The health secretary fought back for the second time in a day following attacks by former chief adviser to Boris Johnson.
One of Mr Cummings’ main claims was that Mr Hancock lied about people testing for COVID before returning to care homes at the start of the pandemic.
Mr Cummings told MPs on Wednesday that the Prime Minister was furious to discover in April 2020 that untested hospital patients had been returned to care homes, adding that Mr Hancock had told the Prime Minister a month earlier that they would be tested.
Follow live: Health Secretary gives briefing in Downing Street
Asked about this claim, Mr Hancock told a press conference in Downing Street: ‘Of course we made a commitment, and I did, to put the policy in place, but it took time to get there. set up the tests.
“We didn’t start with a big test system in the UK and then we built that test system, and that’s why the 100,000 target was so important because it really accelerated test uptime,” because when you don’t have a lot of tests, we had to prioritize it based on clinical needs. “
When asked if he had told the Prime Minister and Mr Cummings in March 2020 that they would all be tested, Mr Hancock said: ‘I remember the events, is that I made a commitment to provide that testing for people moving from hospital to care arrives when we can. do it.
“Then I went and built the testing capacity for all kinds of reasons and all kinds of uses, including this one, and then I kept the commitment I made. “
After further questions, Mr Hancock added: “There will be a time when we can go through all of this in detail, but the most important thing right now is that we still have a pandemic. “
Sky News political correspondent Joe Pike said although he has been repeatedly questioned on the matter, Mr Hancock did not give specific answers and gave general answers.
Responding to the allegation that Mr Hancock had lied, the Health Secretary told the Commons today: “We have followed clinical advice on the appropriate way forward. “
There was no need to test patients discharged from hospital in a care home until April 15, 2020, according to government documents.
Guidance to nursing homes dated April 2, 2020 said people with COVID-19 could be returned to nursing homes, but would have to self-isolate once there.
He added: “Negative tests are not necessary before transfers / admissions to the care home. “
And guidance in place until March 13, 2020 further stated that community transmission was so low that it was “very unlikely that anyone receiving care in a nursing home or in the community would become infected.”
There have been 36,275 COVID-19-related deaths in nursing homes since the start of the pandemic, according to the latest figures from British statistical agencies.
Adam Purnell, head of care and quality at Kepplegate Care Home in Lancashire, told Sky News: “Until May of last year we were told that screening was not a requirement for patients. people moving from hospitals to nursing homes.
“We were told we were protected, but in every webinar we had, we were told that it is not a requirement for asymptomatic people to be tested. “
Mr Cummings yesterday accused the Health Secretary of repeatedly lying, disastrously incompetent and claimed he should have been fired multiple times during the pandemic.
Mr Hancock has been attacked for breaches of nursing home policy, purchasing personal protective equipment (PPE) and his public commitment to a target of 100,000 COVID tests per day by the end of April 2020, which confused Whitehall.
In the Commons earlier today, Mr Hancock insisted that Mr Cummings ‘claims were’ unfounded ‘and’ false ‘, adding:’ I have always been frank with people in public and in private. . “
Mr Cummings also said a second lockdown delay last fall resulted in “tens of thousands” of additional deaths.
Boris Johnson, during a visit to the hospital on Thursday, avoided questioning whether he trusted Mr Hancock.
But he denied Mr Cummings’ claim that thousands of people have died needlessly because of the Prime Minister.
Mr. Hancock was asked if he had spoken to the Prime Minister about Mr. Cummings’ testimony to members of Parliament and asked if Boris Johnson had personally assured him that he trusted him as Secretary of Health.
He replied: “The Prime Minister and I talk all the time and we are working incredibly hard to scale up the deployment of this vaccine as much as possible, making sure that people get their second dose, and obviously very vigilant, especially in the areas. areas of the country where cases are starting to increase as I indicated.
“That’s what we’re focusing on. ”