Matt Hancock apologises for breaking COVID rules over photo of him kissing close aide

·Senior news reporter, Yahoo News UK
·3 min read
Gina Coladangelo and Matt Hancock pictured on 16 May. (PA)
Gina Coladangelo and Matt Hancock pictured on 16 May. (PA)

Matt Hancock has apologised for breaking coronavirus rules after pictures emerged of him kissing a close aide.

The health secretary admitted he breached social distancing rules following The Sun's overnight story showing photographs of him kissing Gina Coladangelo, a close friend who is a taxpayer-funded adviser to his department.

The security camera pictures were reportedly taken on 6 May, when indoor meetings with people from a different household were not allowed.

He said: "I accept that I breached the social distancing guidance in these circumstances.

"I have let people down and am very sorry."

Watch: Matt Hancock accused of affair with adviser to his department

Labour said Hancock's position has become “hopelessly untenable” and called on Boris Johnson to sack him.

However, Downing Street said the prime minister has "accepted" Hancock's apology "and considers the matter closed". Asked if the PM has “full confidence” in him, a spokesman replied: “Yes.”

In his statement, Hancock had suggested he would resist calls to resign as he said: "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.”

Hancock, 42, has been married for 15 years to wife Martha, and the pair have three children. Coladangelo, 43, is also married with three children.

Coladangelo was given her role as non-executive director at the Department of Health last September, with a salary believed to be at least £15,000 a year and having scrutiny over its running.

Labour had earlier said the government needs to answer whether Hancock had broken any rules or there had been “conflicts of interest” in the appointment of his closest adviser. Downing Street insisted "the appointment followed all the correct procedures.”

However, Hancock's admission of breaking social distancing rules could be more damaging to his authority as health secretary.

Labour chair Anneliese Dodds tweeted following Hancock’s apology: “He set the rules. He admits he broke them. He has to go. If he won’t resign, the PM should sack him.”

Matt Hancock (centre, sitting) with adviser Gina Coladangelo (left) at the launch of Pfizer's Vaccine Centre of Excellence at the University of Bristol on 25 May. (PA)
Matt Hancock (centre, sitting) with adviser Gina Coladangelo (left) at the launch of Pfizer's Vaccine Centre of Excellence at the University of Bristol on 25 May. (PA)

In May last year, after the Daily Telegraph reported Prof Neil Ferguson broke lockdown rules to allow his “married lover” into his London home “on at least two occasions”, Hancock had said he was left speechless by the rule breach.

Prof Ferguson, whose coronavirus modelling convinced Johnson to impose the first national lockdown, subsequently quit his government advisory role, with Hancock saying it was “just not possible” for him to continue.

“I think that he took the right decision to resign," he added.

Hancock's apology on Friday came after he cancelled a scheduled visit to a vaccination centre in his West Suffolk constituency.

LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM - JUNE 24, 2021: British Prime Minister Boris Johnson welcomes Prime Minister of Libya Abdul Hamid Dbeibah (not pictured) on the steps of 10 Downing Street ahead of their meeting on June 24, 2021 in London, England. (Photo credit should read Wiktor Szymanowicz/Barcroft Media via Getty Images)
Labour has called on Boris Johnson, pictured in Downing Street on Thursday, to sack Matt Hancock. (Getty Images)

The Sun story has capped off a miserable few weeks for Hancock, whose ability as health secretary has been the subject of repeated and brutal attacks by Dominic Cummings, Johnson's former chief adviser.

Cummings also leaked text messages, apparently from Johnson himself, in which the PM called Hancock “totally f***ing hopeless”.

Even the Queen has been talking about Hancock. On Wednesday, in her first in-person audience with Johnson since the pandemic began, she told the PM: “I’ve just been talking to your secretary of state for health – poor man."

Read more:

Boris Johnson stands by Matt Hancock as he 'accepts apology' after office kiss with aide

Hancock urged people to be careful and only hug outside days after aide embrace

England’s chief medical officer Prof Chris Whitty, meanwhile, declined to comment on Hancock’s actions on Friday.

Asked outside the Department of Health – the building where the kiss is said to have taken place – if he had anything to say about the apology, Prof Whitty replied: “Nothing.”

Watch: ‘We’re all human' – Shapps on Hancock

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