UK chief of health resigns after violating coronavirus rules: NPR

UK chief of health resigns after violating coronavirus rules: NPR


UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock speaks during a coronavirus media briefing in London on May 27. He resigned in a letter to Prime Minister Boris Johnson published on Saturday.

Matt Dunham / AP


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UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock speaks during a coronavirus media briefing in London on May 27. He resigned in a letter to Prime Minister Boris Johnson published on Saturday.

Matt Dunham / AP

LONDON (AP) – UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock, who led the country’s response to the coronavirus, resigned on Saturday, a day after apologizing to a counselor for violating social distancing rules with the he allegedly had an affair.

Hancock has been under increasing pressure since the Sun tabloid published pictures of him and his senior associate Gina Coladangelo kissing in a Department of Health office. The Sun said the closed-circuit television pictures were taken on May 6 – 11 days before lockdown rules were relaxed to allow hugs and other physical contact with people outside of their own home.

In a letter of resignation to Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Hancock said the government owes it “to the people who sacrificed so much in this pandemic, to be honest, if we let them down”.

“And those of us who make these rules have to abide by them, and so I have to resign,” he wrote.

Johnson said he regretted Hancock’s resignation and that he should be “very proud of what you have achieved – not just in fighting the pandemic, but even before COVID-19 hit us.”

Johnson had previously expressed his confidence in Hancock despite widespread calls to fire him.

Jonathan Ashworth, health spokesman for the opposition Labor Party, said: “It is right that Matt Hancock has resigned. But why did Boris Johnson not have the courage to fire him and why did he say the matter was closed?”

Some ruling Conservative lawmakers had also urged Hancock to resign for not practicing what he had preached during the pandemic.

“The last thing I want is my personal life to divert attention from the single-mindedness that is leading us out of this crisis,” said the married Hancock in his letter of resignation.

“I want to apologize again for breaking the guidelines and apologize to my family and loved ones for going through this,” he said. “I have to be with my children at this time too.”

Hancock, 42, is the latest in a line of British officials accused of violating restrictions they have placed on the rest of the population to help stem the spread of the coronavirus.

The government also faces questions about the circumstances under which Hancock hired Coladangelo, a college friend who was appointed to his department last year. She was initially hired as an unpaid consultant and became a non-executive director of the Department of Health that year, a position that pays about £ 15,000 ($ 21,000) a year.

Johnson’s Conservative government has been branded “chumocracy” by critics for employing special advisers and contractors from outside the civil service without the long-standing scrutiny.

Hancock’s department is accused of having waived procurement rules in order to place lucrative orders for protective equipment and other basic medical equipment, often to face-to-face contacts. Hancock said he was driven by the need to quickly secure vital supplies at the height of the outbreak.

Hancock has been under pressure for weeks since former prime ministerial aide Dominic Cummings accused him of screwing up the government’s response to the pandemic. Cummings, now a bitter critic of the government he once served, told lawmakers last month that Hancock should have been “fired” for alleged lies and mistakes. He also posted a WhatsApp message in which Johnson described Hancock as “completely (powerless) hopeless”.

Cummings himself was accused of breaking the rules and undermining the government’s “stay home” message while driving 400 kilometers across England to his parents’ house during the spring 2020 lockdown. Johnson resisted pressure to fire him, but Cummings quit his job in November amid a power struggle in the prime minister’s office.



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Rachel Meadows

Rachel Meadows

Trending topics news writer who enjoys cooking, walking her dog and travel.

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