MATT Hancock has vehemently rejected suggestions he rejected advice on testing people entering care homes for Covid after a massive leak of his WhatsApp messages. 

The former UK Health Secretary said the claim was “categorically untrue” and accused the Telegraph newspaper of using “stolen messages… to create a false story”.

Care homes proved one of the most lethal environments during the pandemic because of the rapid spread of the virus among the elderly and unwell.

Aamer Anwar, lawyer for the Scottish Covid Bereaved, said some of the allegations against Mr Hancock were “horrifying and upsetting” for families who lost loved ones.

At PMQs, Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said it was an "insulting and ghoulish spectacle".

The Telegraph today revealed it had obtained more than 100,000 WhatsApp messages between Mr Hancock, his aides and other ministers.

Mr Hancock supplied them himself to the journalist Isabel Oakeshott while she worked on his Pandemic Diaries memoir.

Although Ms Oakeshott signed a non-disclosure agreement to keep the material confidential, she said she had passed them to the Telegraph in the public interest, claiming the official inquiry into Covid could take years and be a “colossal whitewash”.

A source close to Mr Hancock said he was “considering all options” over Ms Oakeshott’s leak, adding: “She’s broken a legal NDA. Her behaviour is outrageous.”

The Telegraph reported that in April 2020, England’s chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty told Mr Hancock that all people going into care homes should be tested for Covid-19 and recommended “segregation whilst awaiting result”.

Mr Hancock described it as “obviously a good positive step”.

But exchanges from April 14, 2020, suggest he later rejected the guidance, telling an aide the move just “muddies the waters”.

He introduced mandatory testing only for those coming from hospitals rather than the general community.

Allies of Mr Hancock said that was because a lack of testing capacity meant it was simply not possible to check everyone entering a care home and resources had to be focused.

A spokesman for Mr Hancock said: “These stolen messages have been doctored to create a false story that Matt rejected clinical advice on care home testing. This is flat wrong.”

Mr Hancock “enthusiastically accepted” the advice from Sir Chris on April 14.

But “later that day he convened an operational meeting on delivering testing for care homes where he was advised it was not currently possible to test everyone entering care homes, which he also accepted”.

“Matt concluded that the testing of people leaving hospital for care homes should be prioritised because of the higher risks of transmission, as it wasn’t possible to mandate everyone going into care homes got tested.”

The spokesman added: “He went as far as was possible, as fast as possible, to expand testing and save lives.

“This story categorically shows that the right place for this analysis of what happened in the pandemic is in the inquiry.”

The spokesman alleged the messages had been “spun to fit an anti-lockdown agenda”.

Ms Oakeshott, who has described lockdowns as an “unmitigated disaster”, said she had released the messages because it would take “many years” before the end of the official Covid inquiry, which she claimed could be a “colossal whitewash”.

She said: “That’s why I’ve decided to release this sensational cache of private communications – because we absolutely cannot wait any longer for answers.”


Lord Bethell, a health minister during the pandemic, said Ms Oakeshott was a good journalist but a poor friend.

He said the Government was “desperately” trying to scale up testing at that point of the crisis but had to prioritise who was swabbed due to the available capacity.

“The reality was there was a very, very limited number of those tests,” he told BBC Radio 4.

People who were coming out of hospitals had the highest rates of transmission therefore “it was sensible and right to prioritise those” first, he said.

“The formal decision-making is done through official paperwork and we don’t have that in front of us. That’s why this partial glimpse into the decision-making is so unfortunate, because it gives a misleading impression.”

The spokesman for Mr Hancock said: “It is outrageous that this distorted account of the pandemic is being pushed with partial leaks, spun to fit an anti-lockdown agenda, which would have cost hundreds of thousands of lives if followed. What the messages do show is a lot of people working hard to save lives.

“The full documents have already all been made available to the inquiry, which is the proper place for an objective assessment, so true lessons can be learned.”

Mr Anwar said his team would ask the UK Covid Inquiry chaired by Lady Hallett if the WhatsApp messages would be available to it.

“Anything less than full disclosure by Mr. Hancock, would be considered as an attack on the integrity of both the UK and Scottish Public Inquiries by the Scottish Covid Bereaved.

“It would be deeply insulting to the families if they have to read redacted material from the Inquiry, or only had limited access to the messages, whilst such material is leaked in full on a daily basis through the media.

“Those Ministers whose reputations are left in tatters following the leak cannot be allowed to rewrite history and they must disclose all the messages that they engaged in on any social media platform with the purpose of avoiding scrutiny.

 “No individual, no matter how powerful can be allowed to interfere with the pursuit of truth, justice, and accountability by this Inquiry, those who lost their lives to Covid-19 deserve nothing less.”

At PMQs, Sir Keir of the leaks to the Telegrap: "We don't know the truth of what happened yet.

"Too many families across the country will look at this, and the sight of politicians writing books portraying themselves as heroes or selectively leaking messages, and it will be insulting and ghoulish spectacle for them.

"At the heart of this are families who made enormous sacrifices for the country, or who tragically lost loved ones.

"The country deserves better.

"The Covid Inquiry has already cost taxpayers £85million and hasn't heard from a single government minister yet.

"So can the Prime Minister assure the house no more delays  - hat the inquiry will have whatever support it needs to report by the end of this year."

Rishi Sunak refused to comment on "piecemeal bits of information" and thanked NHS workers for their service.

He said: "These things to be looked at is the Covid inquiry.

"That's why we've established the Covid inquiry. There is a proper process to these things. It is an independent inquiry.

It has the resources it needs. It has the powers it needs and what we should all do in this house is let them get on and do their job."

Liberal Democrat deputy leader Daisy Cooper said: “The Covid inquiry must look into reports Conservative ministers were able to get priority access to tests at a time of national shortage.”

Labour has been granted an urgent question in the Commons over care home testing.

A Government spokesman said: “We have always said there are lessons to be learnt from the pandemic. We are committed to learning from the Covid inquiry’s findings, which will play a key role in informing the Government’s planning and preparations for the future.”

Mr Hancock was stripped of the Tory whip last year after skipping parliament to take part in ITV’s I’m a Celebrity… Get Me Out of Here!, eating marsupial offal in Australia.

He later announced he would not stand for re-election in his West Suffolk seat at the next general election.