Matt Hancock’s Covid diaries lay bare moment whole room froze

Matt Hancock mocked by deputy speaker over I'm A Celeb

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Matt Hancock has claimed almost one million people could have died in the UK in a “worst case scenario” during the COVID-19 pandemic. Mr Hancock made the claims in his new book – The Pandemic Diaries – which is being serialised in the Daily Mail.

Mr Hancock writes in an entry dated January 28, 2020: “A proper ‘oh s***’ meeting today. The whole team gathered in my office to go through the reasonable worst-case scenario I’ve been requesting. There were about 30 people perching on every flat surface.

“In his characteristically understated way, sitting at the back peeling a tangerine, Chris Whitty quietly informed everyone that in the reasonable worst-case scenario, as many as 820,000 people in the UK may die. The transmission is so high almost everyone would catch it.

“The whole room froze. We are looking at a human catastrophe on a scale not seen here for a century.”

Mr Hancock this week admitted his affair with assistant Gina Coladangelo in the midst of the Covid pandemic was a “failure of leadership”.

The former Health Secretary was forced to quit last year after video footage emerged of them kissing in his office in breach of social distancing rules he had set.

He said he hoped people would forgive him for a “human error” in an interview with The Mail.

Mr Hancock said: “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 I broke the guidance that I’d signed off.

“I want forgiveness for the human error I made… but I’m not asking for forgiveness for how I handled the pandemic.”

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Mr Hancock’s diary reveals his insistence on a vaccine being ready by Christmas despite being told inoculations normally take five to 10 years.

He claims Mr Whitty, whom he appointed Chief Medical Officer, said previously there was a 50:50 chance of Covid escaping China, where the first cases were reported in the city of Wuhan.

The former Health Secretary, whose recent appearance on I’m a Celebrity… Get Me Out of Here! led to calls for him to stand down as an MP, also claims his push in January 2020 for an emergency COBRA meeting was blocked by No.10.

Mr Hancock quotes No.10 as saying that to call a COBRA meeting would be “alarmist”.

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The diaries were released as Mr Hancock returned to Westminster for the first time since his controversial appearance on ITV’s I’m A Celebrity.

Mr Hancock suggests in the diaries that then-Prime Minister Boris Johnson had been reluctant to engage on the issue of Covid.

When he first raised the outbreak in China with Mr Johnson in early January, his response had been that the then-Health Secretary should keep an eye on it, but that it “will probably go away”.

He wrote Mr Johnson’s attitude was shared by his chief adviser Dominic Cummings who thought Covid was a “distraction” from Brexit.

Mr Hancock also defends his handling of one of the most controversial episodes of the pandemic – the decision to release care home residents from hospital without testing. This has been blamed for thousands of deaths.

He said the then-Chief Executive of NHS England Sir Simon (now Lord) Stevens had been pushing for elderly hospital patients who did not need urgent treatment to be discharged.

Mr Hancock notes on April 2 that the “tragic” but “honest” truth is the UK did not have enough testing capacity to check.

In mid-July, he said he received a “startling note” in his ministerial red box suggesting most cases in care homes were brought in by staff with the virus whose managers allowed them to continue working. He later describes this as “scandalous”.

Mr Hancock this week endured some gentle teasing as he appeared for the first time in the Commons since his appearance in the jungle.

The MP, who now sits as an independent having had the Tory whip withdrawn for going off to Australia while Parliament was sitting, was speaking in support of his Private Member’s Bill to introduce screening for dyslexia.

He told MPs that it was “a pleasure to be here and to be clean and well-fed”.

His Bill, however, ran out of time and is now unlikely to make it into law in its present form.

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