U.K. Health Minister Resigns After Breaching Coronavirus Rules

LONDON (AP) -
Former U.K. Health Secretary Matt Hancock speaks during a coronavirus media briefing from Downing Street in London. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham, File)

U.K. Health Secretary Matt Hancock, who has led the country’s response to the coronavirus, resigned Saturday, a day after apologizing for breaching social distancing rules.

In a resignation letter to Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Hancock said the government owed it “to people who have sacrificed so much in this pandemic to be honest when we have let them down.”

“And those of us who make these rules have got to stick by them and that’s why I’ve got to resign,” he wrote.

Sajid Javid, who was the U.K. Treasury chief earlier in Johnson’s government before resigning in February 2020, will replace Hancock as health secretary. Javid was also home secretary in then-Prime Minister Theresa May’s government.

Johnson said he was sorry to receive Hancock’s resignation and that he “should leave office very proud of what you have achieved — not just in tackling the pandemic, but even before COVID-19 struck us.”

Johnson had earlier expressed confidence in Hancock despite widespread calls to fire him.

Hancock, 42, is the latest in a string of British officials to be accused of breaching restrictions they imposed on the rest of the population to curb the spread of the coronavirus.

Hancock has faced weeks of pressure since the Prime Minister’s former top aide, Dominic Cummings, accused him of botching the government’s response to the pandemic.

Cummings himself was accused of breaking the rules and undermining the government’s “stay home” message when he drove 250 miles across England to his parents’ home during the spring 2020 lockdown. Johnson resisted pressure to fire him, but Cummings left his job in November amid a power struggle in the Prime Minister’s office.