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Former UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock Empics Entertainment
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Leaked lockdown Whatsapp messages have landed Matt Hancock back in the spotlight - here's why

Hancock has described the leak as a “massive betrayal and breach of trust”.

MONTHS AFTER HE came third in I’m A Celebrity, Matt Hancock is back in the news but for a very different reason.

The former UK Health Secretary, who played a significant role in the UK’s response to Covid-19, has been the focus of a tranche of stories from the Daily Telegraph, who gained access to tens of thousands of Hancock’s leaked WhatsApp messages.

In recent days, stories have focused on policies implemented by the UK Government during the height of the Covid-19 pandemic: from care home staff testing to the closing of schools.

Around 100,000 WhatsApp messages were provided to the Telegraph by journalist Isabel Oakeshott, who gained access to them while she worked with Hancock on his book about his time as Health Secretary.

Hancock has since accused Oakeshott of a “massive betrayal and breach of trust” for leaking the messages, adding that he was sorry for the impact the leak would have on people who were mentioned.

“I am hugely disappointed and sad at the massive betrayal and breach of trust by Isabel Oakeshott,” Hancock said.

“I am also sorry for the impact on the very many people – political colleagues, civil servants and friends – who worked hard with me to get through the pandemic and save lives.”

However, this morning Oakeshott accused Hancock of sending threatening messages after stories began to run in the Telegraph.

In response, Hancock refuted the claims and said that he did not send “menacing” messages to Oakeshott but that he had said it was a “big mistake”.

Oakeshott, who formerly was a presenter at GB News and now works for TalkTV, has been an outspoken critic against the UK Government’s use of lockdowns during the pandemic.

Speaking on BBC Radio 4 this morning, Oakeshott said that she didn’t leak the messages for money and defended her decision as being in the public interest.

“Anyone who thinks I did this for money must be utterly insane,” Oakeshott said.

“This is about the millions of people, every one of us in this country that were adversely affected by the catastrophic decisions to lock down this country repeatedly, often on the flimsiest of evidence for political reasons.”

In a written statement issued via the Daily Telegraph this afternoon, Oakeshott added:

“Hard though it may be for him to believe, this isn’t about Matt Hancock, or indeed any other individual politician. Nor is it about me. The greatest betrayal is of the entire country.

We were all let down by the response to the pandemic and repeated unnecessary lockdowns. Children in particular paid a terrible price. Anyone who questioned an approach we now know was fatally flawed was utterly vilified, including highly respected and eminent public health experts, doctors and scientists.

So, what exactly is in these leaked messages?

School closures

The latest revelations surround the closure of schools during the pandemic, with the leaked texts showing that Hancock had clashed with the then-Education Secretary Gavin Williamson.

The messages show that Hancock was concerned about the reopening of schools in January 2021, with texts between him and his aides raising concerns about what he described as a “policy car crash”.

According to the leaks, then-Prime Minister Boris Johnson was in agreement with Williamson for schools to reopen, with Hancock then planning to fight a “rear-guard action” to close schools to prevent a spike in Covid-19 transmission.

gavin-williamson-abusive-texts-allegations Former Education Secretary Gavin Williamson PA PA

In the end, most schools in the UK were only open for a single day before Johnson announced their closure with the country entering into a national lockdown.

Alongside the concern over school openings, the messages show that both Williamson and Hancock had criticised teaching unions over their opposition to the decision to delay A-level exams.

Hancock described the unions as a “bunch of arses” while Williamson said that “they really do hate work”.

Care homes and testing

The initial revelations from the Telegraph were focused primarily on how Hancock had rejected advice to provide Covid-19 tests to residents entering into care homes.

The leaked messages detail that the UK Chief Medical Officer, Chris Whitty, had told Hancock that the Government needed to put testing in place for “all going into care homes”.

In response to Whitty, Hancock said that it was “obviously a good positive step” but privately told an aide that he only wanted to test people entering care homes who had come from a hospital.

“Tell me if I’m wrong but 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,” his text reads.

In response, a spokesperson for Hancock rubbished the story and said that the Telegraph was providing a “distorted view of the pandemic” through partial leaks.

He said that all the messages have already been provided to the upcoming UK Covid-19 inquiry and that that was the “proper place for an objective assessment”.

The texts also detail how one of Hancock’s advisors helped secure a Covid-19 test sent out to senior Tory MP Jacob Rees-Mogg’s home while there was a major testing backlog.

According to the leaked messages, Hancock received a message from his aide saying that a lab had lost the tests for Rees-Mogg’s children and so had organised a courier to deliver a new test.

The Telegraph have flagged that there is still more detail to come from “The Lockdown Files”, with additional stories on Hancock and the UK Government’s response to Covid-19.

Additional reporting by Press Association

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