their statement, and said “officers explained to the family the guidelines around self-isolation and reiterated the appropriate advice”.
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No. 10 declined to comment on the two sightings on April 12 and April 19 but referred the Mirror to their earlier statement about Mr Cummings’ self-isolation.
A spokesman said: “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.
“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.
“His actions were in line with coronavirus guidelines. Mr Cummings believes he behaved reasonably and legally.”