A junior well being minister stated “powerful selections” needed to be taken throughout the coronavirus pandemic as she defended the UK authorities’s dealing with of the disaster on Wednesday after a leaked file of WhatsApp messages involving her former boss Matt Hancock raised recent questions in regards to the testing of individuals in care properties.
Talking within the Home of Commons, care minister Helen Whately, who held the identical place throughout the first 18 months of the pandemic, stated the state of affairs throughout the care sector “was extraordinarily tough” on the time however argued that “selective snippets” of WhatsApp conversations solely gave a “restricted” perception into the decision-making course of inside authorities on the time.
Her feedback got here after the Each day Telegraph reported that Hancock, who was well being secretary on the time, rejected recommendation by Professor Chris Whitty, England’s chief medical officer, to check everybody going into care properties for Covid-19. Hancock on Wednesday denied rejecting scientific recommendation on care residence testing, saying the Telegraph story was “flat flawed”.
Responding to an pressing query by the primary opposition Labour occasion, Whateley instructed MPs: “The significance of testing was by no means doubtful and there was full settlement on that in each a part of authorities, from the chief medical officer to the well being secretary to the prime minister.
“However in a state of affairs the place we had the capability to check at most a number of thousand every day, powerful selections about prioritisation needed to be made, selections that had been taken on the perfect public well being recommendation obtainable.”
Practically 20,000 Covid-linked deaths in care properties in England and Wales had been registered within the first three months of the pandemic, in keeping with official data, resulting in heavy criticism of the federal government of then-prime minister Boris Johnson. The difficulty is predicted to be a key focus of the continuing public inquiry into the UK’s response to the disaster.
The Telegraph stated it had obtained about 100,000 messages despatched between Hancock, different ministers and officers throughout the pandemic. The messages had been handed to the newspaper by the journalist Isabel Oakeshott, a co-author of Hancock’s e book in regards to the pandemic and a powerful critic of the choice to impose lockdowns.
The newspaper revealed a few of the WhatsApp messages involving Hancock and a few of his advisers forward of the publication of a doc about making an attempt to regulate the unfold of Covid in care properties in England.
In response to the report Hancock messaged his advisers on April 14, 2020 that “Chris Whitty has executed an proof overview and now suggest testing of all going into care properties . . . That is clearly an excellent constructive step & we should put into the doc.”
The Telegraph reported a number of exchanges between Hancock and considered one of his aides on the difficulty, which revealed that they had determined to not go forward with Whitty’s advice and would solely check folks going into care properties from hospitals.
A spokesperson for Hancock stated the “stolen” WhatsApp messages had been “doctored” to create a false story. He stated Hancock had “enthusiastically accepted” a response to his request for recommendation from Whitty on April 14 that testing was wanted for folks going into care properties.
However later the identical day, Hancock “convened an operational assembly on delivering testing for care properties the place he was suggested it was not at present doable to check everybody getting into care properties, which he additionally accepted”. He stated Hancock due to this fact “concluded that the testing of individuals leaving hospital for care properties must be prioritised due to the upper dangers of transmission”.
Within the document about controlling the unfold of Covid in care properties revealed on April 15 2020, the federal government stated it might “transfer to institute a coverage of testing all residents previous to admission . . . This may start with all these being discharged from hospital.”
On the time, the UK was making an attempt to safe giant volumes of Covid assessments to enhance the effectiveness of its response to the pandemic.
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