London: Embattled UK Cabinet minister Matt Hancock on Saturday resigned as Health Secretary, amid mounting calls for him to step down over his admitted breach of COVID-19 lockdown rules with a kiss involving a close female aide.
Former UK Chancellor Sajid Javid, Pakistani-origin Conservative Party MP, is set to replace him as Health Secretary, Downing Street said.
In a letter to the UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Hancock said the government “owe it to people who have sacrificed so much in this pandemic to be honest when we have let them down” and reiterated his previous apology for breaking the government guidance on social distancing from people outside a close household bubble.
In a video posted on Twitter, Hancock said: “I have been to see the Prime Minister to resign as secretary of state for health and social care.
I understand the enormous sacrifices that everybody in this country has made, that you have made, and those of us who make these rules have got to stick by them and that’s why I have got to resign.”
It comes after leaked CCTV images showed the 42-year-old married Conservative Party MP kissing Gina Coladangelo, 43, in his Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) office. Coladangelo is an old friend and colleague of Hancock.
The images, published by The Sun’ newspaper on Friday, dated from May 6 before the social distancing rules were eased around close contact indoors for people from separate households on May 17.
In his letter of resignation, Hancock said: “The last thing I would want is for my private life to distract attention from the single-minded focus that is leading us out of this crisis.
“I want to reiterate my apology for breaking the guidance, and apologise to my family and loved ones for putting them through this. I also need (to) be with my children at this time.”
It follows mounting pressure on him from the Opposition as well as within his own Tory party to resign for undermining public trust in the COVID lockdown guidance.
The minister, so far in charge of the country’s health response to the pandemic, praised the National Health Service (NHS) for the ceaseless work in fighting the deadly virus.
“We didn’t get every decision right but I know people understand how hard it is to deal with the unknown, making the difficult trade-offs between freedom, prosperity and health that we have faced, he said.
“I am so proud that Britain avoided the catastrophe of an overwhelmed NHS and that through foresight and brilliant science we have led the world in the vaccination effort, so we stand on the brink of a return to normality,” he added.
It came as campaign group “COVID-19 Bereaved Families for Justice” described Boris Johnson’s backing of Hancock by accepting his apology and declaring the “matter closed” on Friday as a “slap in the face” for families who had lost loved ones to the virus.
Hancock is married to osteopath wife Martha for 15 years and they have three children together. The pictures in The Sun’ appeared to show evidence of an extra-marital affair with married Gina Coladangelo, who is listed on the DHSC website as a non-executive director. The pair are said to have been close since their student days at Oxford University.
Hancock was appointed health secretary by former British Prime Minister Theresa May in 2018 and has held the post for nearly three years.- PTI
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