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UK health secretary quits after being filmed kissing aide

June 26, 2021

Matt Hancock, the British health secretary, has resigned after he was filmed kissing an aide in breach of social distancing guidelines. The married father of three had repeatedly called on Britons to follow the rules.

Matt Hancock, the former British health secretary
Matt Hancock has resigned after he was caught kissing an aide in breach of COVID rulesImage: Steve Reigate/Daily Express/empics/picture alliance

UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock, who was filmed on CCTV kissing an aide in his office in breach of coronavirus social distancing rules, resigned on Saturday after members of his own Conservative party called on him to step down.

The Sun newspaper revealed that the minister had been having an affair with Gina Coladangelo, a friend from his days at Oxford University who he hired as an adviser in March last year

The tabloid said Hancock had broken the health guidelines that he had repeatedly championed, urging Britons to follow them closely.

Downing Street published his resignation letter on Saturday, saying it had been accepted by Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

"We have worked so hard as a country to fight the pandemic," Hancock said in the letter. "The last thing I would want is for my private life to distract attention from the single-minded focus that is leading us out of this crisis."

He was later replaced by Sajid Javid, the country's former finance minister.

Who is Matt Hancock?

Hancock, a Conservative MP, has played a key role in leading Britain's response to the coronavirus pandemic, receiving praise for the pace of the country's vaccine rollout.

He used media appearances to urge voters to respect government guidelines on social distancing. 

In February, the 42-year-old married father of three said sticking to the rules was a matter of "personal responsibility" and that everybody needs to "play their part."

At the time, bereaved families were being told that they could not hug their relatives at funerals for fear of spreading the virus further.

Hancock apologized to Prime Minister Johnson, with a government spokesman calling the matter "closed" on Friday.

Hancock came under fire from fellow Conservatives

But the now ex-minister faced calls from his own party to step aside after opposition Labour MPs demanded his resignation on Friday.

Christopher Chope, a Conservative MP for Christchurch in southern England, said earlier on Saturday that Hancock should quit.

"He's shown by his actions, that there's one law for him and a different law for everybody else."

Duncan Baker, another Conservative who represents the area of North Norfolk in southeast England, also called on Hancock to resign.

"In my view people in high public office and great positions of responsibility, should act with the appropriate morals and ethics that come with that role," he said.

"Matt Hancock, on a number of measures has fallen short of that." 

Questions for British officials during lockdown

It is not the first time since the start of the pandemic that senior government officials have been accused of breaking the rules that they helped to create.

Dominic Cummings, the former chief of staff to Prime Minister Johnson, faced criticism when he broke government guidelines on nonessential travel inside the UK by driving from London toDurham, northeast England.

Dominic Cummings makes a statement in the Downing Street garden
Cummings eventually left his position as a special adviser to Boris JohnsonImage: Reuters/J. Brady

Robert Jenrick, a minister responsible for housing, also faced questions in April last year when he drove to his parents at their house in Shropshire, central England, despite repeatedly telling Britons to stay at home. Johnson stuck by both men after the revelations in the British press, although Cummings would later quit amid a disagreement on

when to impose a third lockdown. 

Doubts surround UK government COVID contracts

British broadcaster Sky News reported on Friday that Coladangelo's brother, Roberto, is an executive at a private health care firm that has won a string of contracts with the country's National Health Service.

He works for Partnering Health Limited, which provides primary care services to patients.

Neither Hancock nor the Coladangelo siblings have commented on the report.

In February, a judge decided that the health secretary had acted unlawfully by failing to reveal details of COVID-related contracts in a timely fashion.

jf/nm (Reuters, AFP)