From his appearance on the ITV reality show I’m a Celebrity, the focus on former health secretary Matt Hancock shifted to his forthcoming memoir Pandemic Diaries: The Inside Story Of Britain’s Battle Against Covid.
Here are five key moments from the book, which were revealed in excerpts published by the Daily Mail and Mail+.
1) Hancock claims coronavirus was brought into care homes by staff
In the forthcoming book, Hancock defends his handling of the care home crisis during the pandemic – the decision to release care home residents from the hospital without testing – by claiming that the virus was brought into the homes by the nursing staff.
In the entry dated March 13, 2020, Hancock says Simon Stevens, chief executive of NHS England, said frail elderly patients who did not need urgent care could be discharged from hospital, either to their own home or in nursing homes.
In a later entry dated May 14, 2020, Hancock says people “blame us for moving elderly people out of hospital to residential facilities without testing them properly,” but claims that is untrue.
On the contrary, Hancock claims there has been ‘scandalous behaviour’ from some care home operators who used staff who had tested positive for coronavirus, saying there were at least 40 care homes care where it happened.
2) Hancock says ministers have been told Covid could kill 820,000 people in the UK
Hancock also claims that Chris Whitty, the chief medical officer, warned two months before the country was to be quarantined that the virus could kill up to 820,000 people across the UK. According to Hancock, the Tory ministers responded with a “shrug of the shoulders”.
Hancock says: “The reaction was a bit of a ‘shrug’ – basically because they didn’t really believe it. I constantly feel like others, who aren’t focusing on this every day, are weeks behind what’s happening.
3) Boris Johnson did not initially think coronavirus would be a serious illness
Hancock says Boris Johnson was reluctant to take the issue of a pandemic seriously when he first raised the issue of the outbreak in Wuhan. The former health secretary notes that Johnson’s response was: “You keep an eye on it. It will probably go away.
A month later, Hancock says he warned Johnson that while containing the virus was possible, the more likely scenario was “we’re going down”. He says Johnson’s response to this was “Bash on”.
4) Dominic Cummings viewed the pandemic as a “distraction”
Hancock says former Johnson chief adviser Dominic Cummings saw the pandemic as a “distraction” from other topics, including the UK’s exit from the EU.
He writes: “That’s all he wants Boris to talk about.”
5) Hancock says he broke coronavirus rules because he ‘fell in love’
Hancock said he fell in love with college friend Gina Coladangelo after she started working for him.
“We realized we had feelings for each other that were just as strong as them. It was very sudden and took us both by surprise,” he said.
“We realized that what was happening had huge consequences that would last for the rest of our lives but…it was a matter of heart [affair of the heart] and therefore my political judgment was wrong.
He added that he wanted the public’s forgiveness for breaking the rules, rather than asking for it for his handling of the pandemic.
Hancock wrote: ‘I want forgiveness for the mistake I made, the failure of leadership at the end of the pandemic when I fell in love with Gina and broke the boards I signed . I want forgiveness for the human error I made…but I don’t ask for forgiveness for the way I handled the pandemic.