- Title: Brits think itâ€™s time for health minister to go following reports of affair
- Date: 25th June 2021
- Summary: LONDON, ENGLAND, UNITED KINGDOM (JUNE 25, 2021) (REUTERS) (SOUNDBITE) (English) GREENWICH RESIDENT, JEFF (LAST NAME NOT PROVIDED), SAYING: "No, it's not a personal matter, but in the great scheme of things, I wouldn't have it down as a hanging offence. I think probably his shortcomings as a minister are far more disturbing to me than his shortcomings in his personal judgement." (SOUNDBITE) (English) 19-YEAR-OLD KENT RESIDENT, CHARLIE IRWIN, SAYING: (STANDING WITH HIS FRIEND MAX BENNETT, TALKING ABOUT PRIME MINISTER BORIS JOHNSON SAYING THE MATTER IS CLOSED) "I don't think it should be closed. I think it's a disgrace. First of all, breaking social distancing rules. I mean, you know, they are so onto us about, you know, 'you can't do this, you can't do that,' and then to go and break them... Bearing in mind you're performing adultery, as well. I think that's a disgrace, in my opinion." CUTTY SARK IN GREENWICH, SOUTHEAST LONDON GREENWICH GIFT SHOP GREENWICH STREET
- Embargoed: 9th July 2021 16:10
- Keywords: Britain COVID-19 Gina Coladangelo Matt Hancock UK adviser affair aide coronavirus health minister health secretary kiss
- Location: LONDON, ENGLAND, UNITED KINGDOM
- City: LONDON, ENGLAND, UNITED KINGDOM
- Country: United Kingdom
- Topics: Europe,Government/Politics
- Reuters ID: LVA006EIWHK5J
- Aspect Ratio: 16:9
- Story Text: British Health Secretary Matt Hancock apologised on Friday (June 25) for breaching social distancing guidelines after pictures appeared of him embracing his top aide and the prime minister said he believed the matter was now closed.
Photographs published on the front page of the Sun showed Hancock kissing the woman - a friend hired for a taxpayer-funded role - in his office.
"I accept that I breached the social distancing guidance in these circumstances," Hancock said.
A spokesperson for Boris Johnson said the prime minister had accepted Hancock's apology and had full confidence in him.
The opposition Labour Party has called on Johnson to sack Hancock.
A number of British residents told Reuters they agreed with that assessment, but for a range of reasons.
For Irish national Mary O'Shea, she thought Hancock should be allowed his privacy unless the relationship interfered with his job as the figurehead of Britain's fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.
Meanwhile, Essex resident Terry Brown likened Hancock to famed 1950s comedian and namesake Tony Hancock, saying he hoped to see the minister out of office soon irrespective of the latest reports.
Hancock, 42, has often appeared on television to tell the public to follow strict rules and to defend his department against criticism of its response to the crisis.
The photographs raised more questions about Hancock's judgement, both in appointing a friend to a taxpayer-funded role and in breaking guidance imposed on millions of people by Johnson's government.
Under fire for his handling of the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic, Hancock was found in February to have acted unlawfully by not revealing details of contracts signed during the health crisis.
Hancock also said last year that it was right that a government scientist resigned after he broke COVID rules by meeting a partner.
The Rupert Murdoch-owned Sun tabloid said the pictures of Hancock, who is married, and the aide were taken in his department last month.
The popular daily newspaper did not say how it obtained the security camera images, but it cited a whistleblower as commenting on the relationship.
The Sun said Hancock met the aide at Oxford University in the early 2000s.
She is listed on the health department's website as a non-executive director.
Hancock has been criticised for his department's handling of the coronavirus pandemic, particularly in the early months when it struggled to deliver testing and protective equipment for hospital staff treating COVID-19 patients.
(Production: Gerhard Mey, Ben Dangerfield)
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