I know worldwide many leaders have been caught hypocritically breaking their own pandemic rules or ignoring their own guidelines. I won't name names to keep this neutral, but I'm sure we can all remember some.

Have any of these people faced any official consequences for it the way a commoner might? I know average citizens who have been fined over breaking lockdown rules. Has this kind of thing happened to anyone influential?

  • 2
    Herman Cain died. I don't know if that counts. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Herman_Cain
    – ohwilleke
    Commented Apr 26, 2021 at 17:39
  • Gavin Newsom, the governor of California, faces a recall election after he was caught having dinner at a winery in the middle of severe Covid lockdown restrictions he imposed. Commented May 4, 2021 at 12:54
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    @ohwilleke he was against covid 19 restrictions, so that doesn’t count as hypocrisy.
    – Golden Cuy
    Commented Jun 27, 2021 at 6:30
  • @AndrewGrimm Never said it was hypocrisy, merely that consequences were faced as a result of breaking COVID-19 restrictions, "natural consequences" as they like to say in parenting classes.
    – ohwilleke
    Commented Jun 28, 2021 at 23:54
  • 2
    @ohwilleke the OP's question asked about politicians hypocritically breaking their own rules.
    – Golden Cuy
    Commented Jun 29, 2021 at 3:30

11 Answers 11


If resigning from a government post counts as a consequence, then there are a few UK examples:

In April 2020, Scotland's chief medical officer resigned after making two trips to her second home during the coronavirus lockdown.

In May 2020, Professor Neil Ferguson quit as a government adviser on coronavirus after admitting an "error of judgement", when "a woman he was said to be in a relationship with visited his home in lockdown".

Also: in September 2020, Margaret Ferrier, a Member of Parliament, travelled by train with COVID symptoms, and then again after a positive test. She was suspended from her party (the SNP), and later arrested and bailed.

(MPs can't be ordinarily be forced to resign; but they automatically lose their seat if sent to jail for more than one year, and can be subject to a recall petition if jailed for less than one year (source) or after a suspension from the Commons. Depending on the outcome of this case, that could still happen.)

UPDATE 1: In June 2021, Matt Hancock, the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, resigned "after he breached social distancing guidance by kissing a colleague".

UPDATE 2: In April 2022:

The prime minister, the chancellor and the PM's wife all received fixed penalty notices for attending a birthday gathering for the PM in No 10.

The party occurred in June 2020.

Meanwhile, In September 2022, the aforementioned Margaret Ferrier was ordered to carry out 270 hours of community service for the COVID rule breach mentioned above. She continues to sit as an independent MP. In June 2023, the House of Commons voted to suspend Ferrier from the House for thirty days, allowing a recall petition to begin in her constituency. This petition was ultimately successful, leading to her removal as an MP and the triggering of a by-election.


New Zealand's health minister didn't face legal repercussions, but he tendered his resignation after driving his family 20 km to a beach during the first weekend of the first lockdown in April. This wasn't accepted at the time due to the emergency, but was in July 2020.

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    You beat me to it! But New Zealand has a history of having a much more transparent and accountable government than many other countries. Commented Apr 24, 2021 at 7:48

Roman Prymula, famous, scientifically active and prominent Czech epidemiologist, somewhat active in politics as well.

During the COVID pandemic, he first served as a head of the Central Crisis Board and since 21 September 2020 as a Minister of Health, introducing rather strict anti-pandemic measures. One month later, he was photographed leaving a (clandestine, restaurants were closed as part of the anti-pandemic measures) restaurant without wearing a face mask (compulsory at that time). He refused to resign, claiming a working meeting in a private place, and was later fired by the prime minister.


Ferdinand Grapperhaus, the Dutch Minister for Justice and Security (Minister van Justitie en Veiligheid), was fined €390 for breaking social distancing rules on his wedding in August 2020 (NOS (public broadcaster, Dutch), NLTimes (English)).

A few days after the wedding on 22 August 2020, several media outlets published pictures of the celebrations suggesting that guests did not keep the required 1.5m distance from each other at all times. The minister recognised that rules had been broken, apologised and agreed to donate €780 – the nominal fine for him and his wife for breaking social distancing rules – to the Netherlands Red Cross (NOS (Dutch)). On 2 September, a censure motion (motie van afkeuring) against Grapperhaus did not find enough support in parliament and he did not resign even though he was heavily criticised. Two weeks later, the minister was fined €390 by the Public Prosecution Service (Openbaar Ministerie, a body for which the minister for Justice and Security is ultimately the responsible minister).

Following this incident the fine for breaking social distancing rules was reduced so that it would no longer appear on people's criminal records.

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    No so long after that our king and queen decided to go on holiday during the travel ban nos.nl/artikel/… - do not know if they got a fine, but the did cancel their trip early. Commented Apr 26, 2021 at 14:16
  • @SirDuckduck Oh, good point. Though if I understand correctly, the trip was not technically against the rules (if extremely unwise).
    – moewe
    Commented Apr 26, 2021 at 15:56

The Norwegian Prime Minister, according to the Guardian:

Norway’s prime minister, Erna Solberg, has been fined 20,000 kroner (£1,713) after breaking coronavirus social-distancing rules when organising a family gathering to celebrate her birthday.

