Boris Johnson has backed Dominic Cummings following outrage about the political adviser’s controversial journey across Britain during coronavirus lockdown while his wife showed symptoms of Covid-19.

The UK Prime Minister said at Sunday’s daily coronavirus briefing that Cummings acted “responsibly, legally and with integrity” when he carried out the 260-mile trip from London to Durham in April. It followed a full weekend of speculation about Cummings’ future.

“Though there have been many other allegations about what happened when he was in self-isolation and thereafter, some of them palpably false, I believe that in every respect he has acted responsibly and legally and with integrity and with the overwhelming aim of stopping the spread of the virus and saving lives,” Johnson said.

The prime minister appeared irritated with several reporters’ questions during the briefing and repeated several times that Cummings behaved in a responsible manner.

The press conference appeared to fan the flames of public anger as Twitter was flooded with messages attacking Johnson’s performance. A range of phrases related to the briefing quickly shot to the top of the UK trending charts including ‘Oh Boris’, ‘#SackCummings’ and ‘#JohnsonOut’.

The top trends on UK Twitter right now are:1 – #DailyBriefings2 – #BorisJohnson3 – #sackcummimgs4 – #cummngs5 – Oh Boris6 – #DowningStreetBriefing7 – Barnard Castle8 – The PM9 – BoJo10 – The Prime MinisterThat did not go well.

The leader of the opposition Keir Starmer said the furore was Johnson’s first test and he “failed it”. The Labour Party leader called for an urgent inquiry into the matter. “It is an insult to sacrifices made by the British people that Boris Johnson has chosen to take no action against Dominic Cummings,” he added.

Broadcaster Piers Morgan accused Johnson of “lying through his back teeth”.

Never seen Twitter so united – journalists, pundits, politicians, celebrities & the public all ENRAGED by what they just heard, regardless of their political persuasion. We all know people who’ve lost loved ones & couldn’t be there for them because they obeyed the rules.

A tweet from the official UK Civil Service account labelled the performance “arrogant and offensive”. It also asked: “Can you imagine having to work with these truth twisters?” The message was subsequently deleted.

Well now

Cummings faced mounting calls to resign over the journey after revelations of further lockdown breaches were reported in British newspapers on Sunday.

An eyewitness told the Sunday Mirror and the Observer that they saw the 48-year-old at Barnard Castle on Easter Sunday, a popular tourist location 30 miles away from Durham, during the period he was thought to be self-isolating.

Johnson was asked whether it is true Cummings visited the castle but he avoided answering the question directly. “What I can tell you is, when you look at the guidance and the childcare needs it was reasonable to self isolate for 14 days or more where he did,” he said.

The newspapers also reported that Cummings made a second trip to Durham a week later and was seen there on 19 April, five days after being photographed on his return to London.

Earlier Sunday Cummings was seen entering the prime minister’s Downing Street residence after a handful of Conservative MPs called for his resignation and reports citing high-ranking Conservatives indicated that it was “only a matter of time” before Johnson asked him to quit.

Downing Street had earlier said that it would “not waste time” replying to the new allegations from “campaigning newspapers”. 

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