The Health Secretary resigns after a newspaper published a photo of him kissing a colleague last month.
Britain’s Health Minister Matt Hancock has resigned, a day after being called for breaching social distancing rules by kissing an assistant.
The 42-year-old handed over his resignation to Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Saturday after tabloid The Sun published photos of the married minister embracing a woman he had nominated for a taxpayer-funded role to examine the performance of his department.
Photographs that infuriated the public and politicians were taken May 6-11 before facilitating blocking rules to allow hugs and other physical contact with people outside the home.
Hancock has been at the center of the government’s fight against the coronavirus pandemic, appearing regularly on television and radio to tell people to follow strict rules to contain the virus.
His departure means Johnson will have to appoint a new minister to take over the huge department in charge of overseeing the health service and dealing with COVID-19 at a time when cases have begun to rise again.
Johnson had said Friday that he had accepted an apology from Hancock and considered the matter closed, but the latter had faced growing pressure to step down.
“We owe it to the people who have sacrificed so much in this pandemic to be honest when we have let them down as I have done in violation of the guidelines,” Hancock said in his reign letter.
Johnson replied that he was sorry to receive it.
“You should be very proud of your service,” he wrote. “I am grateful for your support and I believe your contribution to public service is far from over.”
– Matt Hancock (@MattHancock) June 26, 2021
The main opposition Labor Party also questioned whether it had breached the ministerial code: the woman, a lifelong friend of Hancock’s, was appointed non-executive director, with a taxpayer-funded salary, to oversee the functioning of her ministry. .
Labor leader Keir Starmer said on Twitter that Hancock was right to resign. “But Boris Johnson should have fired him,” he added.
With 128,000 deaths, Britain has one of the highest official death rates for COVID-19 in the world and Hancock, who held the post for nearly three years, had been heavily criticized for its initial treatment of the pandemic.
However, the Johnson Conservative government has been driven by a rapid implementation of the vaccine program, with 84% of adults with one dose and 61% both, well ahead of most other countries.