UK Lockdown Files: Ex-Health Minister's Leaked Messages Raise Questions on COVID Response

    UK Lockdown Files: Ex-Health Minister's Leaked Messages Raise Questions on COVID Response
    Last updated Mar 01, 2023
    Image credit: Associated Press


    • The Telegraph has released a report, dubbed the “Lockdown Files,” based on more than 100k of former UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock's WhatsApp messages — provided by the co-author of Hancock’s memoir, Isabel Oakeshott.[1]
    • The files largely focus on Hancock and the UK’s handling of the COVID pandemic, raising questions about the government’s approach to regulations. Notably, the report says Hancock ignored expert advice on testing people entering nursing homes for COVID.[2]
    • While care home residents made up only 5% of the UK’s over-65 population, they reportedly accounted for around 30% of all COVID deaths in facilities across England and Wales during the first two years of the pandemic. Against the UK’s Chief Medical Officer's advice, Hancock reportedly didn't test people entering care homes — a decision the report alleges was taken to align with a national quota of 100k tests per day.[3]
    • The report also alleges that senior scientific advisers told former PM Boris Johnson that shielding measures weren't effective, but the government still asked 2.2M people to follow the guidelines. Shielding guidelines were first introduced in March 2020, asking vulnerable people not to leave their homes.[4]
    • Current PM Rishi Sunak is reviewing his own private exchanges with Hancock, but a source close to him has reported his exchanges were "very cautious."[5]
    • Meanwhile, Hancock’s team says the messages have been “doctored to create a false story” about the former health secretary and his dealing with the pandemic and that the allegations should be discussed in the current public COVID inquiry, which is scheduled to start hearing evidence in June.[6]
    • The Telegraph has promised to release further previously-unknown details about the pandemic response over the coming days.[7]


    Narrative A

    The Lockdown Files offer a damning report that confirms the worst fears of any lockdown skeptic — the UK government, and Hancock in particular, was far more concerned with scoring political points and looking as though it was doing something than following the science. That Hancock rejected expert advice and the government enacted policies that caused unnecessary and widespread suffering, such as blocking people from visiting dying relatives, with no clear basis is unforgivable.

    Narrative B

    While Matt Hancock’s leaked messages are a major news story, he shouldn't be the target of collective outrage. Like governments from all over the world, the UK made mistakes during an unprecedented time of crisis while navigating unchartered territories, and Hancock was at the forefront. More importantly, the so-called "Lockdown Files" only released a portion of the messages, arousing concern that the narrative has been manipulated to coincide with a rising anti-lockdown agenda.

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