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LONDON – UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock resigned Saturday after admitting breaking social distancing rules following pictures of him kissing a helper.
In a letter to Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Hancock said the government “owes it to people who sacrificed so much in this pandemic, to be honest, if we failed them”.
Hancock was under heavy pressure to resign from some members of his own Conservative Party and opposition leaders after security camera pictures of him kissing Gina Coladangelo, a non-executive director of the Department of Health, were published in the Sun newspaper. The pictures allegedly date from May 6, when indoor gatherings of two or more people were prohibited.
The COVID-19 Bereaved Families for Justice group had also asked him to leave his post.
“I went to the Prime Minister to step down as Secretary of State for Health and Social Affairs,” Hancock said in a nutshell Video statement posted on twitter.
“Those of us who made these rules have to abide by them and that’s why I have to resign.”
Former Chancellor of the Exchequer Sajid Javid will replace Hancock, Downing Street said in a statement. Javid, who is also a former home and economics secretary, stepped down as chancellor after Johnson asked him last February to dismiss all of his advisors.
Johnson, who publicly supported Hancock on Friday, said he was “sorry” for resigning. In response to Hanock’s resignation letter, Johnson said he should leave his post “very proud of what you have accomplished – not just in fighting the pandemic, but before COVID-19 hit us.”
He also hinted that Hancock might return to high office at some point in the future. “I am grateful for your support and I believe your contribution to the civil service is far from over,” wrote Johnson.
Worker leader Keir Starmer tweeted: “Matt Hancock is right to step down. But Boris Johnson should have fired him.”
Hancock, one of the UK government’s most prominent members in the fight against the coronavirus crisis, had convicted other public figures of violating rules to combat the pandemic.
This article has been updated.