British PM Boris Johnson is facing harsh backlash for defending his aide, Dominic Cummings, with a scientist working with the government saying Mr Johnson has “trashed” coronavirus advice.
A growing number of MPs in Mr Johnson’s own Conservative party have joined calls for Mr Cummings’ resignation after it emerged the aide had driven 400 kilometres during a nation-wide lockdown.
The Prime Minister is standing by Mr Cummings’ decision to travel with his wife, who was ill with COVID-19 symptoms at the time.
Mr Johnson’s office said Mr Cummings travelled from London to his parents’ home in northern England in March to ensure his four-year-old son could be properly cared for by relatives if he, too, fell ill.
On Monday morning (Australian time), Mr Johnson said Mr Cummings had followed the “instincts of every father”.
“I believe that in every respect he has acted responsibly and legally and with integrity,” he said.
But Professor Stephen Reicher, who is part of a group of behavioural scientists advising the British government, said that by backing Mr Cummings, the PM had trashed the panel’s advice on how to control the coronavirus’ spread.
Keir Starmer, leader of the opposition Labour Party, described Mr Johnson’s decision to take no action against Mr Cummings as “an insult to the sacrifices made by the British people”.
“This was a test of the Prime Minister and he has failed it,” Mr Starmer said.
Some Conservatives said they had been inundated with messages from furious constituents who had obeyed the rules under great personal hardship.
One prominent Conservative activist, Tim Montgomerie, said on Twitter: “Tonight, I’m really embarrassed to have ever backed Boris Johnson for high office.”
There have also been reports that Mr Cummings was seen in northern England on other occasions. The government has denied those reports.
Meanwhile, back in Australia…
- Restrictions are gradually lifting. TND has made it easier for you to keep track. Check the latest rules for your state here
All children will return to classrooms in NSW and Queensland on Monday, a week that marks a return to school for many Australian students.
Victorian students are bracing for their return, with children in prep to year two and years 11 and 12 returning on Tuesday. The remaining cohort goes back from June 9.
All Victorian teachers are packing their bags for the first day back on campus on Monday, as they prepare for the return of some children on Tuesday.
Tasmanian kindergarten to year six students and those in years 11 and 12 will also resume learning at school on Monday. Students in the remaining years will join them on June 9.
The ACT is continuing its staged return with students in years three, four and 10 getting back to school on Monday, leaving only years five, six, eight and nine to return on June 2.
Students are already back in school full time in South Australia, Western Australia and the Northern Territory.
Second and third wave warning
GPs have warned of a second wave of the coronavirus pandemic in coming weeks as social distancing measures continue to ease.
Even more concerning, a survey of more than 1000 general practices across NSW and Victoria conducted by Monash University also warned of a third wave of patients between August and January.
The latter would be people presenting with diseases, such as diabetes and cervical cancer, that they have put off treating or screening because of the pandemic.
Sporting chance for community
Community sports have been given a road map for a safe return as the nation continues to ease COVID-19 restrictions.
There were just four new COVID-19 cases across the country on Sunday (two in Victoria and one each in Queensland and NSW).
Australia’s death toll is 102 from 7109 cases. There are 501 active cases, but none in South Australia, ACT and NT.
Sport Australia has released a road map – the ‘Return to Sport Toolkit’ – that will allow community sporting clubs and associations a safe return to sport at all levels.
Developed in partnership with Hockey Australia, it provides comprehensive checklists, adaptable COVID-19 safety plans and templates to be used sporting organisations.
Public transport challenge
Hundreds of extra transport staff, including security and marshalling officers, will be out across NSW from Monday as students return to public schools full-time and more people return to work.
NSW Transport Minister Andrew Constance said the officers will monitor social distancing on public transport.
Transport NSW CEO Howard Collins urged commuters to avoid peak hour travel and continue working from home if possible.
“It’s about prioritising our school students,” he said.