It would have been against scientific advice to order lockdown earlier — Hancock
Matt Hancock has stated that he was warned at the start of the epidemic that Covid-19 could kill 820,000 people, but that ordering a lockdown sooner would have been against scientific advice.
The Prime Minister’s former aide, Dominic Cummings, made claims to the Health and Social Care Committee and the Science and Technology Committee, prompting questions from the Health Secretary.
Mr Hancock told MPs that he had “no notion” why Mr Cummings was upset with him, but that he later learned that he wanted him dismissed.
When asked why the government overlooked indicators that the death toll could be high for six to eight weeks in early 2020, the Cabinet minister answered, “Well, I would undoubtedly argue that we knew about this situation from the outset.”
“And the challenge in those early weeks of March was making a major judgment – possibly the most consequential decision that any Prime Minister has ever made, certainly in peacetime, based on insufficient information and at a breakneck speed.”
He said he told the Department of Health and the NHS to “plan on the basis of a reasonable worst-case scenario” for 820,000 fatalities in January 2020, which he signed off on at Cobra on January 31.
He stated that he was “determined that that would not happen on my watch,” and that “we were planning for how to halt that, and how to cope with the ramifications if it came true” throughout February.
He stated there had been no deaths and only 50 confirmed cases as of March 3, but that by the week beginning March 9, the “statistics started to match the realistic worst-case scenario,” and that by the end of the week, the anticipated numbers “were on an intolerable magnitude.”
“The clear scientific advice at the time was that there was a need to have these tools like lockdown at your disposal, but also that the consequences and costs of lockdown start immediately, and, critically, the clear advice at the time was that,” Mr Hancock said when asked why he and others had not seen the magnitude of what was coming. (This is a brief piece.)