Following the events of this weekend I have written to Mr Sharma both as a resident in Reading West and as a Whitley councillor:
Dear Mr Sharma,
Like many other residents in Reading West I have followed this bank holiday weekend’s events with increasing anger.
During the COVID-19 crisis, people across Reading West, including my constituents in Whitley have made enormous sacrifices, often not seeing their loved ones, their parents, their grandparents and grandchildren, often in distressing circumstances and undergoing exceptional hardship. As they were asked to do by you and your cabinet colleagues, they have been following the government guidance to protect the elderly and vulnerable, NHS staff and keyworkers.
This includes the guidance that when you show symptoms of Covid-19 – do not leave your house for any reason.
As a member of the cabinet who has led some of the daily briefings, I am sure that you understand the vital importance of consistent messaging to save lives.
With the revelation that the Prime Minister’s senior advisor Dominic Cummings left his home, while experiencing symptoms of COVID-19, to drive 260 miles from London to Durham and that he also took a trip to a town 25 miles from Durham public confidence in the government’s messages on COvid-19 has been severely damaged.
On 23rd May, you tweeted in defence of Mr Cummings saying “the guidance was followed”. You have since repeated this today (25th May) following the press conference called by Mr Cummings.
Boris Johnson defended Cumming’s behaviour in his press conference on Sunday 24th May saying that he followed his instincts
Could you therefore please answer the following questions:
1. What briefings did you receive that led you to tweet “The guidance was followed” on Saturday 23rd May despite the admission that Mr Cummings left his house while experiencing symptoms?
2. What was said at the press conference today on 25th May which lead you to believe that Mr Cummings “Complied with the guidance”?
3. Should residents of Reading West now ignore the government guidance on COVD-19 and simply follow their instincts?
Many of us in Reading West are in difficult situations. To take just one example a constituent of mine in Whitley is currently self-isolating and has young children, including one with a disability, and is reliant on food parcels being delivered to her door. She has family elsewhere in the country who could help if she travelled to them and became ill.
1. Can you confirm what the government guidance for my constituent is?
2. Is your advice that they should travel hundreds of miles to stay near a family member? If not, why not?
3. Will you reiterate and clarify the current government guidance publicly?
Cllr Rachel Eden, Councillor for Whitley ward and constituent