United Kingdom

Matt Hancock 'didn't tell Boris about health study showing vaccine effectiveness'

Matt Hancock has been accused of failing to tell the Prime Minister about a report with promising conclusions about vaccine effectiveness against the Indian of coronavirus at a crucial meeting before ministers decided to delay restrictions. 

The claims in the Sunday Telegraph heaps more pressure on the beleaguered Health Secretary after axed Number 10 advisor Domininc Cummings revealed that  Boris Johnson had branded his response to the pandemic 'f***ig hopeless'.

Questions about the effectiveness of vaccines in preventing Covid hospitalisations caused by the Indian variant were at the centre of ministers decision last week to delay the further easing of restrictions until July 19.

That decision was taken after a meeting of 'the quad' of Boris Johnson, Rishi Sunak, Michael Gove and Boris Johnson on June 15.

But critics now claimed that the data shows that the decision to delay was not necessary and argue that freedom day should be brought forward to July 5 because they suggest surging coronavirus cases will not result in a wave of hospitalisations that overwhelm the NHS. 

The Health Secretary is believed to have known about a Public Health England (PHE) study into the AstraZeneca and Pfizer vaccines on June 10.

The data showed the two vaccines were more effective at stopping hospitalisations from the now-dominant Indian variant than with previous strains.

PHE also provided written analysis which they sent to Mr Hancock on June 12.

But the information was not shared with the Prime Minister, Chancellor Rishi Sunak, or Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove during their meeting three days later that led to the postponement of June 21.

Sources told the Sunday Telegraph that the study was not even included in briefing papers at the meeting.

The Health Secretary is believed to have known about a Public Health England (PHE) study into the AstraZeneca and Pfizer vaccines on June 10. But the information was not shared with the Prime Minister, Chancellor Rishi Sunak, or Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove during their meeting three days later that led to the postponement of June 21. Pictured: Michael Gove and Matt Hancock at the England vs Scotland Euro 2020 match

The shocking revelation comes as Covid cases rose by a third in a week with a further 10,321 by hospitalisations only increased by around a third of the pace of the second wave

Britain's death toll stands at 14 today, a rise of two on the 12 recorded this day last week. It follows the Prime Minister earlier saying the data 'continues to indicate' that his July 19 terminus date will go ahead

New data analysis shows a significant reduction in hospitalisations and deaths compared to previous estimates

New data analysis shows a significant reduction in hospitalisations and deaths compared to previous estimates

New data analysis shows a significant reduction in hospitalisations and deaths compared to previous estimates

New data analysis shows a significant reduction in hospitalisations and deaths compared to previous estimates

The shocking revelation now raises the question of whether Boris Johnson and his 'quad' of decision-making ministers would have chosen to delay the unlocking had they been given the evidence. 

It is the latest embarrassment for Mr Hancock after it was this week revealed that the Prime Minister had branded him 'f***ing hopeless' in texts to adviser Dominic Cummings who in turn had savagely laid into the Health Secretary during a Select Committee appearance.

Tory MPs have questioned whether Mr Hancock had tried to 'bounce' the Prime Minister into extending the final set of restrictions to be lifted.

However a government source told the publication that some 'equivalent' data by Sage's Scientific Pandemic Influenza Group on Modelling (Spi-M) had been included which showed similar figures.

A day after the senior ministers' meeting in Downing Street, Mr Johnson announced that the curbs would remain in place for four weeks until July 19 - although he referred to this as a 'terminus date'.

The PHE data was released following the press conference. 

The bombshell claim is said to have 'annoyed' members of the 'quad' and could also lead to significant pressure on the Prime Minister to go ahead with easing restrictions on July 5 when he is expected to review the decision.

Fifty-one Conservative MPs rebelled when the extension of the restrictions came to a vote in the Commons but it passed with the support of Labour.

At the debate on the extension, Mr Hancock said the Indian 'Delta' variant had 'given the virus extra legs' and so the delay was necessary 'to get those remaining jabs into the arms of those who need them'.

The Health Secretary, who has been in post for three years, has suffered a slew of accusations and embarrassing revelations over the last month aimed mostly at his handling of the pandemic.

Most recently Mr Hancock was caught in a toe-curling encounter as he was forced to insist that he 'doesn't think' he is 'f****** hopeless' after it was revealed the Prime Minister described him as such in texts to adviser Dominic Cummings.

WhatsApps revealed by Mr Cummings included brutal assessments by the PM at the height of the crisis in March and April last year - including repeatedly branding Mr Hancock 'hopeless' over PPE and testing and suggesting Michael Gove would have to take over. 

In one exchange from March 27 last year, Mr Cummings criticised the Health Secretary over the failure to ramp up testing. Mr Johnson replied: 'Totally f****** hopeless.' He then tried to call his senior aide three times without managing to get through. 

In an exchange with Boris Johnson from March 27 last year Dominic Cummings criticised the Health Secretary over the failure to ramp up testing

On April 27, Mr Johnson apparently messaged Mr Cummings to say that PPE was a 'disaster' and that Michael Gove should take over from Mr Hancock

Mr Cummings gave a brutal assessment of the performance of the government during an exchange of messages in April 2020

Another from the same day saw Mr Cummings complain that the Department of Health had been turning down ventilators because 'the price has been marked up'. Mr Johnson said: 'It's Hancock. He has been hopeless.'  

