COVID-19: Matt Hancock’s speech in Oxford appeared like a dry run as an unmentioned determine loomed massive

2021-06-02 20:32:00

On the face of it, Matt Hancock’s speech in Oxford was about celebrating the success of the UK’s vaccination programme forward of a gathering of G7 well being ministers.

However whereas worldwide diplomats, journalists and main scientists have been within the bodily viewers on the Jenner Institute, one other unmentioned determine loomed massive.

Repeatedly the well being secretary appeared to make use of his half hour speech to rebut facets of the explosive testimony Dominic Cummings gave to the science and well being choose committees final week.

It appeared at occasions like a dry run forward of Mr Hancock’s personal look in entrance of that very same joint committee subsequent Thursday.

Early within the speech Mr Hancock described how he “vividly remembered” his very first assembly to debate the necessity to commit all of the assets potential to the event of a coronavirus vaccine.

It was, he stated, in January 2020 – lengthy earlier than even the primary case of the virus had been confirmed within the UK, however even then he claimed it was already understood {that a} vaccine can be the very best approach out of the pandemic.

Matt Hancock has delivered a speech at the Jenner Institute
Matt Hancock delivered a speech on the Jenner Institute

Such a recollection appears a transparent effort to push again on two facets of the narrative set out by Boris Johnson’s former chief adviser Mr Cummings.

Firstly, that the federal government had failed the general public by performing too slowly and never taking the virus significantly till March, and secondly, that till mid-March the federal government technique was targeted on attaining the herd immunity required to finish the pandemic by way of pure infections reasonably than inoculations.

Mr Hancock went on to explain how he had spoken to the deputy chief medical officer Jonathan Van-Tam round that point and requested what one of the best case state of affairs was by way of delivering a vaccine, and obtained the response that it might be 12 to 18 months – however the work started earnestly within the hope it may very well be sooner.

Once more, this was Mr Hancock attempting to confront Mr Cummings head on.

Mentioning the position of Mr Van-Tam, who sits firmly throughout the Division for Well being and Social Care, within the preliminary drive to get work on a vaccine beneath approach, he was providing a riposte to Mr Cummings’s suggestion that the division had failed on each stage.

Throughout his proof to the choose committee final week Mr Cummings talked at size about how the central planning assumptions had been fully inaccurate and that by mid-March the cheap worst case state of affairs had change into the most certainly.

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Mr Hancock appeared to attempt to deal with this too – describing himself as a “rational optimist” who believes a concentrate on the cheap finest case state of affairs is as essential because the cheap worst case state of affairs.

He defined {that a} vaccine being obtainable early would have its personal ramifications by way of guaranteeing the infrastructure was obtainable to get jabs into arms and that planning for that was as essential has planning for no vaccine being obtainable till 2021 or 2022.

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However Mr Hancock’s reference to being “rationalist” will little question depart Mr Cummings grinding his tooth in annoyance, given the regularity with which he claims a rationalist method to political choices is exactly what authorities is missing.

Lastly there was the problem of belief and honesty – two issues that Mr Hancock claimed have been central to the efficient vaccine rollout, and that Mr Cummings had prompt have been absent in each the federal government’s response and the well being secretary’s personal actions.

So why would the well being secretary use this speech in Oxford to tackle a number of the accusations made by Mr Cummings, given he has his personal look in entrance of the committee subsequent week?

Maybe he needed to check the arguments, or extra possible he needed the chance to set out his case at size with out interruption or a lot in the best way of interrogation (with exception of some questions from journalists on the finish).

Like Mr Cummings earlier than him, Mr Hancock can be given the chance to make a gap comment on the joint choose committee subsequent Thursday – but it surely actually will not be the 30 minute monologue he was in a position to ship from the rostrum in Oxford.

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