Dominic Cummings says he does not "regret" his actions during lockdown – as he admitted for the first time making a third trip while Britons were being told to "stay at home".
In an unprecedented news conference outside Downing Street, the prime minister's special adviser confirmed he, his wife and young child travelled from London to Durham.
After staying at his parents' farm, 15 days after developing COVID-19 symptoms, the three of them went for a "test drive" to Barnard Castle – 30 minutes away – to check he was well enough to drive home.
"My wife was very worried, particularly as my eyesight seemed to have been affected by the disease," he recalled.
"She did not want to risk a nearly 300-mile drive with our child given how ill I had been."
He said a passer-by spotted them but none of the family went near them and he followed social distancing measures.
Mr Cummings added he was in "exceptional circumstances" for having to seek childcare arrangements in case he and his wife were incapacitated, so they decamped 260 miles from London to Durham at the end of March.
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"I don't regret what I did," he insisted, speaking from the rose garden outside the back of Number 10. "I was trying to balance all of these very complicated things."
Mr Cummings claimed he "wasn't looking for loopholes" in the rules to justify his multiple trips, adding: "It's not a simple matter of regulations… It doesn't say you should stay at home in all circumstances."
He confirmed he did not seek the prime minister's permission in advance because Mr Johnson "had a million things on his plate" but they discussed it "in the week after it happened".
"I can't go to him all day asking what do you think about this… maybe I should have done," he told Sky News' political editor Beth Rigby.