Mr Cummings leaked his texts with the Prime Minister after launched attacks on Mr Johnson, his fiancée Carrie Symonds and Mr Hancock over their personal conduct during an appearance before MPs earlier this month.

In the seven-hour-long evidence session he said the Health Secretary 'should have been fired for at least 15 to 20 things, including lying'.

He also alleged Mr Hancock had lied to the PM over the disastrous policy of not testing older people for Covid before they were discharged from hospital into care homes.

Mr Johnson has since attempted to play down the emergence of his private WhatsApps and insisted he has 'complete confidence' in Mr Hancock.

A Department of Health spokesman described the accusations against Mr Hancock as 'categorically untrue'. 

They added: 'Information which was provided by PHE was shared across Government before the meeting.

'Analysis and work on the scientific paper continued over the weekend before it was published as soon as it was ready on Monday.' 

Government data up to June 18 shows that of the 73,766,593 jabs given in the UK so far, 42,679,268 were first doses - a rise of 218,636 on the previous day

Most recently Mr Hancock was caught in a toe-curling encounter as he was forced to insist that he 'doesn't think' he is 'f****** hopeless' after it was revealed the Prime Minister described him as such in texts to adviser Dominic Cummings 

Jabs were today being administered at stadiums and football grounds in London that had been transformed into mass vaccination centres

It comes as Covid cases were found to have risen by a third in a week with a further 10,321 people testing positive for the infection today. It is the highest Saturday increase since February.

Today's case total - 2,583 more than the 7,738 recorded last week - comes amid fears that the UK will not be able to outpace the Delta variant with the current rate of vaccination. 

It is the third day in a row where the number of infections has exceeded 10,000, and the highest rise on a Saturday since 10,406 cases were recorded on February 20. 

The nation's death toll stands at 14 today, a rise of two on the 12 recorded this day last week, bringing the total to 127,970.

However, the modelling by government scientists that suggested the UK faces tens of thousands more Covid-19 deaths in a brutal third wave will be drastically revised down.

The new data which contributed to the PHE study and SPI-M's finding shows that Sage's bleak projections actually overestimated the number of hospital admissions facing the UK in a third wave by tens of thousands.

The models, which influenced the Prime Minister's decision to delay 'Freedom Day', were based on old data that was too pessimistic about vaccine effectiveness.

SAGE are now producing new scenarios that are likely to slash projections for Covid-19 deaths by around half.

One report by Warwick University predicts that the more optimistic vaccine efficacy will cut estimates of total deaths over the next year from around 17,100 to around 6,320.

And it would nearly halve the peak of hospital admissions, expected in around one month, which had been projected to reach nearly 3,000 a day had June 21 gone ahead.

The overall number of Covid-19 patients projected to need hospital treatment over the next year is slashed by nearly 50,000.

The figures, which provide a much brighter outlook for the trajectory of the third wave, will boost hopes that Boris Johnson will be able to go ahead with reopening on July 19.

Today thousands of over-18s have today queued up to receive their first Covid jabs as Britons were again urged to get vaccinated.

The UK's vaccination programme has now been opened up to every age group with 18, 19 and 20-year-olds starting to receive text and email invites yesterday.

Teenagers and people in their twenties were seen standing in long queues to get their first shots at centres in London and other parts of the country. 

Jabs were today being administered at stadiums and football grounds in London that had been transformed into mass vaccination centres.

Giant jab clinics have been set up at the Olympic Stadium, Tottenham Hotspur FC, Charlton Athletic FC, Selhurst Park and Crystal Palace Athletics Centre.

Karol, 24, was seen wearing his Chelsea FC shirt as he got a jab at the club's Stamford Bridge stadium. 

Smaller events are also taking place in local community venues in a drive to vaccinate as many Londoners as possible.

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan said he was 'delighted' to visit Chelsea's ground at Stamford Bridge to see the ongoing vaccination effort.

Chelsea FC had 6,000 Pfizer vaccines to administer on Saturday, with the jab being offered to all adults over the age of 18 yet to receive a first dose, as well as those awaiting a second Pfizer dose. 

Mr Khan said: 'Chelsea FC, West Ham at the London Stadium, Tottenham Hotspur FC, Charlton Athletic FC, are hosting large-scale pop-up clinics, and there are a huge number of events taking place in local community centres, so that as many people as possible get convenient access to the life-saving Covid jabs.

'You do not need to be registered with a GP to get vaccinated. 

'It is great news that more than eight million doses of the life-saving Covid-19 vaccine have been given to Londoners, and now all adults over the age of 18 are able to get the jab.

'We are seeing the big difference that the vaccine is making in our fight against the virus, so I strongly urge all adult Londoners to book their appointments or attend a walk-in centre as soon as possible, and to ensure you get your second dose.'

The 'super pop-ups' are expected to attract thousands of young Londoners on 'super Saturday' who are now eligible to receive their first Covid jab. 

Vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi tweeted: 'This is an incredible effort by the whole London team. Happening across the City at Spurs, Arsenal, Charlton and West Ham too. Come on London let's get vaccinated!'

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