• Andrew D Duffy

Cummings And Goings

Updated: Jan 8

The only possible conclusion that can be drawn from the notion that the UK Government needs Mr Cummings this badly, is that the UK Government is not fit for purpose.


A confession; I have not always adhered 100% to the lockdown conditions.

I've left the house more than once a day; to nip up to the SPAR if i'd forgotten something after having shopped already or to fit in a wee walk after having gone out a run. Gone a socially distanced run with my father when technically we do not live in the same household, now that i'm a proper grown up adult with my own accommodation and everything.


I'm sure i'm not alone in this. If anyone amongst the few people reading this, or the vast majority who are not, can say with certainty that they have not breached the lockdown, or even the spirit of lockdown, then i applaud you sincerely, but I think it's a fair estimation on my part to suggest many of us will have cut the odd corner, here or there, when we assessed the risk was incredibly low.


Do not mistake me, I have been an exerciser in my best judgement throughout and specific about social distancing, handwashing and guidance adherence, for the most part, but my record is not spotless.


I am not without sin.


Nonetheless, I'm going to cast some stones anyway.


Below is the guidance from the UK Government regards what constitutes allowable leaving of the home during the initial lockdown phase, as is commenced on 23rd of March 2020-


You should only leave or be away from your home for very limited purposes:

  • shopping for basic necessities, for example food and medicine, which must be as infrequent as possible

  • one form of exercise a day, for example a run, walk, or cycle - alone or with members of your household

  • any medical need, including to donate blood, avoid injury or illness, escape risk of harm, or to provide care or to help a vulnerable person

  • travelling for work purposes, but only where you cannot work from home

Where parents or someone with parental responsibility do not live in the same household, children under 18 can be moved between their parents’ homes to continue existing arrangements for access and contact.

The Government has also identified a number of critical workers whose children can still go to school or their childcare provider. This critical worker definition does not affect whether or not you can travel to work - if you are not a critical worker, you may still travel to work provided you cannot work from home. However, if you, or a member of your household are unwell with symptoms of coronavirus, you should not travel to or attend the workplace.

Critical workers and parents of vulnerable children may leave their home to take children to and from school or their childcare provider.

You can also attend the funeral of a close family member or member of your household (or, of a friend, if no one from their close family or household is attending). Religious ministers or leaders can leave their homes to go to their place of worship.

You may also leave or be outside of your home in order to access other critical public services, such as social services, support provided to victims, services provided by the Department for Work and Pensions, or to fulfil a legal obligation. However, these services should be provided and accessed remotely wherever possible.

House moves should be delayed unless moving is unavoidable.


It's fairly clear cut.


So, howzabout that Cummings fella, then?




On the 26th of March the Prime Minister tells Dominic Cummings that he, the PM, has tested positive for Covid-19.


Dominic Cummings goes to work as normal the next day, 27th March, but is called by his wife who tells him she feels ill and is worried that she will not be able to care for their young child, who is also at home with her.


Curiously, the line Mr Cummings gives at this point in his Rose Garden account is that 'none of our usual childcare options were available' He doesn't expand on that and I'm still not sure we have ever gotten clarity on what this means. Was there no option at all available to a wealthy couple, one of whom is a special adviser to the PM, in the City of London in late March?


Mr Cummings then tells 'some officials' and heads home to ensure he is there to care for the child if his wife does not rally.


So far, so fair.


His wife then feels better and Mr Cummings returns to work. He then comes home and discusses with his wife that she might well have Covid 19 and this is where is starts to get a whole lot less fair.


Going by the above guidelines, the guidelines of the UK Government, if you, or a member of your household are unwell with symptoms of coronavirus, you should not travel to or attend the workplace.


He really shouldn't have returned to work at all on 27th, should he? He REALLY shouldn't have returned to work the next day, after this conversation with his ill wife.


Mr Cummings himself admits that at this stage people he sits within 15 feet of every day at work have symptoms, or have had symptoms, or are absent from work with symptoms.


He remarks, then, that come 28th March he feels there is, in his words, a 'distinct probability that I have caught the disease.'


So, ahem, again; if you, or a member of your household are unwell with symptoms of coronavirus, you should not travel to or attend the workplace.


Indeed, you are supposed to isolate for 14 days.


Now, again, Mr Cummings insists that there is nobody in London who can reasonably be asked to look after the child in question. Hard to fathom as this may be, Mr Cummings goes on to say that the legislation, in his view, makes clear that the care of a young child equates to exceptional circumstances.


So what is one to do in such a scenario, when one or both parents are ill and there is a child in the home? According to GP Nicola Harker;


'If you're living in a two-parent household, you should do everything you can to self-isolate from your family as well as the outside world if you are the only person showing symptoms. This means using a separate bathroom if you can, and, if you're unable to keep to a separate room, staying at least two metres away from others for 14 days.

You should also ensure that you don't share towels, glasses or cutlery, wash your hands carefully before preparing food and wipe down services with soap and water to reduce the risk of contamination.

All these measures may reduce the risk of others in your household becoming more seriously unwell if they become infected. There are several theories about why some people get more severe illness than others. One is that the more viruses you come into contact with, the more ill you risk being.'


On this basis, isn't that what Mrs Cummings should have done in the initial instance? Mr Cummings would have probably still felt that he himself would become unwell and maybe there was just no practical way the child could get the requisite care they need and deserve from two increasingly unwell parents. What to do then? Luckily, again, Dr Harker has an answer-


No matter how well prepared you are, it's possible you may find yourself in a position where you are unable to care for your children for a short time. If you need to take to your bed or pay a visit to hospital and don't have another responsible and healthy adult in your household, it may be that you'll have to ask for help from elsewhere. But calling the grandparents is not a good idea.

