5 most shocking revelations from the Matt Hancock WhatsApps

The biggest bombshells from the Telegraph's leaks

Marr Hancock speaking at a Covid press conference

The Telegraph today published a series of bombshell revelations about Matt Hancock’s time as health secretary. Sourced from over 100,000 WhatsApp messages, the explosive leak confirms a catalogue of failures of his handling of the Covid-19 pandemic.

There are many revelations that have come out today. Here are the five most shocking.

1. Matt Hancock ignored advice to test all residents entering English care homes

The Telegraph’s front page splash leads with one of the most shocking revelations from the leak. According to the paper, Hancock rejected the advice of chief medical officer Chris Whitty at the start of the pandemic that all people going into care homes should be tested.

At the time, the government only required those being moved from hospital into care homes to be tested. That changed on 14 August 2020 when the government began issuing guidance that everyone being moved to care homes should be tested for Covid-19. Between 17 April and 13 August 2020, over 17,000 people died of Covid-19 in England’s care homes.

2. Care homes were using staff who were Covid-positive

In a series of messages published in today’s Telegraph, social care minister Helen Whately discusses the crisis of Covid transmission in care homes. In addition to the failure to test residents entering care homes from the community for five months, in January 2021 Whately messaged Hancock to say that there were 40 care homes which had been using staff who had tested positive for Covid-19.

3. Figures on the government’s testing targets were misleading

In the spring of 2020, the government had set a target of delivering 100,000 tests a day by the end of April. At the time, there was a shortage of testing supplies and a lack of capacity in laboratories to process tests.

There was intense scepticism at the time about the government’s ability to deliver against this target. In truth, the target wasn’t actually measuring the number of tests being conducted and processed, but rather the number of tests that were dispatched, regardless of whether they were processed.

In an exchange between Hancock and health minister Lord Bethell, it appears that the government was sending out testing kits in order to meet the target, despite knowing that many of them would not be returned. Following a message from Bethell that acknowledged the issues of laboratory capacity, Hancock replied: “If only 20% [of tests] are being returned then we can send many many many more out”. Bethell went on to say: “That’s true. Since they count from the moment they’re sent.”

4. Jacob Rees Mogg had a covid test couriered to his home during a national shortage

Issues with testing continued well into the autumn of 2020. With a national shortage of tests and a backlog at laboratories in the hundreds of thousands, Jacob Rees Mogg had a Covid test for one of his children couriered to his house in September 2020.

A leaked message from Hancock’s special advisor Allan Nixon reads: “The lab lost JRM’s child’s test, so we’ve got a courier going to their family home tonight, will take the test, and courier will take it straight to the lab. Should have result tomorrow AM”.

5. Minister said testing system was working after securing a test 50 miles away

That testing shortage was keenly felt by people at the time. When trying to book tests, people were asked to travel up to hundreds of miles away to secure them.

However, according to care minister Helen Whately in September 2020, the system was “definitely working”. She made that claim in a message to Hancock after having to make a 100 mile round trip in order get a test for somebody self isolating at home.

Matt Hancock has since said in response to the Telegraph’s story: “It is outrageous that this distorted account of the pandemic is being pushed with partial leaks, spun to fit an anti-lockdown agenda, which would have cost hundreds of thousands of lives if followed. What the messages do show is a lot of people working hard to save lives.

Chris Jarvis is head of strategy and development at Left Foot Forward

Image credit: Pippa Fowles / Number 10 Downing Street – Creative Commons

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