Below is a summary of the articles The Telegraph has highlighted to its readers. The date shown at the beginning of the section indicates the date The Telegraph published articles on that topic. Although Midazolam Matt features in almost all of the highlighted articles so far, sadly, there has been no mention of his central role in the use of midazolam during the “pandemic.”
28 February 2023
Messages between Hancock and officials at the height of the Covid pandemic expose how Britain’s elderly were failed on Covid and lay bare the groupthink at the heart of Government that affected every one of us
More than 100,000 WhatsApp messages obtained by The Telegraph reveal discussions between those at the heart of the decision-making process during the Covid pandemic. The messages, sent between Hancock and other ministers and officials, comprise 2.3 million words. Over the last week, The Telegraph revealed the messages, which laid bare the extent to which groupthink among aides and ministers affected pandemic decisions. The messages also reveal the often casual approach that ministers took to making major decisions, including the call to close classrooms, introduce face masks in schools and provide testing in care homes.
A first series of messages show that Hancock rejected the Chief Medical Officer’s advice to test for Covid in all residents going into English care homes. Professor Sir Chris Whitty told Hancock early in April 2020 that there should be testing for “all going into care homes”. But Hancock did not follow that guidance, telling his advisers that it “muddies the waters”. Instead, he introduced guidance that made testing mandatory for those entering care homes from hospital, but not for those coming from the community. Prior to the guidance, care homes had been told that negative tests were not required even for hospital patients. Between 17 April and 13 August 2020, a total of 17,678 people died of Covid in care homes in England. A spokesman for Hancock claimed the messages had been “spun to fit an anti-lockdown agenda.”
As the clock ticked towards midnight on 30 April 2020, Hancock’s self-imposed deadline for reaching 100,000 daily Covid tests was in danger of being missed. Just a week earlier, the United Kingdom was only managing 28,144 tests per day, and more than trebling that figure in a matter of days seemed like a tall order. But Hancock had a trick up his sleeve that enabled him to turn his longshot into a dead cert. It was decided that tests that were despatched before the deadline would count in the total, regardless of whether they were ever processed. So, when an Amazon truck loaded with more than 26,000 test kits left its depot late that night, Hancock’s daily tally was surpassed, even though he knew that 80 per cent of them might never be returned.
1 March 2023
The Government’s most senior scientific advisers told the prime minister that implementation of shielding measures was not “very effective” – but ministers still asked 2.2 million people to follow them for months
Sir Patrick Vallance, the Chief Scientific Adviser, said in a WhatsApp message in August 2020 that shielding implementation – which required people who were clinically “extremely vulnerable” to isolate – had not been “easy or very effective.” Whitty added that he would personally “think twice” about following shielding guidelines himself, unless it was to protect the NHS – which was not their principal aim.
Boris Johnson himself raised the prospect of giving over-65s “a choice” between shielding from the virus or taking what he hoped would be an “ever-diminishing risk” of living a more normal life. The then prime minister compared over-65s’ risk of dying from Covid to that of “falling down stairs,” adding: “And we don’t stop older people from using stairs.”
But, despite reservations, the Government still reintroduced shielding nationally during subsequent national lockdowns. In the worst-affected parts of the country that were placed under local lockdowns and stricter restrictions under the tiers system, many effectively shielded for most of the pandemic. The Lockdown Files also reveal that face masks were introduced in schools for the first time after Mr. Johnson was told it was “not worth an argument” with Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon over the issue.
Hancock staged a “rearguard” action to keep children out of classrooms during the Covid pandemic. And leaked messages reveal that Sir Gavin Williamson said teachers were looking for an “excuse” not to work
Hancock mounted a “rearguard action” to close schools despite Sir Gavin Williamson battling “tooth and nail” to keep classrooms open, leaked WhatsApp messages reveal. Exchanges seen by The Telegraph show that the then health secretary battled the former education secretary in late December 2020 and suggested it was “mad” that Sir Gavin was attempting to keep schools open. Hancock initially lost a Cabinet argument during which he tried to persuade the then prime minister to close schools ahead of their return in January 2021. After Johnson sided with Sir Gavin, Hancock told an aide: “The next U-turn is born.”
Messages show that Hancock immediately contacted Dan Rosenfield, Mr. Johnson’s chief of staff, and began an attempt to have schools closed before children returned. As the planned reopening became increasingly chaotic over the following week, with U-turns on dates and testing requirements for secondary schools, Hancock and his team said Sir Gavin was having to eat “humble pie.”
The Lockdown Files show that Hancock’s push to shut schools was just one of a number of repeated instances where the interests of children were apparently disregarded in favour of restrictions. Many of the measures went against the counsel of scientific advisers. In an article for The Telegraph, Sir Gavin revealed that he considered quitting his post over the move to close schools. The decisions made around children’s education were among the most controversial of the pandemic. Studies have shown that keeping children away from the classroom led to a rise in mental health problems and a decline in development. Some children lost more than 100 days of schooling because of closures alone.
