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PA Matt Hancock pictured last month.
# matt hancock
UK health minister apologises for breaching Covid guidance after being accused of affair with aide
The Sun newspaper in the UK today published pictures of Matt Hancock with adviser Gina Coladangelo.

THE UK’S HEALTH Secretary Matt Hancock has apologised for breaching social distancing guidance after photographs were published appearing to show him kissing his aide. 

The Sun newspaper in the UK today published pictures of the Cabinet minister with Gina Coladangelo, who the newspaper said was hired by Hancock last year.

The images, apparently captured from CCTV footage, were taken on 6 May at the headquarters of the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC), the newspaper adds.

At this time, UK government guidance said two people from different households should not hug. 

In a statement, Hancock said: “I accept that I breached the social distancing guidance in these circumstances.

I have let people down and am very sorry.

“I remain focused on working to get the country out of this pandemic, and would be grateful for privacy for my family on this personal matter.”

Downing Street said this afternoon that Prime Minister Boris Johnson has accepted Health Secretary Matt Hancock’s apology for breaching social distancing guidelines and “considers the matter closed”.

“You’ve seen the Health Secretary’s statement, so I would point you to that,” a spokesman for the Prime Minister said after being asked by reporters why Hancock remained in post.

“I don’t really have anything further to add.

“The Health Secretary set out that he accepted he had breached the social distancing guidelines and he has apologised for that.

“The Prime Minister has accepted the Health Secretary’s apology and considers the matter closed.”

Asked whether Johnson had “full confidence” in Hancock, the spokesman replied: “Yes.”

matt-hancock-affair-accusations PA Matt Hancock and adviser Gina Coladangelo outside BBC buildings in London last month. PA

Calls for resignation

Hancock has today been facing calls to resign.

Liberal Democrat leader Ed Davey said on Twitter: “The reason Matt Hancock should resign is that he is a terrible Health Secretary, not because of his private life.

“From the PPE scandal, the crisis in our care service and the unbelievably poor Test and Trace system, he has utterly failed.”

Meanwhile, Labour said the government needs to answer whether the Health Secretary had broken any rules or if there had been “conflicts of interest” in the appointment of his adviser.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said this morning that reports about his Cabinet colleague were a personal matter and that Coladangelo would have gone through an “incredibly rigorous process” to get the role.

Asked if the Health Secretary had been ignoring social distancing rules when the images were taken, Shapps told LBC: “I’m quite sure that whatever the rules were at the time were followed.

“You’ll recall that there was a point at which social distancing rules were changed but, as I say, I don’t want to comment on somebody else’s private life – that is for them.”

However, the UK government’s road map out of lockdown said people should continue to keep their distance from anyone not in their household or support bubble until 17 May.

Asked about the rules around appointing friends to government positions, Shapps told Sky News: “First of all, I think the actual issue is entirely personal for Matt Hancock.

“In terms of rules, anyone who has been appointed has to go through an incredibly rigorous process in Government, so, whatever the rules are, the rules will have to be followed.

“There are no short cuts to that, as anyone who has had anything to do with the appointments system in the Civil Service knows.”

He said there are “very strict rules in place” in terms of how advisers are appointed, adding: “I think it is a bit of red herring in this case.”

Responding to the reports, a Labour spokesman said: “Ministers, like everyone, are entitled to a private life.

“However, when taxpayers’ money is involved or jobs are being offered to close friends who are in a personal relationship with a minister, then that needs to be looked into.

“The Government needs to be open and transparent about whether there are any conflicts of interests or rules that have been broken.”

It emerged in May last year that government adviser Professor Neil Ferguson had allowed a woman, reported to be his lover, to visit him at home in London on at least two occasions during lockdown.

The government adviser, whose work was crucial in Boris Johnson’s move to enforce strict restrictions, stood down from the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) over what he called an “error of judgment”.

Hancock called the revelations “extraordinary” at the time, telling Sky News: “Everyone has got to follow the social distancing rules.”

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