From ministers to celebrities, the UK’s alleged Covid rule-breakers

Those said to have flouted regulations also include MPs, scientists … and Dominic Cummings

The health secretary, Matt Hancock, has admitted breaking social distancing rules after pictures emerged of him embracing an aide last month. It is not the first time people in the public eye, from celebrities to ministers, have been caught flouting official guidelines, and many were forced to resign. Here are some of the most high-profile cases.

Dominic Cummings, PM’s former chief aide

Cummings caused outrage at the height of the first lockdown in March 2020, when the Guardian and Daily Mirror revealed that he had travelled from London to Durham while suffering suspected Covid symptoms. Despite immense pressure, including from Conservative MPs, Boris Johnson refused to sack him. He resigned late last year after a No 10 power struggle.

Margaret Ferrier, former SNP MP

Ferrier, the MP for Rutherglen and Hamilton West, travelled from Scotland to London in September after showing coronavirus symptoms, then back again after getting a positive test result – a journey of 400 miles. She had the SNP whip removed and apologised, but remains an independent MP. She was charged with culpable and reckless conduct in February. She has said the virus made her “act out of character” and that she panicked.

Prof Neil Ferguson, scientist

The Imperial College London epidemiologist, who was an adviser to the government on the pandemic, was revealed by the Telegraph to have been visited at home by his lover on at least two occasions in March and April 2020. He resigned from his position on 6 May admitting an error of judgement. Hancock said at the time that he was speechless at Ferguson’s behaviour.

Rita Ora, singer

Ora was criticised for breaking lockdown rules to throw a 30th birthday party attended by 17 people. Her security team allegedly offered a London restaurant owner £5,000 to host the party in November and switch off the CCTV cameras. The singer apologised. It later emerged that she should have been self-isolating at the time after returning from Egypt.

Dr Catherine Calderwood, Scotland’s chief medical officer

Calderwood was forced to quit her role after she was found to have twice visited her second home on the coast of Fife. The then leader of the Scottish Conservatives, Jackson Carlaw, said her stepping down had been the right course of action. “There cannot be one rule for the bosses and another one for everyone else,” he said.

Robert Jenrick, housing secretary

Jenrick visited his parents’ home in Shropshire, 40 miles from his home in Herefordshire, in April 2020. He said he dropped off food and medication and did not enter the house. His behaviour was cleared by the prime minister, whose spokesman said: “We’re confident that he complied with the social distancing rules.” There was some criticism of Jenrick from backbench Tory MPs, who anonymously called for his resignation.

Bob Seely, Conservative MP

The Isle of Wight MP appeared to break lockdown rules at a barbecue also attended by the chairman of the Brexit party and political journalists. Seely went to the gathering hosted by the Spectator magazine’s deputy editor, Freddy Gray, in the village of Seaview in May 2020. He said he was unaware others would be present when he arrived for a meeting and followed social distancing guidance at all times.


Sarah Marsh

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Minister rejects Dominic Cummings’ claims of ‘needless’ Covid deaths
Robert Jenrick says PM acted with ‘best information’ he had at time when deciding how to tackle pandemic

Tobi Thomas

27, May, 2021 @9:18 AM

Article image
Covid travel rule-breakers could face 10-year jail terms, says Hancock
Health secretary sets out new measures as Scottish government announces even stricter plans

Rajeev Syal and Libby Brooks

09, Feb, 2021 @7:14 PM

Article image
Bereaved families issue legal ultimatum to Boris Johnson over Covid inquiry
Exclusive: lawyers give two weeks notice that unless an inquiry is launched they will take the government to court

Robert Booth Social affairs correspondent

17, Mar, 2021 @6:15 PM

Article image
The growing list of civil servants frozen out while Johnson's ministers remain
A series of high-profile exits from Whitehall have not been matched by ministerial resignations

Rajeev Syal

26, Aug, 2020 @7:18 PM

Article image
Hancock faces calls to explain Covid test failings at care homes
Health secretary claims it ‘wasn’t possible’ to test all patients sent to care homes at outset of pandemic

Heather Stewart and Aubrey Allegretti

27, May, 2021 @7:08 PM

Article image
MPs demand proof of Hancock claims from Dominic Cummings
Chair of committee that heard former No 10 adviser’s explosive allegations says it hasn’t received the evidence it was expecting

Jessica Elgot Deputy political editor

09, Jun, 2021 @2:37 PM

Article image
‘One rule for them’: who else has fallen foul of Covid rules?
Johnson and Sunak are not the only public figures to find themselves accused of flouting coronavirus regulations

Rajeev Syal

18, Jul, 2021 @2:47 PM

Article image
Coronavirus: Kay Burley absent from show after admitting Covid rule breach
Sky News presenter blames need to ‘spend a penny’ for breaking regulations during 60th birthday party

Archie Bland

08, Dec, 2020 @2:54 PM

Article image
Ministers' unfulfilled coronavirus promises eroding UK public trust
NHS insiders say commitments on PPE and testing that fail to materialise also harming faith of frontline workers

Dan Sabbagh

07, May, 2020 @6:33 PM

Article image
Matt Hancock should have been sacked for lying, says Dominic Cummings
Former No 10 aide accuses health secretary of ‘criminal’ behaviour, in string of incendiary allegations

Aubrey Allegretti Political correspondent

26, May, 2021 @12:42 PM