Matt Hancock has admitted to breaking social distancing rules after pictures emerged last night of him kissing his closest aide Gina Coladangelo.
The health secretary said he was “very sorry” and that he had “let people down”, as both Labour and the Liberal Democrats urged the Prime Minister to sack him.
But Hancock resisted calls for him to resign, and said he would “remain focused” on the pandemic.
“I accept that I breached the social distancing guidance in these circumstances. I have let people down and am very sorry,” the health secretary said in a statement.
“I remain focused on working to get the country out of this pandemic, and would be grateful for privacy for my family on this personal matter,” he added.
Speaking to journalists at a Westminster briefing this afternoon, the prime minister’s official spokesperson said that Boris Johnson has accepted Hancock’s apology and has full confidence him.
“The prime minister has accepted the health secretary’s apology and considers the matter closed,” the spokesman said.
Pressed on whether the PM had full confidence in Hancock, the spokesman said “Yes”.
Hancock cancelled a visit to a Covid vaccination centre in his West Suffolk constituency at Newmarket Racecourse on Friday, after the pictures emerged.
A spokesperson for the Labour party said “his position is hopelessly untenable”.
“If Matt Hancock has been secretly having a relationship with an adviser in his office – who he personally appointed to a taxpayer-funded role – it is a blatant abuse of power and a conflict of interest,” continued the spokesperson.
Both Hancock and Coladangelo are married with three children.
Coladangelo, who Hancock met at university, was appointed as an unpaid adviser last March. She was made a non-executive director in September.
The prime minister’s spokesman told reporters this afternoon that Coladangelo’s appointment to the Department of Health and Social Care followed the “correct procedures”, according to Downing Street.
Coladangelo is also the communications director at high-end homeware store Oliver Bonas, which was founded by her husband, Oliver Tress.
The Sun said that the images, which show the two in Hancock’s office in Westminster, were taken on 6 May, in the midst of the local elections.