Following reports that Dominic Cummings travelled from London to Durham while sick with the coronavirus, Downing Street has come to the defence of the prime minister’s chief aide, stating that the trip was “essential” so that Cummings could ensure his child could be looked after.
A No 10 spokesperson said that “it was essential for Dominic Cummings to ensure his young child could be properly cared for”, due to “his wife being infected with suspected coronavirus and the high likelihood that he would himself become unwell”.
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The government stressed that Mr Cummings’ actions “were in line with coronavirus guidelines”. However, some have questioned whether the long journey was warranted amid lockdown for Mr Cummings to ensure he had childcare support.
What are the NHS guidelines on self-isolation?
However, if a parent or guardian shows coronavirus symptoms and is unable to adequately take care of the children in their household, self-isolating for seven to 14 days may not seem like a feasible course of action.
At the government’s daily press conference on 24 March, England’s deputy chief medical officer Dr Jenny Harries spoke of the “exceptional circumstance” of an unwell adult unable to care for a young child.
“A small child clearly is a vulnerable individual, so in this case, although we are encouraging everybody to stay in their own households – that’s the unit with the same risk of exposure – clearly if you have adults who are unable to look after a small child, that is an exceptional circumstance,” Dr Harries said.
“I also need to remind parents that, as we have already advised, children should not be left with older grandparents, or older relatives, who may be particularly vulnerable or fall into some vulnerable groups and I know that will be difficult too,” Mr Johnson said.
Can you ask another adult to help provide support?
If you felt it were necessary for another adult to help with childcare in your home while you are unwell, then they would need to remain in the household for two weeks in accordance with self-isolation guidelines.
“Where parents or someone with parental responsibility do not live in the same household, children under 18 can be moved between their parents’ home to continue existing arrangements for access and contact,” it says.
“Ideally, you need to find a person you can ask to come to you and isolate with you for two weeks. This would pose the least risk to the relative and would contain the virus within the same household,” Dr Harker says.
Where else can you seek help?
“If the individuals do not have access to care support, formal care support or to family, they will be able to work through their local authority hubs,” the deputy chief medical officer for England said.
The government’s document states that your employer has “a duty to assess and manage risks to your safety in the workplace”.
This implies that in the case of a parent showing coronavirus symptoms, it would be their duty as the employer to determine the risk of allowing a worker to enter their home to help look after their children.