Hancock: 'It took time to build the testing' for care homes

Elias Hubbard
May 28, 2021

British PM Johnson and Health Minister Hancock reject allegations by former top adviser Dominic Cummings that the government's botched response led to tens of thousands of needless Covid-19 deaths.

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Cummings also singled out Health Minister Matt Hancock for particular criticism, accusing him of having lied about the shortages of personal protective equipment and support for care homes.

Mr Hancock said that he recalled he did all he could to get a policy in place to protect care home residents in the early stages of the pandemic, but that he took action to build testing capacity from the ground up.

Hancock added that the allegations by Cummings were "serious" and that he welcomed "the opportunity to come to the House [of Commons] to put formally on the record that these unsubstantiated allegations around honesty are not true".

"Cummings rains fire on No 10", read the front page of Britain's Times newspaper, while The Daily Telegraph accused the former adviser of seeking revenge on Johnson and Hancock during the hearing after he branded them "unfit" and dishonest.

"Tens of thousands of people died who didn't need to die", he said.

"This has been an incredibly hard series of decisions, none of which we've taken lightly", he said. "The government rhetoric was, 'We put a shield around care homes and blah blah.' It's complete nonsense", Cummings said.

The health spokesman for the opposition Labour Party, Jonathan Ashworth, said the government had questions to answer, whether or not Mr Cummings' testimony was true.

"These allegations from Cummings are either true, and if so the secretary of state (Hancock) potentially stands in breach of the ministerial code ... or they are false and the prime minister brought a fantasist and a liar into the heart of Downing Street", he said.

With nearly 128,000 deaths, the United Kingdom has the world's fifth highest official Covid-19 toll, far higher than the government's initial worst-case estimates of 20,000. Johnson has announced there will be a full inquiry into the government's handling of the crisis, but not until the spring of 2022.

A mass vaccination campaign that started in December has brought confirmed cases and deaths down sharply, though Britain is now reckoning with a more transmissible new strain of the virus first identified in India.

Asked whether the rise in the Indian variant Johnson said he did not "see anything now in the data" to divert from the June 21 target for the next stage of exiting lockdown but "we may need to wait" for more data.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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