Teachers looking for ‘excuse’ not to work, said Williamson
Leaked messages reveal that Sir Gavin said that teachers were looking for an “excuse” not to work during the pandemic. He criticised both school staff and unions for their response to coronavirus, saying that the latter “really do just hate work”. On the evening of 1 Oct 2020, The Telegraph released a front page confirming that Sir Gavin was planning to delay A-level exams for a few weeks. At almost 10pm, Hancock got in touch with his Cabinet colleague, writing: “Cracking announcement today. What a bunch of absolute arses the teaching unions are.” Sir Gavin responded: “I know they really, really do just hate work.” Following the publication of the messages yesterday, the former education secretary tweeted that his comments had been “about some unions and not teachers.”
2 March 2023
Boris Johnson was worried that he had “blinked too soon” in plunging Britain into a second national lockdown on the basis of data that scientists had warned him was “very wrong”
The prime minister made the observation on 1 November 2020 – one day after he had announced a national lockdown due to come into force on 4 November. In one exchange, Mr. Johnson explained that he had been on a video conference call with scientists Dr. Raghib Ali and Dr. Carl Heneghan. He told the WhatsApp group that Dr. Heneghan said “the death modelling you have been shown is already very wrong,” as it was out of date having been drawn up three weeks previously. Despite his fears, the lockdown went ahead and lasted for a month. In another exchange, the then prime minister appeared to express a desire to lift the country out of lockdown earlier than planned, but said his media advisers – Lee Cain and James Slack – warned him that such a move is “too far ahead of public opinion.”
You can read Dr. Carl Heneghan’s version of events on Substack HERE.
Hancock told ministers to “get heavy with police” to enforce Covid measures
Ministers and the country’s most senior civil servant discussed how they needed to “get heavy with the police” to crack down on the public during the Covid pandemic. Leaked WhatsApp messages disclose how Hancock and colleagues gave officers their “marching orders” to enforce lockdown measures – days before Number 10 staff held a party in Downing Street. The disclosures will raise concerns about police independence. Heavy-handed policing was one of the most controversial issues of the pandemic, and many of the 118,000 fines issued were challenged in court and overturned. Officers were later criticised for “Orwellian” tactics that included the use of drones, roadblocks and helicopters to catch rule-breakers.
The former prime minister’s sister, Rachel Johnson, also writes in The Telegraph that her lonely mother had to endure care home prison as police pursued her father during lockdown. Meanwhile, separate messages show that Hancock’s aides asked if they could “lock up” Nigel Farage after he tweeted a photo of himself drinking a pint of beer in a pub in an apparent breach of quarantine rules. And messages reveal that Dominic Cummings employed the help of a Conservative elections mastermind to convince Cabinet ministers that the public backed lockdowns.
Top mandarin mocked holidaymakers ‘locked up’ in quarantine hotels
Those unlucky enough to be caught up in Britain’s pandemic-era quarantine hotel policy likened it to being held prisoner. And messages seen by The Telegraph show that ministers and officials shared the sentiment and joked about passengers being “locked up” in “shoe box” rooms. In February 2021, Matt Hancock messaged Simon Case, the country’s most senior civil servant, saying: “We are giving big families all the suites and putting pop stars in the box rooms.” Mr Case responded: “I just want to see some of the faces of people coming out of first class and into a premier inn shoe box.” Those on the receiving end of the quarantine policy described the misery of being held captive in tiny hotel rooms. “It feels like I’m in Guantanamo Bay,” one woman who was forced to spend 10 days in a hotel said at the time.
3 March 2023
Hancock shared a memo from a “wise friend” about how his career could be propelled “into the next league” by the pandemic in January 2020, shortly after the first Covid cases emerged in China
A message about how Hancock’s career could be propelled “into the next league” is among a number that can be disclosed by The Telegraph as part of The Lockdown Files where the then health secretary discusses his image and ambitions. At one point, he remarks “f— that’s good” to an adviser in response to a poll showing the popularity of Cabinet ministers. At the very start of the pandemic on 29 January 2020, when Covid cases in Britain were in single figures, the then health secretary passed his aide a message setting out how he could use “a crisis of this scale to propel [himself] into the next league”. It is not the only text conversation involving Hancock during the pandemic which mentions his career. Messages obtained by The Telegraph suggest that the former health secretary was mindful of his appearance in general. When a press report criticised his behaviour during lockdown, he responded: “I think I look great!” And after he embarked on his affair with his adviser Gina Coladangelo, he turned to her to decide whether to release pictures of him surfing.
Hancock was accused of having “breathtaking contempt” for passengers and airline workers by the former boss of British Airways, after deriding the travel industry during the Covid crisis. Willie Walsh, who ran BA’s parent company until September 2020, hit out after WhatsApp messages leaked to The Telegraph revealed a jibe at “self-serving” airlines. The Telegraph’s Emma Beaumonthas a written an article on the Covid rules that frustrated travellers – but amused ministers.
The ex-health secretary and former chancellor were at odds during the pandemic over the extent of restrictions. Hancock sought to enlist the Cabinet Secretary, Simon Case, in a plan to outflank Rishi Sunak during repeated rows over Covid restrictions.
4 March 2023
Hancock wanted to “deploy” a new Covid variant to “frighten the pants off” the public and ensure that they complied with lockdown
WhatsApp messages revealed how Boris Johnson veered from lockdown sceptic to zealot. The then prime minister repeatedly changed his mind depending on who he had been talking to.
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