18 March: At a Downing Street briefing, Boris Johnson says that “everyone” must follow the advice to stay at home if they believe they have coronavirus symptoms. Johnson explicitly said that if one member of a household thinks they have coronavirus symptoms, then the whole household must stay at home for 14 days. He also commented that in those circumstances, “Children should not be left with older grandparents, or older relatives, who may be particularly vulnerable or fall into some of the vulnerable groups.“
22 March: The guidance issued by the Government clearly states that people must remain “in their primary residence”. The advice continued with clear, precise instructions, “not taking these steps puts additional pressure on communities and services that are already at risk…Leaving your home – the place you live – to stay at another home is not allowed“.
23 March: The lockdown is declared and strict rules are imposed in the UK banning all but essential travel. The police are given powers to impose fines on anyone flouting the rules.
27 March: Johnson and Health Secretary Matt Hancock are confirmed to have tested positive for coronavirus. Cummings is seen running along Downing Street shortly after Johnson posts a video saying he has contracted the virus.
At the news conference on Monday 25 May, Cummings explained: “I suddenly got a call from my wife who was looking after our four-year-old child. She told me she suddenly felt badly ill.” Mary Wakefield, his wife, later wrote that Cummings “did rush home to look after me”. Cummings also commented that after he went home, his wife felt better and he had returned to work. If Mr Cummings believed his wife may have had coronavirus, the Public Health England guidance was, “all other household members who remain well must stay at home and not leave the house for 14 days”.
That evening, he said that he that drove up to Durham arriving roughly midnight with his family.
28 March: Cummings says that he woke up, “in pain and clearly had COVID symptoms, including a bad headache and a serious fever”.
30 March: Downing Street confirms that Cummings is self-isolating after developing symptoms of the virus. Durham Police are “made aware of reports that an individual had travelled from London to Durham and was present at an address in the city” and says, that officers “made contact with the owners of that address who confirmed that the individual in question was present and was self-isolating in part of the house”. No information about the movements of Cummings and his family become public until 22 May after an investigation by he Mirror and Guardian newspapers.
31 March: A spokesman for Durham police said: “Officers made contact with the owners of that address who confirmed that the individual in question was present and was self-isolating in part of the house. In line with national policing guidance, officers explained to the family the guidelines around self-isolation and reiterated the appropriate advice around essential travel.”
28 March and the first 2 weeks of April: It was reported that, writing about her husband’s condition in The Spectator, Mary Wakefield said: “Dom couldn’t get out of bed. Day in, day out for 10 days he lay doggo with a high fever and spasms that made the muscles lump and twitch in his legs. He could breathe, but only in a limited, shallow way.”
Cummings himself wrote: “At the end of March and for the first two weeks of April I was ill, so we were both shut in together.”
Wakefield fails to mention the trip to Durham though discusses challenges of caring for their son while suffering the symptoms of Covid-19. “This might be my only really useful advice for other double-Covid parents or single mothers with pre-schoolers: get out the doctor’s kit and make it your child’s job to take your temperature.” “Any game that involves lying down is a good game.”
What appears to be a clear tactic to mislead the public of their location, she appears to suggest that they had been in quarantine in London, ”After the uncertainty of the bug itself, we emerged from quarantine into the almost comical uncertainty of London lockdown.”
1 April: In a statement that contradicted an earlier statement, Durham police said, “We can further confirm that our officer gave no specific advice on coronavirus to any members of the family and that Durham Constabulary deemed that no further action was required in that regard”. “Our officer did, however, provide the family with advice on security issues.”
2 April: Cummings’ son became ill during the night so the couple “took medical advice which was to call 999”. The son was taken to hospital by ambulance. Cummings says he was too ill to go with them to the hospital but his wife stayed the night with their son.
3 April: Cummings drove to the hospital to collect his wife and son and says he did not leave the car or have any contact with anyone during the trip to the hospital. But hang on, Mary Wakefield said: “Dom couldn’t get out of bed. Day in, day out for 10 days he lay doggo with a high fever and spasms that made the muscles lump and twitch in his legs. He could breathe, but only in a limited, shallow way.” The question is should he have left his house in such a condition and was he safe to drive?
5 April: A witness says they saw Cummings at the grounds of his parents’ home near Durham with a young child, believed to be his son, at 5.45pm.
At about 7.30pm Boris Johnson is admitted to St Thomas’ hospital after his condition worsens.
Mary Wakefield wrote: “Just as Dom was beginning to feel better … Boris was heading in the other direction, into hospital.” Later that evening Scotland’s chief medical officer, Catherine Calderwood, resigned for breaking the lockdown rules when she twice visiting her second home. Unlike Cummings and his wife, who travelled across the country believing they had been infected by coronavirus, she did not. Which is the worse offence?
10 April: Downing Street is contacted by the Guardian for comment regarding the trip to Durham made by Dominic Cummings and his family. Officials declined to comment.
11 April: After seeking medical advice, Mr Cummings is apparently told he is able to return to work.
12 April: Cummings and his family were seen walking by the River Tees in Barnard Castle, 30 miles from Durham, before getting into a car around lunchtime (reported by the Sunday Mirror on 23 May).
During news conference in the Downing Street garden on 25 May, Cummings confirmed the trip took place, claiming it was to check if he was well enough to drive home.
