Former Health Secretary Matt Hancock rejected the Chief Medical Officer’s call to test all residents going into English care homes for Covid at the start of the pandemic, leaked messages show.
Sir Chris Whitty told him there should be Covid testing for ‘all going into care homes’.
But Mr Hancock’s WhatsApp messages revealed he did not follow the guidance, instead telling advisers it ‘muddies the waters’.
The leaked texts also include exchanges between the former Health Secretary and then Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who revealed he was going ‘quietly crackers’ about the UK’s shortage of test kits.
On the morning of June 4, 2020, Mr Johnson sent a message saying: ‘It’s all about testing. That’s our Achilles heel. We can’t deliver a sensible border policy or adequate track and trace because we can’t test enough.
Sir Chris Whitty (left) told then health secretary Matt Hancock (right) there should be testing for ‘all going into care homes’ but this guidance was rejected, leaked messages reveal
A crisis in testing and PPE turned care homes into ‘warzones’ in late March 2020, as the nation was plunged into lockdown
‘Did we go to the Germans for those kits that Angela Merkel was offering? What is wrong with us as a country that we can’t fix this?’
In two follow-up messages, Mr Johnson said Mr Hancock’s department ‘had months and months’ to sort the issue, before adding: ‘I am going quietly crackers about this’.
Mr Hancock responded: ‘Don’t go crackers. We have test capacity enough to do this. We now have the biggest testing capacity in Europe.
‘The problem is the false negatives – so the medics are against releasing from self isolation (whether for quarantine or T&T) with a nagative (sic) test.
‘No-one in the world releases from quarantine with a negative test.
‘I went back to CMO and pushed this. I’ll send you the note he sent me.’
The Government introduced mandatory testing for people going into care homes from hospital, but not from the community.
It comes as Mr Hancock was accused of ‘putting social care on the altar to be slaughtered’ after 20,000 elderly residents in homes died of Covid in the first wave.
Matt Hancock and Boris Johnson, then Health Secretary and Prime Minister, pictured during a visit to Bassetlaw District General Hospital on November 22, 2019
The leaked texts also include exchanges between the former Health Secretary and then Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who revealed he was going ‘quietly crackers’ about the UK’s shortage of test kits
In his pandemic diaries, serialised by the Daily Mail last year, Mr Hancock claimed hospital discharges were not to blame and instead pointed the finger at ‘infections were brought in from the wider community, mainly by staff’.
A set of 100,000 text and WhatsApp messages have been leaked to the Daily Telegraph by a former journalist who was the ghost writer of Mr Hancock’s diaries.
The messages reveal how the politician sent out tens of thousands of Covid tests to hit his 100,000 daily target, even though he knew many would not get used, the Telegraph reported.
A minister in his department said restrictions on visitors to care homes were ‘inhumane’, but residents remained isolated many months on.
Reports also claimed that Mr Hancock’s adviser arranged for a personal test to be couriered for fellow top Tory Jacob Rees-Mogg’s child at a time of national shortage.
A crisis in testing and personal protective equipment turned care homes into ‘war zones’ in March 2020 as the nation was plunged into lockdown.
Weeks later, Mr Hancock was ridiculed for saying the Government had ‘tried to put a protective ring around our care homes’ from the start of the pandemic.
The leaked WhatsApp messages show how Sir Chris demanded in April 2020 ‘testing of all going into care homes’.
The Government introduced mandatory testing for people going into care homes from hospital, but not from the community (Pictured: Boris Johnson holds a coronavirus meeting on February 28, 2020, attended by Sir Chris Whitty, second from right, and Matt Hancock, right)
After initially supporting the guidance, Mr Hancock then appeared to change his mind, telling aides: ‘I would rather leave it out and just commit to test & isolate ALL going into care from hospital. I do not think the community commitment adds anything and it muddies the waters.’ The messages put Mr Hancock under further pressure after he was accused of ‘re-writing history’ with his pandemic diaries.
In his entry for April 2, written retrospectively, Hancock acknowledged that those leaving hospital would not be tested, but claimed care homes were given clear guidance on isolation.
He said: ‘The tragic but honest truth is we don’t have enough testing capacity to check anyway. It’s an utter nightmare, but it’s the reality.
‘Under the circumstances, we must make sure that anyone going from a hospital into a care home is kept away from other residents.
‘I hope this message filters through and is followed.’
Mr Hancock disputes the ‘distorted account’ and a spokesman alleged that the messages leaked by the journalist have been ‘spun to fit an anti-lockdown agenda’.