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Hind Al Soulia - Riyadh - LONDON — Britain's beleaguered Health Secretary Matt Hancock has apologized for breaching COVID-19 regulations after being pictured in an embrace with his adviser, with whom British tabloid The Sun alleges he is having an extramarital affair.
Hancock is under fire after The Sun published a story with photographs that appear to show him kissing Gina Coladangelo, whom the tabloid claims is his friend and adviser. The Sun alleges that the images are from May 6, two weeks before cross-household contact was allowed indoors in England.
The health secretary issued a statement to reporters on Friday in which he appealed for privacy. "I accept that I breached the social distancing guidance in these circumstances. I have let people down and am very sorry," he said.
"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."
The Sun's report has sparked accusations of apparent cronyism — an allegation that the health secretary has faced previously for awarding a contract to a former neighbor for COVID-19 test kits.
Hancock has been under pressure for months over his handling of the coronavirus pandemic in Britain but has managed to cling onto his role.
He has been accused by Prime Minister Boris Johnson's former chief adviser Dominic Cummings of botching the country's coronavirus testing program, as well as lying about the dire situation in care homes and the shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE). Hancock has denied the claims.
To date, more than 128,000 people have died in the United Kingdom from COVID-19 — the highest death toll in Europe. One of the biggest early failures of the UK's response to COVID-19 was in building a test-and-trace system. The British government has also been criticized for neglecting care homes, allowing many facilities to go without sufficient PPE, testing, and clear guidelines.
Cummings delivered a damning account of the government's coronavirus response in a marathon seven-hour hearing before members of parliament in Westminster last month, accusing Downing Street and Hancock of misleading the British public.
The divisive figure, who quit his post last November amid the UK's deadly second wave of the pandemic, doubled down on his criticisms of Hancock last week.
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