He said: “My wife was very worried, particularly as my eyesight seemed to have been affected by the disease.”
The 1988 Road Traffic Act says: “If a person drives a motor vehicle on a road while his eyesight is such (whether through a defect which cannot be, or one which is not for the time being, sufficiently corrected) that he cannot comply with any requirement as to eyesight prescribed under this Part of this Act for the purposes of tests of competence to drive, he is guilty of an offence.” The Highway Code says: “You MUST report to the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) any health condition likely to affect your driving.”
Sir Peter Fahy, former chief constable of Manchester Police, said the drive to Barnard Castle was potentially a criminal offence. “It’s not the way to test your eyesight and put, potentially, other people in danger.” On Twitter, John Apter, chair of the Police Federation for England and Wales, said: “If you’re feeling unwell and your eyesight may be impaired do not drive your vehicle to test your ability to drive. It’s not a wise move.”
14 April: Cummings is photographed by newspapers returning to work in Downing Street for the first time since recovering from the symptoms of coronavirus.
He is asked questions about his adherence to social distancing advice as he is photographed walking down Downing Street alongside fellow aide Cleo Watson.
19 April: More than a fortnight after the first sighting of Mr Cummings in Durham, and five days after being photographed back at work in Downing Street, it is claimed he was seen in the North East again.
The Northern Echo reported, “The papers also reported that a second unnamed source recalled seeing Mr Cummings in Houghall Woods near his family’s Durham property on April 19, recognising him due to him wearing his trademark beanie hat. He reportedly was heard commenting on how “lovely” the bluebells were during an early-morning Sunday stroll with his journalist wife Mary Wakefield.”
Cummings has denied this, saying: “Photos and data on my phone prove this to be false, I was in London on that day.”
13 May: The government lifts the restriction on how far people can drive to reach the countryside and take exercise. Visits and overnight stays to second homes remain prohibited.
May 22: The Mirror and the Guardian newspapers break the news of Dominic Cummings’ trip to Durham. This is the first time that this information comes into the public domain. It is widely agreed that Cummings flagrantly disregarded the rules that he had played a role in devising.
May 23: Instantly the wagons went into a defensive circle surrounding Cummings in, as one newspaper reported it, “Specious sophistry”. Downing Street stands by Johnson’s chief aide, “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.” The statement also said, “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. Cummings believes he behaved reasonably and legally.” Cummings also tells journalists outside his home, “I behaved reasonably and legally.”
Mr Cummings reiterated: “I behaved reasonably and legally”. When a reporter suggested to him that his actions did not look good, he replied, “Who cares about good looks?”
At the daily Downing Street briefing, Grant Shapps said that Cummings had the PM’s “full support” and that Mr Johnson “knew that he was unwell and that he was in lockdown”.
The deputy chief medical officer for England, Dr Jenny Harries, said that travelling during lockdown was permissible if “there was an extreme risk to life”, and that guidance contained a “safeguarding clause” to prevent vulnerable people being stuck at home with no support.
In a new statement from the Durham Police they altered their story to say that on 1 April an officer did visit the Durham property and that the officer, “did provide advice in relation to security issues”.
25 May: Cummings gives a news conference from Downing Street, saying: “I don’t regret what I did.” If you click on the link above to watch the full news conference, you will need to skip forward to about 30 minutes as the camera ran from the scheduled time but Cummings arrived about 30 minutes late. Beware , it makes thoroughly uncomfortable viewing.
The Mirror newspaper, which along with the Guardian, brought the story to the attention of the public tears apart the woeful performance of Cummings at the press conference.
27 May: 40 MPs join the call for Dominic Cummings to go and one Junior minister has resigned.
Emily Maitlis is reprimanded by the BBC for ‘breaching impartiality rules’.
In her introduction to BBC Newsnight she said ,“Dominic Cummings broke the rules – the country can see that and it’s shocked the government cannot.” “The longer ministers and the prime minister insist he worked within them, the more likely the angry response to the scandal is likely to be … He made those who struggled to keep to the rules feel like fools, and has allowed many more to assume they can flout them.” “The prime minister knows all this and has chosen to ignore it.”
28 May: An investigation by Durham Police concluded that Dominic Cummings broke coronavirus laws when he took his trip to Barnard Castle but will be taking no further action. The trip would have warranted police intervention as a breach of the Health Protection Regulations which enforce the lockdown. Therefore, Cummings, Johnson and all the ministers who refused to acknowledge that Cummings had done anything wrong, were all in the wrong.
The Labour Party and the SNP have written a letter to Cabinet Secretary Sir Mark Sedwill demanding an inquiry into what happened.
31 May: Black Isle Media report makes fresh allegations. They claim that their investigations suggest that the cottage used by Dominic Cummings is not recorded on the land registry and was built without planning permission (should have got permission from Durham County Council, the UK Coal Authority and lies within a Conservation Zone). They also claim that the cottage is partly owned by Dominic Cummings (and therefore a second home to which he should not have travelled), and no Council Tax is paid on the property.
The Daly Mirror reports that there are now three separate eye witness accounts of Cummings’ movements in Barnard Castle with one person alleging she saw him near the shops in Market Place. These accounts are in conflict with the accounts given by Cummings at his press conference.
In a bid to salvage something from Johnson’s ‘car crash’ approach to dealing with Cummingsgate, Johnson is reported as issuing Cummings with a final warning.