The prime minister’s chief adviser Dominic Cummings has said he does not regret driving 260 miles from London during the coronavirus lockdown.
He revealed he had not told Boris Johnson when he decided to take his family to County Durham after his wife developed Covid-19 symptoms.
Mr Cummings said he believed he had acted “reasonably” and within the law.
Mr Johnson said he understood “the confusion, anger and pain” felt and people “needed to hear” from his aide.
He added that Mr Cummings had acted “reasonably” and with “integrity and care for others”, but Labour and the Liberal Democrats accused both men of double standards.
Meanwhile, the government said the number of deaths among people who have tested positive for coronavirus, in all settings, had risen by 121 to 36,914
Mr Cummings has faced several days of attacks in the media, with many people, including some Conservative MPs, calling for him to go.
Speaking in a press conference in the Downing Street rose garden – requested by the prime minister – he said he wanted to “clear up the confusions and misunderstandings”.
He added that, despite days of criticism in the press, he had not considered resigning, saying: “I don’t regret what I did.”
During his statement, Mr Cummings revealed he had:
- travelled from work in Westminster to his home on 27 March after his wife – the journalist Mary Wakefield – fell ill, then returned to work hours later
- driven his wife and son from London to County Durham that evening
- stayed at a cottage on his parents’ farm
- developed Covid symptoms on 28 March
- driven on 3 April to pick up his wife and son from hospital, where his son had stayed overnight after he “threw up and had a bad fever”
- driven around 30 minutes from his family farm to the town of Barnard Castle on Easter Sunday (12 April) – 15 days after he had displayed symptoms – in an effort to test his eyesight and readiness to drive back to London
- taken his family back to London on 13 April
Many people, including some Conservative MPs, have called for Mr Cummings to be sacked for making his car journey just four days after the lockdown started, while Labour said he had “clearly broken the rules”.
But Mr Cummings told reporters: “I don’t think I am so different and that there is one rule for me and one rule for other people.”
He added: “I don’t regret what I did.”
When he found out his wife was ill on 27 March and after “briefly telling some officials in Number 10 what happened”, Mr Cummings said he “immediately left the building, ran to my car and drove home”.
After a couple of hours she “felt a bit better”, he said, and “there were many critical things at work, and she urged me to return in the afternoon and I did”.
Mr Cummings said he realised the family would have been left without childcare in London if, like his wife, he had fallen ill, so they decided to drive to County Durham that evening.
BBC Newsnight’s policy editor Lewis Goodall tweeted that the “crux of the issue” is whether he “abused” the guidelines by doing so.