A bit more details as to the circumstances, from the same article by The Guardian:

The two-term leader has apologised several times for organising the event for her 60th birthday with 13 relatives at a mountain resort in late February, despite a government ban on gatherings of more than 10 people.

Solberg said on Friday she would pay the fine, which was issued by police. “I’d like to say again that I’m sorry for breaking the coronavirus rules,” she told Norway’s TV2 News. “I will accept the fine, and pay it.”

While police would not have issued a fine in most such cases, they said the prime minister had been at the forefront of the government’s work to impose restrictions.

“Though the law is the same for all, all are not equal in front of the law,” the police chief, Ole Saeverud, told a news conference, justifying the fine. “It is therefore correct to issue a fine in order to uphold the general public’s trust in the rules on social restrictions.”

  • 1
    I've removed the examples about Canada because there were no references to back them up and it was only mentioned tangentially. Instead, I've added a quote from the linked article so the answer is more informative.
    – JJJ
    Commented Apr 26, 2021 at 17:43

Dan Eliasson, the head of the Swedish Civil Contingencies Agency, was forced to resign from that position after it was revealed that he went on a private Christmas vacation to the Canary Islands at the height of the second wave, despite official recommendations against such travel.

His agency was one of several responsible for handling the pandemic response, and among other things had recently sent text messages to all mobile phones in Sweden reminding people of the new stricter guidelines, which included recommendations to avoid unnecessary travel.


Canadian politicians have had roles taken from them (being a minister if they are a government member, or a critic if they are in the opposition) after traveling during lockdowns:

Many more have been caught in lesser transgressions (visiting their cottages or lake homes, hosting visitors for Mothers Day, etc) and not all those who travelled out of the country saw consequences. These three are one from each of the major Canada-wide political parties.


The Prime Minister of Thailand was fined for not wearing a mask under Bangkok's new mask mandate. According to the Washington Post:

Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha was fined 6,000 baht ($190) for not wearing a mask at an emergency government meeting on Monday, according to local officials in Bangkok.

“The prime minister agreed to pay the fine,” Bangkok Governor Aswin Kwanmuang wrote on Facebook on Monday, explaining that he had visited Prayuth with several senior police officers several hours after photographs of the Thai leader attending the event without a mask spread online.

Prayuth has not publicly commented, but a photograph that showed him as the lone maskless attendee at Monday’s government meeting has been deleted from his Facebook page.

According to The Nation Thailand via Facebook, he was the first person to be fined under the new rules in Thailand's capital.


On April 7th, 2020, Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams, the South African Minister of Communications and Digital Technologies, attended a lunch with a member of the African National Congress National Executive Committee; a photo of which was posted online.

As South Africa was at that time under a national stay-at-home lockdown, this caused significant controversy, leading to her being suspended from her ministerial duties for two months by President Ramaphosa, and subsequently being charged with and pleading guilty to a criminal offence:

Ndabeni-Abrahams was charged with contravention of regulation 11 B of the Disaster Management Act and was served with summons to appear in the Pretoria district court next month.

The National Prosecuting Authority's Phindi Mjonondwane said the admission of guilt fine was as per determination by the senior magistrate for the magisterial district of Tshwane where the amount of R1,000 has been set for the offence of failure to confine oneself to his or her place of residence.

Mjonondwane confirmed that the minister now has a criminal record.

Sunday Times, April 22nd 2020


Here in the United States, politicians and party leadership - particularly among Republicans - routinely disregarded COVID protocols. While there's been very little political cost for it, as is said in energy/climate policy circles: "Nature doesn't negotiate."

Dozens of people contracted COVID-19 as a result.

At least one required doctors to employ experimental drugs to treat.

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    The question asks about "official consequences", i.e. political cost.
    – thelem
    Commented Apr 24, 2021 at 11:13
  • @BalinKingOfMoriaReinstateCMs The Republican Party has historically often presented itself as the party of "law and order". If they respect this only for laws they agree with, they're hypocritical in the sense that they're just like squatters who make a point of breaking the law to occupy homes because they think the law should protect prioritise the need for housing over the respect of private unused property. Those Republican lawmakers probably do not agree politically with those squatters, so there is indeed hypocrisy here.
    – gerrit
    Commented Apr 26, 2021 at 13:01

Andy Grote, Senator of Interior of the Free and Hanseatic City of Hamburg, was fined 1000€ for having a private party amidst the COVID-19 contact restrictions. When he later posted a tweet criticizing people breaking contact restrictions and asking citizens to follow the COVID-19 restrictions rigorously, various people pointed out his hypocrisy. Among them one person who called him "a dick" ("Andy, du bist so 1 Pimmel") leading up to a scandal that became known as "Pimmelgate".

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