The Matt Hancock files: Former health secretary disputes 'distorted' leak over Covid care home testing

Matt Hancock Isabel Oakeshott Covid-19

Matt Hancock rejected advice to give coronavirus tests to all residents going into English care homes, according to an investigation based on over 100,000 leaked WhatsApp messages.

A spokesman for the MP denied the "distorted account," claiming the messages leaked by TalkTV's Isabel Oakeshott have been "spun to fit an anti-lockdown agenda."

Ms Oakeshott worked with Mr Hancock on his book, Pandemic Diaries: The Inside Story of Britain's Battle Against Covid, which details the former health secretary's work during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Ms Oakeshott, who has described lockdowns as an “unmitigated disaster,” said she was releasing the messages to The Telegraph because it would be “many years” before the conclusion of the official Covid inquiry, which she claimed could be a “colossal whitewash”.

The Telegraph's investigation claims the chief medical officer Professor Sir Chris Whitty told the then health secretary in April 2020 there should be testing for “all going into care homes”.

But the messages suggest Mr Hancock rejected the guidance, telling an aide the move just “muddies the waters” and introduced mandatory testing only for those coming from hospitals.

Mr Hancock expressed concerns that expanding care home testing could “get in the way” of the target of 100,000 daily coronavirus tests he was desperate to hit, the investigation said.

A spokesman for Mr Hancock said the former health secretary is “considering all options” in response to the leak, with a source close to him saying Ms Oakeshott had "broken a legal NDA (non-disclosure agreement). Her behaviour is outrageous.

“The Telegraph intentionally excluded reference to a meeting with the testing team from the WhatsApp. This is critical, because Matt was supportive of Chris Whitty’s advice, held a meeting on its deliverability, told it wasn’t deliverable, and insisted on testing all those who came from hospitals."

The Telegraph's "lockdown files" investigation also reveals that officials sourced a Covid test for one of Jacob Rees-Mogg's children while there was a shortage.

Messages between Mr Hancock and the former editor of the Evening Standard George Osbourne have also been revealed, when the former health secretary was battling to meet his own target of 100,000 coronavirus tests per day.

He texted Mr Osborne to “call in a favour”. Mr Hancock said he had thousands of spare testing slots which was “obvs good news about spread of virus” but “hard for my target” as he asked for front page coverage.

Mr Osborne responded: “Yes – of course – all you need to do tomorrow is give some exclusive words to the Standard and I’ll tell the team to splash it.”

The then health secretary later added: “I WANT TO HIT MY TARGET!”

TalkTV has approached Mr Hancock for comment.