A huge outpouring of anger, frustration and sadness appeared across social media on Saturday after government ministers sought to defend Dominic Cummings’s breach of lockdown rules.
The prime minister’s senior adviser drove his family 260 miles from their home while infected with coronavirus, apparently to seek the support of his relatives.
As cabinet ministers claimed that this showed Cummings’s compassion, many people who have been forced to endure hardship and tragedy while separated from family during lockdown shared their feelings in response.
After the health secretary, Matt Hancock, tweeted that it was “entirely right” for Cummings to drive from London to his parents’ house in Durham, Jenny Dee, the director of the Chipping Norton literary festival, wrote in response: “My mum and I accepted that we couldn’t have a funeral for my dad, we accepted that at 86 and newly widowed she must spend months alone – we followed your rules, we were entirely right. Cummings’s actions and your defence of them is entirely wrong.”
A nurse, David Munday, also addressed Hancock when he spoke of his own challenges isolating with the illness.
“When I got it Matt, my wife and three children (9, 5 and 3) quarantined. We didn’t go out. When I went to hospital because of having #Covid-19, my wife continued to quarantine with the kids. Should we have ignored your Govt rules?”
The minister for the Cabinet Office, Michael Gove, tweeted a message in support of Cummings which read: “Caring for your wife and child is not a crime.”
Caring for your wife and child is not a crime https://t.co/YCXWhKTq28— Michael Gove (@michaelgove) May 23, 2020
It received 20,000 replies, one from Helen Goodman, the former Labour MP for Bishop Auckland. “Michael, I cared for my dad,” she wrote, “but I wasn’t allowed to see him before he died in a Durham care home.”
The chancellor, Rishi Sunak, tweeted: “Taking care of your wife and young child is justifiable and reasonable, trying to score political points over it isn’t.”
Underneath there was a reply from Lesley Hogg of Dunfermline. “Meanwhile in the real world,” she wrote, “I wasn’t officially permitted to be with my dying father as I didn’t live in the same household, my mum was meant to cope with this alone and there could only be 10 (socially distanced) mourners at his funeral. My heart will never, ever mend.”
Many other Twitter users referenced the death of Ismail Mohamed Abdulwahab from Brixton. The 13-year-old died in King’s College hospital after testing positive for coronavirus. His family were not allowed to visit him and were also unable to attend his funeral because of self-isolation rules.
A Twitter user called Michelle wrote of the Cummings episode: “This is so wrong on so many levels & the support he’s getting is disgusting! Have they forgotten Ismail Mohamed Abdulwahab who was laid to rest without his family because of these rules that everyone else has to follow?”