Dominic Cummings has sought to defend his decision to drive to County Durham despite the coronavirus lockdown restrictions, saying he believes he behaved "reasonably" and does not regret his actions.
In a highly unusual press conference in the rose garden of 10 Downing Street, the Prime Minister's chief adviser said he made the journey because of fears over a lack of childcare if he became incapacitated with Covid-19, but also concerns about his family's safety.
Mr Cummings said stories suggested he had opposed lockdown and "did not care about many deaths", but he told reporters: "The truth is that I had argued for lockdown.
"I did not oppose it, but these stories had created a very bad atmosphere around my home, I was subjected to threats of violence, people came to my house shouting threats, there were posts on social media encouraging attacks."
Mr Cummings said he was worried that "this situation would get worse", and "I was worried about the possibility of leaving my wife and child at home all day and often into the night while I worked in Number 10".
"I thought the best thing to do in all the circumstances was to drive to an isolated cottage on my father's farm," he added.
The defence of his actions comes amid furious calls for him to resign or be sacked by Mr Johnson for travelling to County Durham in March to self-isolate with his family after his wife developed coronavirus symptoms.
Mr Cummings denied further reports which suggested he took a second trip to the North East on April 14.
Answering questions in Downing Street's garden, Dominic Cummings said: "I don't regret what I did. I think reasonable people may well disagree about how I thought about what to do in the circumstances, but I think what I did was actually reasonable in these circumstances.
"The rules made clear that if you are dealing with small children that can be exceptional circumstances.
"And I think that the situation that I was in was exceptional circumstances and the way that I dealt with it was the least risk to everybody concerned if my wife and I had both been unable to look after our four-year-old."
Mr Cummings said that he drove up to Durham with his wife and son and did not stop on the way.
He said the next day he woke up in pain and "clearly had Covid symptoms".
He added: "So I drove the three of us up to Durham that night, arriving roughly midnight. I did not stop on the way.
"When I awoke the next morning, Saturday March 28, I was in pain and clearly had Covid symptoms including a headache and a serious fever.
"Clearly I could not return to work anytime soon. For a day or two we were both ill, I was in bed, my wife was ill but not ill enough to require emergency help."
Dominic Cummings said he could see why people basing their opinions on media reports of his actions could be furious.
"If you are someone sitting at home watching the media over the last three days then I think lots of people would be very angry and I completely understand that," he said.
But he said he hoped his explanation would allow them to see he was in a "very complicated, tricky situation".
Mr Cummings said that on April 2 his son fell unwell and was taken to hospital but he was still too ill to go with him.
He added: "During the night of Thursday April 2 my child woke up, he threw up and had a bad fever. He was very distressed.
"We took medical advice which was to call 999, an ambulance was sent, they assessed my child and said he should go to hospital.
"I could barely stand up, my wife went with him in the ambulance, I stayed at home, he stayed the night in hospital."
He said that in the morning his wife called to say their son had recovered and could return home.
He said as he was recovering he went for a walk in the woods next to the cottage they were staying at which was private land and while they saw some people they had no interaction with anyone.
Mr Cummings said that by April 11 he was still feeling "weak and exhausted" but had no Covid symptoms so thought he would be able to return to work the following week - possibly part-time.
He added: "It was obvious that the situation was extremely serious, the Prime Minister had been gravely ill, colleagues were dealing with huge problems and many were ill or isolating.
"I felt that I should be able to return to work if possible given I was now recovering in order to relieve the intense strain at Number 10."
Asked about the nature of any contact with his parents, Mr Cummings said he had had "shouted conversations" with them from a distance.
He said: "I was in a cottage, 50 metres or so away from everybody else. Obviously we kept very, very far away from them. There are various reports that I visited them, I was staying with them. That's all completely untrue.
"My parents are in their 70s. Obviously I did not want to give them this disease. And so we stayed very far away.
"We did have some conversations but they were on a farm and they were shouted conversations at a distance. They weren't some of the things that have been reported."
Mr Cummings also said:
- He has not considered resigning, and did not offer to do so.
- He did not ask the Prime Minister about his decision and admitted that "arguably this was a mistake".
- The Prime Minister had asked him to publicly give his account and he acknowledged he should have spoken earlier.
Labour deputy leader Angela Rayner said the press conference was "painful to watch".
"He clearly broke the rules, the Prime Minister has failed to act in the National interest. He should have never allowed this situation with a member of his staff," she added.