Straight from appearing on the ITV reality show I’m a Celebrity, the focus on former health secretary Matt Hancock has turned to his upcoming memoir called Pandemic Diaries: The Inside Story Of Britain’s Battle Against Covid.
Here are five key moments from the book, which have been revealed in extracts published by the Daily Mail and Mail+.
1) Hancock claims coronavirus was brought into care homes by staff
In the upcoming book, Hancock defends his handling of the care home crisis during the pandemic – the decision to release care home residents from hospital without testing – by claiming that the virus was introduced into the homes by care staff.
In the entry dated 13 March 2020, Hancock claims that Simon Stevens, NHS England’s chief executive, said that frail elderly patients who did not need urgent treatment could be discharged from hospital, either to their own homes or to care homes.
In a subsequent entry dated 14 May 2020 Hancock says that people “blame us for discharging elderly people from hospital into residential settings without testing them properly”, but claims that this is false.
Rather, Hancock claims there was “scandalous behaviour” by some care home operators who were using staff who had tested positive for coronavirus, saying there were at least 40 care homes where this was happening.
2) Hancock says ministers were told Covid could kill 820,000 in the UK
Hancock also claims that Chris Whitty, the chief medical officer, warned two months before the country was put into lockdown that the virus could kill as many as 820,000 people across the UK. According to Hancock, Conservative ministers responded with a “shrug shrug”.
Hancock claims: “The reaction was somewhat ‘shrug shrug’ – essentially because they didn’t really believe it. I am constantly feeling that others, who aren’t focused on this every day, are weeks behind what’s going on.”
3) Boris Johnson did not initially think coronavirus would be a serious disease
Hancock claims Boris Johnson was reluctant to take the issue of a pandemic seriously when he first raised the issue of the outbreak in Wuhan. The former health secretary notes that Johnson’s response to him was: “You keep an eye on it. It will probably go away.”
One month later, Hancock says he warned Johnson that although it may be possible to contain the virus, the most likely scenario was “we’re going down”. He says that Johnson’s response to this was “Bash on.”
4) Dominic Cummings viewed the pandemic as a ‘distraction’
Hancock claims that Johnson’s former chief adviser Dominic Cummings viewed the pandemic as a “distraction” from other topics, including the UK’s exit from the EU.
He writes: “That’s all he wants Boris talking about.”
5) Hancock says he broke coronavirus rules because he ‘fell in love’
Hancock said that he fell in love with Gina Coladangelo, a friend from university, after she started working for him.
“We realised we had feelings for each other which were as strong as they were. It was very sudden and took us both by surprise,” he said.
“We realised what was happening was of huge consequence that would last for the rest of our lives but … this was an affaire de coeur [affair of the heart] and therefore my political judgment was off.”
He added that he wanted forgiveness from the public for breaking the rules, rather than seeking it over his handling of the pandemic.
Hancock wrote: “I want forgiveness for the mistake I made, the failure of leadership at the end of the pandemic when I fell in love with Gina and I broke the guidance that I’d signed off. I want forgiveness for the human error I made … but I’m not asking for forgiveness for how I handled the pandemic.”