British Prime Minister Boris Johnson (file photo). Photograph:( Reuters )
The Sun newspaper, which published the photographs of Matt Hancock and the aide on its front page, said the images were taken last month, before the government lifted rules banning intimate contact with people outside a person's household
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson rejected calls on Friday to fire his health secretary, after pictures appeared of him embracing and kissing an aide in his office, in what he acknowledged was a breach of coronavirus rules.
The Sun newspaper, which published the photographs of Matt Hancock and the aide on its front page, said the images were taken last month, before the government lifted rules banning intimate contact with people outside a person's household.
The aide had been a friend of Hancock's before she was appointed to his staff. Hancock is married.
"I accept that I breached the social distancing guidance in these circumstances," Hancock said. "I have let people down and am very sorry. 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."
Hancock, 42, has been at the centre of the government's fight against the pandemic, often appearing on television to tell the public to follow strict rules and to defend his department against criticism of its response to the crisis.
A spokesperson for Johnson said the prime minister had accepted Hancock's apology, had full confidence in him, and 'considers the matter closed'.
The opposition Labour Party called on Johnson to fire Hancock and demanded an investigation into whether he breached the code governing the behaviour of ministers.
"This matter is definitely not closed, despite the government's attempts to cover it up," a Labour spokesperson said. "Matt Hancock appears to have been caught breaking the laws he created, while having a secret relationship with an aide he appointed to a taxpayer-funded job."
(With inputs from agencies)