Readers like you keep news free for everyone.

More than 5,000 readers have already pitched in to keep free access to The Journal.

For the price of one cup of coffee each week you can help keep paywalls away.

Support us today
Not now
Friday 1 December 2023 Dublin: -2°C

UK former health secretary Matt Hancock ‘profoundly sorry’ for deaths caused by Covid-19

Hancock was central to the UK’s government’s decision-making and messaging during the pandemic.

LAST UPDATE | Jun 27th 2023, 12:25 PM

THE UK’S FORMER health secretary Matt Hancock has appeared before the country’s Covid-19 inquiry as hearings continue into the British government’s preparedness for the pandemic.

Hancock, who became one of the best-known politicians in the UK as he helped steer the coronavirus response before being forced to quit in June 2021, has given evidence to the inquiry and apologies over deaths caused by the virus.

He said he is “profoundly sorry” for every death caused by Covid-19 but said he understood why some people would find it difficult to accept his apology, though it was “honest and heartfelt”.

The UK must be prepared to hit a “pandemic hard” and lock down if necessary to prevent disease spreading, Hancock said.

The former health secretary told the inquiry that more should have been done to prepare for a lockdown before coronavirus began to spread around the UK in early 2020.

He told Hugo Keith KC, lead counsel to the inquiry, that lessons must be learned, adding that the main issue was not that the pandemic preparedness plan had been focused on flu.

He said: “It is central to what we must learn as a country that we’ve got to be ready to hit a pandemic hard: that we’ve got to be able to take action – lockdown action if necessary, that is wider, earlier, more stringent than feels comfortable at the time.

“And the failure to plan for that was a much bigger flaw in the strategy than the fact that it was targeted at the wrong disease.”

He added: “The doctrinal floor was the biggest by a long way because if we’d had a flu pandemic, we still would have had the problem of no plan in place for lockdown, no prep for how to do one, no work on what, how best to lock down with the least damage.

“I understand deeply the consequences of lockdown and the negative consequences for many, many people – many of which persist to this day.”

Earlier, Hancock said he believed that there was doctrine which said transmission of Covid could not be stopped.

He suggested more work should have been done on stopping coronavirus taking hold.

His attendance at the inquiry comes after Chancellor Jeremy Hunt, another former health secretary, admitted that a “groupthink” helped lead to a “narrowness of thinking” that failed to expand pandemic preparedness beyond planning for a flu outbreak.

Yesterday, former deputy chief medical officer Jenny Harries was quizzed on the capacity of the UK health system as well as the organisational reforms before the Covid-19 outbreak.

Hancock, also known for his appearance last year on I’m A Celebrity, became health secretary in mid-2018 but his political career was torpedoed after footage emerged in 2021 of his embrace with aide Gina Coladangelo.

The West Suffolk MP, who will stand down at the next general election, has faced questions in the past about the government policy on testing and nursing homes.

He was central to the government’s pandemic-era decision-making and messaging, with his recollections of the period likely to be a crucial part of the inquiry.

Former prime minister David Cameron, former chancellor George Osborne and chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty are all among those who have appeared before the committee so far.

Press Association
Your Voice
Readers Comments
This is YOUR comments community. Stay civil, stay constructive, stay on topic. Please familiarise yourself with our comments policy here before taking part.
Leave a Comment
    Submit a report
    Please help us understand how this comment violates our community guidelines.
    Thank you for the feedback
    Your feedback has been sent to our team for review.

    Leave a commentcancel