Be mindful of not asking anyone who's in a high-risk category. Ideally, you need to find a person you can ask to come to you and isolate with you for two weeks. This would pose the least risk to the relative and would contain the virus within the same household. Sending your child elsewhere may mean spreading the virus further. Again, it is not always possible to find the perfect solution, particularly in these chaotic times. If you are unable to find the support you need, contact your GP surgery for advice.


Did Mr Cummings consult his GP surgery for advice? It would seem not. Instead, it would seem from his rose garden statement that he employed his own judgement in several key instances rather than, say, calling his doctor. Did he explore the option of identifying people willing to isolate with them for two weeks to contain the virus in one household? It would appear he did not.


And sure, in hindsight he maybe wishes he did. The problem, though, is that this is not just being clever in hindsight; this is the guidance of the government to which he is an adviser. A special one, at that. It is also the guidelines under which every parent in the UK was expected to operate by that same government.


No, using his aforementioned Judgement, Mr Cummings felt the best thing to do was drive his family to an isolated cottage on his father's farm.


He explains the set-up as his parents in one house, his sister in another and he and his family in a third cottage, approximately 50 metres away from either of the other buildings. That actually sounds like a very smart set-up for the duration of lockdown and had Mr Cummings gone there from the off and done his special advising from this remote location I doubt any of this would have been commented upon at all, beyond some sniping about how the lockdown is alright for those able to relocate to a family farm big enough to accommodate at least three liveable homes and that comes complete with woods and land to take any daily exercise within.


But he didn't; he waited until his wife was feeling unwell and until he had concluded that there was a 'distinct probability' that he himself had contracted the virus.


Once Lockdown had been initiated, relocating was a no-no. Indeed, it runs contrary to even updated guidance, which says staying in another house is wrong, and that's in an England that is no longer subject to the lockdown that it was operating within at the time all this took place-


Leaving your home - the place you live - to stay at another home for a holiday or other purpose is not allowed. This includes visiting second homes.


Mr Cummings goes on to mention his teenage nieces, whom he asserts are old enough to look after the child and who indeed had volunteered to do so if that became necessary. Should they not, then, have been asked to isolate with the Cummings family in London, as per GP advice?


As it turns out, Mr Cummings awoke on the 28th of March, having driven them all up to the farm the night before, with what he describes as 'clear' Covid symptoms.


Now, worth mentioning here that the young Cummings child was taken to hospital by ambulance after being sick and developing a fever, staying there overnight before thankfully recovering the next morning. Let's not be anything but pleased the child was alright, and tested negative for Covid-19.


The Cummings love their children too, to paraphrase The Police (Sting's band, not, y'know, the real kind).


Beyond this we get to all the nonsensical stuff about driving to a tourist hotspot to test his eyesight, something that is not recognised as a wise methodology to employ. Indeed, as a responsible blog-poster it is beholden on me to warn against such assessment techniques.

The chairman of the Police Federation of England and Wales concurred, tweeting as he did that anyone concerned about their vision should not drive in order to "test" their ability to do so.


"It's not a wise move," he wrote, in an deft example of understatement.


Taking it all into consideration, it would appear quite blatantly obvious that Dominic Cummings acted in a way that was not in accordance with the Lockdown guidance laid out by the UK Government. It would seem clear that he violated the policy in practice and in principle.


Whether or not that warrants a sacking is open to debate, but one imagines that examples such as Neil Ferguson and Catherine Calderwood ought to indicate that a resignation is appropriate, so as to not undermine the business, messaging and credibility (stop snickering, you) of Government.


What sticks out more to this observer, what concerns and baffles this observer, is the recurring theme throughout Mr Cummings statement of his desire to get back to work as quickly as he could to help 'relieve the strain at Number 10'.


He even states at one point his hope that if he did not develop symptoms after one week he could return to work, despite that only taking him halfway through the 14 day minimum for those who have symptoms or live in a household with anyone who has those symptoms.


No, Mr Cummings wanted to get back to work as soon as he could to help with this crisis. Admirable sense of duty, maybe. Laudable willingness to risk his own health and recovery in the service of the nation, perhaps.


Yet the troubling issue in that is the notion that his role is that crucial. The presence of Dominic Cummings makes that much of a difference to the ongoing efforts of the UK Government to minimise the damage of Covid 19 and safeguard the populace?


Really?


Mr Cummings himself mentions that he thought he might qualify for a place on the testing list of those in government when he returned to work after that first week. As even he then acknowledges, though, no adviser, not even one as special as Mr Cummings, were on the list to be tested because they were and are viewed as non-essential.


Clearly, Mr Cummings and PM Johnson disagree.


It is hard to imagine the Prime Minister taking as much heat, allowing his Cabinet and Government to take as much heat, for someone he feels is non-essential.


Now, it is hard to imagine that Mr Cummings could not have continued to work from home during a 14 day isolation, if he was and is so crucial to the protection of us citizens. Yet he felt it was important that he get back to Number 10 to help alleviate the pressure, back to Downing Street, back interacting with other people despite having been exposed to symptoms, despite the 'distinct probability' that he himself had the virus.


No wonder the PM has refused to get rid of the guy; his mere physical presence is enough to make a significant difference to the nation's health and wellbeing.


Worse than the refusal of Mr Cummings to resign, worse than the PM's willingness to take a hail of bullets rather than sack him, worse than the PM's willingness to subject his cabinet minsters to similar barrages of hot lead, worse even than Mr Cummings refusal to apologise for anything, is the reality that an un-elected Special Adviser is so vital to the functioning of this Government and the health of this nation that he is so thoroughly impossible to do without.


The only possible conclusion that can be drawn from the notion that the UK Government needs Mr Cummings this badly, is that the UK Government is not fit for purpose.


AndyDD


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