Lockdown breach fallout hits British PM

LONDON – British prime minister Boris Johnson faced mutiny in his party and fury across Britain yesterday for refusing to sack his closest aide, Dominic Cummings, accused of flouting the United Kingdom’s coronavirus lockdown by driving 400 kilometres from London.

Boris Johnson

Defending one of Britain’s most powerful men, Johnson said at the weekend Cummings acted “responsibly and legally and with integrity” when he travelled in March from London to Durham in northern England with his son and his wife, who was ill with Covid-19 symptoms.

Many believe that was hypocritical given the government’s mantra at the time that everyone should stay at home. Those in a household where anyone has symptoms are supposed to self-isolate at home for 14 days.

“What planet are they on?” asked a front-page headline in the Daily Mail, an influential right-wing paper usually supportive of Johnson.

With a death toll around 43 000, Britain is the worst-hit country in Europe and the government was already under pressure over its handling of the pandemic.

Scientists and lawmakers said the Cummings furore would make it harder to ensure the public kept complying with official social distancing guidance.

About 20 Conservative lawmakers defied Johnson by calling publicly for Cummings to quit or be sacked. They and others reported being inundated with mail from constituents who had followed the guidance and now felt there was one rule for people close to Johnson and another for everyone else.

In an unusual outpouring, more than a dozen Church of England bishops also publicly condemned Johnson and Cummings.

US bars travel from virus hotspot Brazil

WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump on Sunday suspended travel from Brazil, which has emerged as a major new hotspot in the coronavirus pandemic, the White House said.

Non-Americans who have been in Brazil in the 14-day period prior to when they seek admittance to the US cannot come to America, said White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany. Trade is not affected by the new rule.

With more than 360 000 confirmed cases, Brazil now has the second-biggest caseload in the world, after the United States. It has registered more than 22 000 deaths.

Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro is a political ally of Trump and with his brash, not politically correct way of speaking, he has been dubbed the ‘Tropical Trump’. And, like Trump, Bolsonaro has downplayed the health crisis, famously comparing the virus to a ‘little flu’ and arguing that stay-at-home measures are unnecessarily hurting Latin America’s largest economy.

Brazil downplayed Trump’s move as standard procedure.

“The decision […] is identical to measures taken previously that suspended travel from other countries affected by Covid-19,” the foreign ministry said in a statement.

Brazil had itself already barred foreigners from entering the country because of the pandemic.

– Nampa-AFP-Reuters

Share this