Already under pressure over his handling of the pandemic and possible cronyism in awarding government contracts, Britain's health secretary has apologized after cameras apparently caught him embracing an aide. "I accept that I breached the social distancing guidance in these circumstances," Matt Hancock said in a statement Friday. "I have let people down and am very sorry." The Sun published the photos, which it said were taken last month and show him kissing Gina Coladangelo, CNN reports. The tabloid said the photos were taken in May, before England's rules allowed physical contact between members of different households. They were taken by a security camera, per NBC. The Sun reports Hancock and Coladangelo, whom it described as his friend and adviser, are having an extramarital affair, which renews the cronyism suspicions.
Earlier in the pandemic, Hancock granted a contract for coronavirus test kits to a former neighbor. A judge ruled that Hancock was lax in not publishing timely information about pandemic contracts being awarded, per the BBC. A spokesperson for the opposition Labor Party called Hancock's position as health minister "hopelessly untenable" and said he should quit or be fired. "Ministers, like everyone, are entitled to a private life," the spokesperson said. "However, when taxpayers' money is involved or jobs are being offered to close friends who are in a personal relationship with a minister, then that needs to be looked into." Britain has Europe's highest COVID-19 death toll, more than 128,000. (Read more Britain stories.)