UK’s Matt Hancock defends pandemic handling as 100,000 WhatsApp messages leak

UK’s Matt Hancock defends pandemic handling as 100,000 WhatsApp messages leak
Опубликовано: Wednesday, 01 March 2023 07:39

Former health secretary dismisses ‘partial, agenda-driven leak’ amid fresh scrutiny of key decisions to protect care homes.

LONDON — Former U.K. Health Secretary Matt Hancock rejected claims he ignored expert advice on care homes at the height of the coronavirus pandemic after a tranche of his WhatsApp messages were leaked to a newspaper.

The Daily Telegraph — which said it had obtained some 100,000 messages and plans to release more in the coming days — reports that Hancock did not follow advice from Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty to test all residents going into English care homes for the coronavirus.

Instead, the paper reports, he decided to test those being admitted from hospital but not the wider community, saying that doing the latter “muddies the waters.”

Hancock’s spokesperson accused the paper of “a partial, agenda-driven leak of confidential documents” and said in a statement: “The Telegraph intentionally excluded reference to a meeting with the testing team from the WhatsApp. This is critical, because Matt was supportive of Chris Whitty’s advice, held a meeting on its deliverability, told it wasn’t deliverable, and insisted on testing all those who came from hospitals.”

His WhatsApp messages were passed to the Telegraph by the journalist Isabel Oakeshott, who was given copies of the texts when Hancock tasked her with helping to write his pandemic memoir. Oakeshott has been highly critical of the U.K. government’s decision to go into lockdown, and argued in her own Telegraph op-ed Tuesday night that the public “absolutely cannot wait any longer for answers.”

Office for National Statistics figures show that there 43,256 deaths involving COVID in English care homes between March 2020 and January 2022, and the subject is likely to be heavily scrutinized during the public inquiry into the U.K.’s handling of the pandemic.

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