Wales’s health minister says Dominic Cummings case ‘a clear breach of the rules’

Wales’s health minister has said he would resign if he drove to the other side of the UK during lockdown like the Prime Minister’s senior adviser Dominic Cummings.

Vaughan Gething (pictured) said he would not add to the voices calling for Mr Cummings to be sacked, but described his actions during England’s stay-at-home phase as a “clear breach of the rules”.

His comments on Tuesday came as new figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) showed there has now been more than 2,000 deaths in Wales involving coronavirus.

Mr Gething told the Welsh Government’s daily press briefing: “If I had driven to the other end of the country to see a family member when I thought my wife could be potentially symptomatic with Covid-19, that would have been a clear breach of the rules in place at the time and my position as a minister would have been untenable.

“It isn’t for me to make choices about the Prime Minister’s senior special adviser.

“What does matter to me is not so much the fate of Dominic Cummings and his job, it’s actually whether people across all four nations, including here in Wales, are going to continue to follow the rules to keep us all safe.

“My real concern is the loss of public trust that comes from the ever-changing circus of the last few days. Some clarity in the rules and expectation and a clear understanding that the rules are there for all of us.”

Mr Gething added: “It’s for the Prime Minister to resolve issues for him and his staff and to understand the message that sends to people here in Wales and to the rest of the UK about whether we really are all in this together and to understand that we all need to be in this together to get through to the other side in this post-coronavirus world.”

The minister again denied he had broken Wales’s own lockdown rules after he was photographed eating chips with his wife and five-year-old son on a bench in Cardiff Bay last month, after being asked if he had “sympathy” with Mr Cummings.

“I didn’t break the lockdown rules, and the accusations are people who want to try to avoid and ignore the facts of what happened. A local walk with my family, within scooting of my home,” he said.

“We bought food in accordance with the rules. We ate in accordance with the rules. We returned home in accordance with all of the rules.”

Mr Gething said the Welsh Government’s cabinet would be reviewing the current Covid-19 regulations later this week, with First Minister Mark Drakeford due to announce any changes on Friday.

“This week, we will have to make another set of choices about the regulations that are in place and what the next set of regulations will look like,” he said.

“The First Minister spoke last week about understanding the real heartache that this is causing for some people who can’t see family members and we would like to think about how we can do something on that.

“I think the cautious approach is still the right one and it is overwhelmingly supported by members of the public.”

Mr Gething referenced the contrasting images of Wales’s “empty” beaches with “packed” ones in England over the bank holiday, and said it showed the Welsh public “are following the rules and understand the importance of doing so to keep all of us safe in Wales”.

He said the “seriousness” of following the rules “could not be greater” after the ONS published figures showing 2,007 deaths involving coronavirus had occurred in Wales up to May 15 and been registered by May 23.

The figures are taken from where the virus was mentioned on a person’s death certificate, including suspected cases.

Cardiff has the most deaths so far with 329, with Ceredigion registering the fewest with six deaths.

Public Health Wales, which provides separate daily figures which only include deaths confirmed as Covid-19 after a laboratory test, said on Tuesday a further eight people had died, taking its total of deaths to 1,282.

It said another 141 people had tested positive, bringing its total number of confirmed cases in Wales to 13,556.

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