UK Health Secretary resigns after flouting coronavirus regulations
Sunday, 27 June 2021
Matt Hancock. Credit: Belga
UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock, a key figure in the British government’s fight against the coronavirus pandemic, on Saturday announced that he was stepping down for breaking pandemic-related regulations during an intimate scene with an aide, revealed by a tabloid.
“We owe it to people who have sacrificed so much in this pandemic to be honest when we have let them down as I have done by breaching the guidance,” Hancock wrote in his resignation letter to Prime Minister Boris Johnson, in which he reiterated an apology made the day before.
“You should leave office very proud of what you have achieved – not just in tackling the pandemic, but even before Covid-19 struck us,” the Prime Minister responded, adding that he was sorry that Hancock was leaving the government.
On Friday, the Sun tabloid had published a photo taken from surveillance camera showing Hancock, who is married with three children, kissing a longtime friend, Gina Coladangelo, in his office on 6 May.
At the time, England’s law banned indoor social gatherings of people from different households. Guidance issued by the government also urged people to stay two metres apart and avoid face-to-face contact.
Hancock apologised on Friday and the Prime Minister expressed support for him, saying he considered the matter “closed.”
On Saturday, however, the Sun aired video footage from the surveillance camera on its Internet site, which led to increasing calls for Hancock’s resignation, particularly from opposition parties.
The main opposition Labour Party also raised the issue of a possible conflict of interest in the appointment of Coladangelo – a lobbyist whom Hancock knew from university and communications director for a chain of stores founded by her husband – to a post within the Health Ministry.
The appointment had not been announced before it was revealed by the press.