Former health secretary Matt Hancock has disputed claims that he rejected expert advice on Covid tests for people going into England’s care homes at the start of the pandemic and claims his text messages have been ‘doctored’.
A report in The Telegraph based on a trove of more than 100,000 WhatsApps alleges that he rejected advice to give Covid tests to all care home residents – fiercely denied as a “distorted account” by his spokesman.
The messages were leaked by journalist Isabel Oakeshott, who worked with Mr Hancock on his controversial memoir Pandemic Diaries.
According to the messages, England’s chief medical officer, Professor Sir Chris Whitty, told the then-health secretary in April 2020 that “all going into care homes” should be tested.
However, the messages indicate that Mr Hancock decided against the initial guidance, telling an aide that it “muddies the waters,” before instituting mandatory testing only for those coming from hospitals.
But a spokesman for the Tory MP said this was “flat wrong” and based on “doctored” messages and had been “spun to fit an anti-lockdown agenda”.
The spokesman for Mr Hancock said “the Telegraph story is wrong” because he held meetings with officials on the deliverability of care home testing and was told it “wasn’t deliverable”.
“The Telegraph intentionally excluded reference to a meeting with the testing team from the WhatsApp,” they added. This is critical because Matt was supportive of Chris Whitty’s advice, held a meeting to discuss its deliverability, was told it wasn’t deliverable, and insisted on testing all hospital visitors.”
The Telegraph maintains that the texts were published in their entirety from the beginning. The suggestion that the messages were doctored has “baffled” sources.
According the newspaper’s investigation, Mr Hancock expressed concerns that expanding care home testing could “get in the way” of the target of 100,000 daily Covid tests he wanted to hit.
In a one message on 14 April 2020, Mr Hancock said Sir Chris had finished a review and recommended “testing of all going into care homes, and segregation whilst awaiting result”. Mr Hancock described it as “obviously a good positive step”.