COVID-19: Matt Hancock’s claims on lockdown timing, asymptomatic transmission and PPE elevate eyebrows

Matt Hancock

2021-06-10 20:02:00

Matt Hancock made a lot of claims through the course of his proof to the science and well being joint committee which have subsequently been questioned by MPs and a few scientists.

On points such because the provides of PPE, the rationing of care, and asymptomatic transmission, the well being secretary’s account was repeatedly challenged.

Listed below are a number of the areas the place Mr Hancock’s statements got here in for shut scrutiny.

PPE provides

The well being secretary claimed that whereas there have been “native points” across the provision of PPE final spring, there was “by no means a nationwide scarcity”.

Labour’s Sarah Owen urged this declare was unattainable to reconcile with the pictures of well being staff utilizing bin luggage for aprons broadly circulated on social media on the time.

Nurses care for a COVID-19 patient in an intensive care ward
PPE provide has been beneath much less pressure because the early days of the pandemic

Matt Hancock pointed to the Nationwide Audit Workplace report from final November to help his assertion, citing this passage straight: “The NHS supplier organisations we spoke to advised us that, whereas they had been involved in regards to the low shares of PPE, they had been all the time capable of get what they wanted in time.”

Nonetheless, Mr Hancock didn’t clarify that the next paragraph says: “This was not the expertise reported by many front-line staff. Suggestions from care staff, docs and nurses present that important numbers of them thought of that they weren’t adequately protected through the peak of the primary wave of the pandemic.”

It goes on to say: “From this survey proof we can’t know the way consultant these experiences are of the entire workforce, however incidence of shortages is supported by different qualitative proof.”

A report by the Public Accounts Committee printed in February got here to the same conclusion: “Many staff on the entrance line in well being and social care had been put within the appalling state of affairs of getting to look after individuals with COVID-19 or suspected COVID-19 with out enough PPE to guard themselves from an infection.”

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Rationing of therapy

Matt Hancock was agency that at no level within the pandemic had the NHS been unable to offer medical care – “availability of therapy was all the time there”, he advised the committee.

However in his response to additional interrogation from Labour’s Barbara Keeley, it grew to become clear the well being secretary was making a extra delicate level – not that denial of therapy didn’t occur, as a substitute that it was by no means one thing which was endorsed.

In response to examples Barbara Keeley put ahead of “don’t resuscitate” (DNR) orders getting used and hospitals refusing COVID-positive admissions from care properties, Mr Hancock stated the “scientific recommendation” from authorities medical officers had by no means advisable such triage and that steering was issued to stop the usage of DNR orders.

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Asymptomatic transmission

The well being secretary additionally described how he “bitterly” regrets not ignoring recommendation from the World Well being Organisation (WHO) that asymptomatic transmission of COVID-19 was unlikely.

Mr Hancock claimed he had been advised by the WHO that references to asymptomatic transmission in reviews from China in January 2020 had been “probably mistranslation”.

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Since final summer season, Matt Hancock and Boris Johnson have each commonly pointed to the lack of knowledge round asymptomatic transmission as an evidence for why so many deaths occurred in care properties.

This defence, nonetheless, has lengthy been disputed by scientists.

Minutes from the assembly of the federal government’s Scientific Advisory Group on Emergencies (SAGE) from 28 January 2020 say: “There’s restricted proof of asymptomatic transmission, however early indications suggest some is going on. PHE growing a paper on this.”

SAGE minutes from 4 February 2020 present ministers had been advised: “Asymptomatic transmission can’t be dominated out and transmission from mildly symptomatic people is probably going.”

On the SAGE assembly on 30 April 2020, it was famous that an NHS research indicated the optimistic take a look at price amongst asymptomatic healthcare staff was round 5-6%.

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Lockdown delayed resulting from ‘fatigue’ issues

One other argument put ahead by Matt Hancock was that locking down earlier final spring would have gone in opposition to the scientific consensus on the time.

“The clear recommendation on the time was that there is solely a restricted interval that folks would put up with it…would put up with lockdown…now that proved truly to be flawed,” he stated.

Mr Hancock insisted he had scrutinised the recommendation, however “finally we did not know the way lengthy individuals would put up with it and now it appears apparent that folks will put up with lockdowns – it was in no way apparent”.

Nurses care for a COVID-19 patient in an intensive care ward
PPE provide has been beneath much less pressure because the early days of the pandemic

Professor John Drury, who’s a member of the SPI-B group of presidency advisers who concentrate on such points, has rejected this narrative.

“Because the SPI-B doc from March final yr signifies, there was not a ‘consensus’ amongst scientists that the general public wouldn’t ‘put up with’ the restrictions,” he says. “The restrictions we had been requested about on this briefing doc had been to do with lowering social contacts (i.e. bodily distancing), not ‘lockdown’.”

Nonetheless, it’s flawed to say the difficulty was not raised in any respect by authorities advisers.

At a Downing Road briefing on 9 March 2020, the chief medical officer, Professor Chris Whitty, stated: “It’s not only a matter of what you do however if you do it. Something we do, we have now acquired to have the ability to maintain.

“As soon as we have now began this stuff we have now to proceed them via the height, and there’s a threat that, if we go too early, individuals will understandably get fatigued and will probably be troublesome to maintain this over time.”

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