UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock recently found himself criticized after Dominic Cummings, a former aide to UK PM Boris Johnson, leaked a WhatsApp text in which the PM allegedly referred to Hancock as “f**king hopeless”.
Matt Hancock “kept Boris Johnson in the dark” about the study by Public Health England (PHE) that detailed the effectiveness of the coronavirus vaccines against the so-called Delta variant during a meeting where discussions on COVID restrictions were being held, The Telegraph reported on Saturday, citing sources familiar with the matter.
According to the report, Hancock was aware of the study three days prior to the meeting, but failed to inform the “quad” of four senior ministers, led by the prime minister, before the decision on extending the restrictions until 19 July was made.
The PHE data, which particularly pointed to vaccines offering “significant protection against hospitalisation from the delta variant”, was also not included in the briefing papers that the ministers – Johnson, Chancellor Rishi Sunak, and Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove – received before the meeting.
“Either Matt Hancock thought this data was insignificant or he thought it should be withheld from the Prime Minister and other key ministers”, said Steve Baker, the deputy chairman of the Covid Recovery Group of Conservative MPs, cited by The Telegraph. “If Matt Hancock was deliberately withholding relevant information, what was he trying to gain? Was the Prime Minister bounced?”
The report pointed at the possibility of ministers rolling out a different decision on coronavirus restrictions, had they received the PHE data.
An unnamed government source told The Telegraph that instead, “equivalent data” to the PHE study was shown to the quad, said to be drawn up by Sage’s Scientific Pandemic Influenza Group on Modelling (Spi-M) and featuring figures similar to those presented by PHE.
“When the decision was made to delay, ministers knew that the vaccines work”, the source said. “That is why we are buying more time to get more jabs in arms.”
A spokesperson for the Department of Health said that claims that Hancock tried to “bounce” the prime minister were “categorically untrue”.
“Information which was provided by PHE was shared across Government before the meeting. Analysis and work on the scientific paper continued over the weekend before it was published as soon as it was ready on Monday”, the spokesperson said, cited by The Telegraph.