Housing secretary defends visiting parents’ home despite social distancing guidance

Minister says parents asked him to deliver essentials 'including medicines'

Vincent Wood,Jon Stone
Thursday 09 April 2020 22:13
Britain's Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick holds a coronavirus disease (COVID-19) digital news conference in March 2019
Britain's Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick holds a coronavirus disease (COVID-19) digital news conference in March 2019

Housing secretary Robert Jenrick has defended his decision to visit the home of his elderly parents despite social distancing guidance - claiming he attended their Shropshire home to deliver medicine and obeyed government rules at all times.

Mr Jenrick has represented the government at multiple times during the coronavirus pandemic to urge the country to stay at home, protect the NHS and save lives.

However a report in The Guardian claimed a witness had seen Mr Jenrick, 38, visit the property more than 40 miles from his own home over the weekend

In response the housing minister said he had obeyed social distancing rules on the visit - and had only attended his parents as they were isolating to protect his father’s health.

While the Government's guidelines state you should not visit anyone who lives outside your own home, including elderly relatives, you are allowed to "leave your house to help them, for example by dropping shopping or medication at their door".

Mr Jenrick wrote on Twitter: "For clarity - my parents asked me to deliver some essentials - including medicines.

"They are both self-isolating due to age and my father's medical condition and I respected social distancing rules.

Earlier this week Scotland's chief health minister resigned from her post after it was found she had visited her second home during the nationwide lockdown.

Dr Catherine Calderwood apologised "unreservedly" after being caught out on a trip to Fife, more than an hour away from her property in Edinburgh where she had been staying.

It comes as ministers urge the public to stay home during a long and sunny bank holiday Easter weekend.

Speaking at the daily No 10 press conference, Dominic Raab accepted it would be hard for people who had wanted to see their families over Easter, but urged restraint amid signs the measures were having an impact.

"Unfortunately right now we just can't do those sorts of things and I am really sorry about that," he said.

"It's been almost three weeks and we're starting to see the impact of the sacrifices we've all made.

"But the deaths are still rising and we haven't yet reached the peak of the virus. So it's still too early to lift the measures that we put in place.

"We must stick to the plan and we must continue to be guided by the science."

A Downing Street spokesperson told reporters on Friday morning: "The secretary of state has set out in two different statements the reason for the journeys which he made. We are confident that he complied with the social distancing rules."

Asked whether Downing Street believed there had been any wrongdoing on behalf of the minister, the spokesperson replied: "Correct."

The spokesperson added: "I think he has said that himself, his wife, and his children consider the home in Herefordshire to be his family home."

"Like everybody else ministers have been told to work from home wherever possible and not make unnecessary journeys. As part of the coronavirus response there will be occasions where ministers have no option but to work from Whitehall. In the event this is required and the rest of their household is living elsewhere, it's not an unnecessary journey for them to travel and rejoin their family. The same rules apply to ministers as they do to everyone."

Additional reporting by PA.

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