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Photo: Peter Summers/Getty Images

Dominic Cummings, the top aide to British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, defended himself at a press conference Monday against allegations that he broke the U.K.'s coronavirus lockdown rules by traveling to his parents' home last month while exhibiting symptoms.

What he said: "I respectfully disagree. The legal rules do not necessarily cover all circumstances, especially the ones I found myself in," Cummings told the assembled press.

  • An investigation by the Daily Mirror and The Guardian found Cummings had traveled 260 miles in April to visit his parents in Durham along with his wife and son while exhibiting coronavirus symptoms, breaking the country's guidelines in the process.
  • Cummings argued that the trip was necessary because "none of our usual child care options were available" in London amid the pandemic while both he and his wife both potentially had the virus.
  • Asked by the BBC's Laura Kuenssberg if he wanted to offer an apology to U.K. citizens who did not have the resources to act as he did, Cummings said, "I think that I behaved reasonably." Cummings later said he has not offered his resignation to Johnson.

The state of play: Cummings said he had to go to Durham because he was "worried about the possibility of my wife and child at home all day," insinuating that media reports about his opposition to lockdown guidelines — which he denied — made his home "a target."

  • He noted that he specifically did not clear his decision to travel with Johnson. He added that he didn't know if he should have told the prime minister earlier, saying he has to "protect his time."
  • Cummings also said that a side trip to Barnard Castle — a key unanswered question in media reports — was to test his eyesight after his sickness before undertaking the drive back to London.

The backdrop: Johnson stood behind Cummings during a press conference on Sunday, saying that he traveled to find child care "at a moment when both he and his wife were about to be incapacitated" and that he "followed the instincts of every father and every parent" in doing so.

  • At a press conference after Cummings answered questions Monday, Johnson reiterated his support and said "people will have to make their minds up" about what to think about his chief adviser's actions.

Why it matters: Cummings, widely viewed as the architect of the Brexit campaign, is a highly polarizing figure in British politics.

  • Calls for his resignation grew over the weekend — even among members of Johnson's own Conservative Party and typically sympathetic press outlets — due to the hypocrisy of a top adviser breaking the stringent rules that the government had long stressed were mandatory.
  • The Daily Mail's front page on Monday screamed: "WHAT PLANET ARE THEY ON?"

The big picture: The U.K. has been a coronavirus epicenter in Europe with more than 260,000 confirmed cases and 36,000 deaths as of Monday, per Johns Hopkins data.

Go deeper

Updated Oct 7, 2020 - Health

World coronavirus updates

Expand chart
Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins; Map: Axios Visuals

New Zealand now has active no coronavirus cases in the community after the final six people linked to the Auckland cluster recovered, the country's Health Ministry confirmed in an email Wednesday.

The big picture: The country's second outbreak won't officially be declared closed until there have been "no new cases for two incubation periods," the ministry said. Auckland will join the rest of NZ in enjoying no domestic restrictions from late Wednesday, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said, declaring that NZ had "beat the virus again."

Updated 9 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

  1. Vaccines: CDC says some immunocompromised people can get fourth COVID shot — FDA panel endorses Pfizer vaccines for 5-11 year olds — Moderna says vaccine shows strong immune response in kids
  2. Health: COVID cases, deaths at meat plants were far higher than previously thought — 96% of Tyson Foods employees vaccinated ahead of mandate deadline — U.S. releases updated vaccination, testing rules for foreign travelers
  3. Politics: Louisiana lifts mask mandate except for some schools — Alabama governor orders state agencies to fight federal vaccine mandate — Axios-Ipsos poll: Confidence in Biden COVID recovery tumbles
  4. Education: Benefits of vaccine for children outweigh risks, FDA says — Education secretary reveals limits to Biden’s mask push on states — LA extends deadline for school employee vaccinations.
  5. Variant tracker: Where different strains are spreading.

Fauci debunks conspiracy theory on CDC coronavirus death data

Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases, during a July congressional hearing in Washington, D.C. Photo: Kevin Dietsch-Pool/Getty Images

NIAID director Anthony Fauci in an ABC interview Tuesday addressed a conspiracy theory recently retweeted by President Trump that falsely interpreted CDC data on the U.S. coronavirus death toll.

Driving the news: Trump's post incorrectly claimed that "only 6%" of those listed in the CDC's tally "actually died from COVID" and "the other 94% had 2-3 other serious illnesses." But Fauci said, "The numbers that you've been hearing — there are 180,000-plus deaths — are real deaths from COVID-19. Let [there] not be any confusion about that."