att Hancock has categorically rejected Dominic Cummings’ claims that he is a liar – as the government faces increasing pressure to find out whether failures in containment and nursing homes are leading to the needless deaths of tens of thousands .
The health secretary hit back at the former senior adviser No.10 who delivered a devastating verdict on the government’s handling of the pandemic on Wednesday. Mr Cummings singled out Mr Hancock for his scathing criticism, accusing him of lying and alleging he should have been sacked 15 to 20 times.
Speaking in the Commons Thursday morning, the Cabinet minister replied, “These unfounded allegations of honesty are not true. What we have done to manage this coronavirus pandemic is unprecedented in modern times.
“Throughout, we have been forthright with the people and with this Assembly about the challenges we face together as a nation. Of course, there were unprecedented difficulties in preparing for an unprecedented event.
However, two of Britain’s leading coronavirus experts, Professor Neil Ferguson and Professor John Edmunds, backed Mr Cummings’ central accusation against the government that delays in imposing lockdowns were partly to blame for the high death toll.
In other key developments:
- The nursing home death scandal has escalated as a minister admitted the government could have acted “differently”. However, Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick blamed inaccurate advice from scientists that people without symptoms could not transmit the infection. His account contradicted Mr Cummings’ claim that the Health Secretary had promised all residents would be tested before entering homes.
- Pressure mounted on the Prime Minister to speed up an official investigation as a Conservative MP and a doctor backed calls from multiple parties for it to be launched no later than this fall. Dr Dan Poulter told the Evening Standard he must report within 18 months if there is a new pandemic.
- Professor Ferguson said the Indian variant is now the “dominant strain”.
- Mr. Hancock did not respond to many of Mr. Cummings’ allegations. However, the government has faced a growing number of voices saying that many lives could have been saved.
- Professor Edmunds, of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, said a ‘huge number’ of deaths linked to Covid-19 could have been avoided in Wave 2 if the government had taken more drastic measures like advised by scientists.
In his damning testimony to a joint session of the Commons Health and Science Committees, Mr Cummings said Wednesday: “Tens of thousands of people have died without needing to die. He tore Boris Johnson to pieces for failing to take earlier and more decisive action in the fall to stop the second wave, and for his failures also when the pandemic hit Britain in the spring.
Asked whether a toll of tens of thousands of deaths could have been avoided, leading epidemiologist Professor Edmunds told ITV’s Peston: “Well, it depends on what measures you take. in place, what would the alternative be, but certainly if you did a major program and put it in place in September, then we would have avoided many of the problems that we had subsequently in the wave of ‘autumn.
“And that fall wave of course fueled the next wave because we let another variation (Kent) escape and start to spread. So it’s hard to say how many cases and deaths would have been prevented, but it’s a huge number.
So far 127,748 people have died in the UK within 28 days of testing positive for the coronavirus, according to official government figures, Professor Ferguson of Imperial College London, whose modeling helped to persuade the government to carry out the first lockdown, scientists said. had become increasingly concerned in the week leading up to March 13, 2020, about the lack of a clear plan, and 20,000 to 30,000 lives could have been saved with earlier action.
“I think it’s indisputable,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Today program. “I mean the pandemic was doubling every three to four days from March 13 to 23, and if we had postponing the interventions for a week, we would have reduced that and saved many lives ”. Mr Johnson ordered the first lockdown on March 23.
Mr Cummings has directed his fiercest criticisms to Mr Hancock over the shortcomings of nursing home policy, the purchase of personal protective equipment (PPE) and his public commitment to a testing target that disturbed Whitehall.