London (CNN)Boris Johnson has refused to sack Dominic Cummings, standing by his embattled chief aide despite a growing scandal in the UK over his reported decision to break lockdown restrictions multiple times.
Boris Johnson refuses to sack his chief adviser, as a growing scandal threatens to wreck Britain's lockdown
The Prime Minister said that Cummings had "no alternative" but to drive 260 miles across England to stay with his parents while his wife was sick with Covid-19 symptoms, insisting he acted "responsibly, legally and with integrity."
"I think he followed the instincts of every father and every parent, and I do not mark him down for that," Johnson added at the government's daily coronavirus briefing on Sunday.
Cummings' movements during lockdown have sparked a scandal in Britain, quickly becoming a defining moment in the country's much-scrutinized response to the coronavirus pandemic and threatening to undermine the restrictions Johnson has spent eight weeks pleading with Britons to follow.
But Johnson resisted growing political pressure to sack Cummings, batting back accusations from across the political spectrum that he has allowed his aides to disobey the rules.
He sidestepped reports that Cummings subsequently returned to the north of England on multiple other occasions, saying only that he has "looked at them carefully" and was "content that (Cummings) behaved responsibly" and with the intention of stopping the spread of the virus.
Johnson left many questions unanswered -- including whether Cummings visited a town 30 miles away from his parents' home, as witnesses have said he did, and whether he knew that Cummings was leaving London.
Ministers have spent much of the weekend loyally defending Cummings, the enigmatic aide often portrayed as the mastermind behind Johnson's premiership, after reports of the first journey emerged.
But Cummings' position became more perilous still on Sunday, after fresh claims emerged that he had in fact broken the UK's coronavirus lockdown on multiple occasions throughout April.
Johnson's refusal to let Cummings go ensures the controversy will continue to overshadow the country's coronavirus response in the coming days.
Johnson's response will do little to appease critics, who have been asking why Cummings needed to drive across England to find childcare despite being healthy and free of Covid-19 symptoms.
"Boris Johnson just insulted every person in this country who has made sacrifices to follow the rules he implemented to save lives in this pandemic," the Labour Party's shadow justice minister David Lammy said during Johnson's briefing.
The Prime Minister said he has had "extensive" conversations with Cummings on Sunday, insisting that "Mr Cummings did isolate for 14 days or more," even if it was not at his London home.
The uproar over Cummings' behavior began on Friday evening when two newspapers, The Guardian and the Daily Mirror, revealed he had traveled from London to Durham to stay at his parents' property at the end of March while his wife had coronavirus symptoms.
The journey appeared a clear breach of the UK's lockdown, with Cummings' boss Johnson repeatedly urging the public to "stay at home" and "save lives," and has dominated front pages in the country throughout the weekend.