London: Britain’s Health Minister has apologised for breaching national coronavirus restrictions after a newspaper ran pictures of him embracing a woman with whom he allegedly had an affair.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock, who has led the country’s response to the pandemic, is the latest in a string of British officials to be accused of breaching restrictions they imposed on the rest of the population to curb the spread of the coronavirus.
The tabloid Sun newspaper ran images appearing to show the married Hancock and a senior aide, Gina Coladangelo, kissing in an office at the Department of Health. It said the CCTV images were taken on May 6 – 11 days before lockdown rules were eased to allow hugs and other physical contact with people outside one’s own household.
Hancock said in a statement on Friday, local time, that “I accept that I breached the social distancing guidance in these circumstances”.
“I have let people down and am very sorry,” he said. “I remain focused on working to get the country out of this pandemic, and would be grateful for privacy for my family on this personal matter.”
Prime Minister Boris Johnson stood by Hancock, but the main opposition Labour Party said he should be fired for breaking social distancing and, potentially, government hiring rules.
“If Matt Hancock has been secretly having a relationship with an adviser in his office – who he personally appointed to a taxpayer-funded role – it is a blatant abuse of power and a clear conflict of interest,” said Labour chairwoman Anneliese Dodds.
“His position is hopelessly untenable. Boris Johnson should sack him.”