19:36 GMT25 July 2021
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    UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock admitted to breaking COVID-19-prompted social distancing guidance after pictures of the married father-of-three showing him kissing his aide Gina Coladangelo were published in a newspaper.

    Married Matt Hancock has been caught on camera appearing to be locked in a steamy embrace and smooching his aide Gina Coladangelo. The footage, released by The Sun, is claimed to be from the Department of Health’s London HQ during office hours last month.

    Images seem to show the UK Health Secretary peeking out the door, to check that no one is heading for his office, after which he moves to kiss Coladangelo, a friend of his dating back to when they worked on a student radio station at Oxford University.

    ​Netizens had a field-day with the footage, reveling in a meme-fest.

    ​Others, however, seriously took offence, slamming the minister for his “sleazy affair” on taxpayer time.

    ​But a majority on social media believed the scene seemed “staged”.

    ​Gina Coladangelo, married to husband Oliver Tress, founder of high-end homeware store Oliver Bonas, was appointed non-executive director of the Department of Health last September.

    The minute-long CCTV video of the COVID-19-defying close encounter, as well as a photograph of the Health Secretary and his purported mistress tucking into a meal at a west London restaurant on 23 May, were released by The Sun.

    “Our group were the last big table left. As another table got up I saw Matt Hancock with a woman I assumed was his wife. They were pretty flirty and over-friendly — a bit too close for it to be a business meeting. I thought he was just winding down after a long week. But I had no idea it wasn’t his wife,” a diner was quoted by The Sun as saying.

    Earlier, the outlet had posted a photo of the encounter, dated 6 May, triggering a social media feeding frenzy.

    The publication cited a Whitehall source as saying that it was “shocking that Mr. Hancock was having an affair in the middle of a pandemic with an adviser and friend he used public money to hire”.

    The husband of 15 years and father of three children who had been relentless in telling his fellow countrymen to keep socially distanced from each other amid the pandemic was immediately branded a “hypocrite”.

    On 16 May, when indoor hugging still banned as part of the guidance, Hancock had warned:

    “We should all be careful. We all know the risks. Of course there are people who have been yearning to have some physical contact. You should do that carefully. If you’ve had both jabs more than two weeks ago, that’s much safer.”

    Sky News quoted him as saying he hoped to hug his father after some restrictions were lifted on 17 May, adding: “We’ll probably do it outside and keep the ventilation going.”

    A friend of the Health Secretary was quoted by The Sun as saying: “He has no comment on personal matters. No rules have been broken.”

    © REUTERS / Steve Reigate
    Britain's Health Secretary Matt Hancock meets with NHS staff during a visit to Chelsea and Westminster hospital in London, Britain June 17, 2021.

    Hancock, who has been mercilessly mocked on social media since the adultery scandal broke, apologised for “breaching social distance guidance in these circumstances”.

    “I have let people down and am very sorry," Hancock said in a statement on Friday, adding that he would be grateful for “privacy for my family on this personal matter".

    Labour's Emily Thornberry, the shadow international trade secretary, denounced Hancock's actions as displaying "an arrogance that they believe they're above the law". Liberal Democrats also urged the Health Secretary to resign.

    However, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he continues to have “full confidence” in Matt Hancock, after accepting his apology, and considered the matter “closed”.

    The revelations in The Sun come after former No 10 adviser Dominic Cummings dropped a barrage of accusations targeting Hancock, claiming that Boris Johnson branded the minister “hopeless” during the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic last year.

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    COVID-19, coronavirus, Boris Johnson, Matt Hancock
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