Matt Hancock reportedly rejected advice from England’s Chief Medical officer to cut the 14-day Covid isolation period short to five days, fearing that it would “imply we’ve been getting it wrong”. In November 2020, Prof Sir Chris Whitty told Mr Hancock that it would be “pretty well as good” for contacts of positive Covid cases to test for five days “in lieu” of a fortnight’s isolation.
A series of WhatsApp messages shared between the top officials also shows that the 14-day quarantine period had likely been “too long all along”, reported The Telegraph.
In November 2020, Sir Chris and other Government advisers were “in favour” of trialing the alternative system.
But the then health secretary resisted, saying it “sounds like a massive loosening” and that removing the quarantine requirement could make it appear that ministers had made a mistake.
The release of the messages about isolation came as other leaked WhatsApps revealed how Mr Hancock fought to take credit for the success of Britain’s vaccine campaign, telling colleagues: “Everyone knows I’m Mr Vaccine and this is the route out.”
He feared being overshadowed by others, including the medicines regulator, saying that speeding up approval of jabs was a “Hancock triumph”.
Dame Kate Bingham, the vaccines tsar, was also criticised by Mr Hancock as “totally unreliable” and “wacky” after she questioned the need to inoculate the entire population.
The Telegraph has revealed that Mr Hancock wanted to “deploy” a new variant to ensure public compliance, while his team spoke about how best to use “fear and guilt”.
In the exchange with Mr Hancock on November 17 2020, Sir Chris said: “CMOs [chief medical officers] and Sage [the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies] in favour of a pilot with presumption in favour of testing for five days in lieu of isolation (alternative 10 days isolation).
The Chief Medical Officer responded that self-isolating for a fortnight was only “marginally safer” than 10 and that this tiny benefit came “certainly at the expense of reduced adherence”. He concluded: “So it probably balances out.”
Mr Hancock replied: “I think moving to seven-day daily testing for contacts would be HUGE for adherence, but going below that would seriously worry people and imply we’d been getting it wrong.”
Sir Chris replied, saying that he would “go back” and speak to the other chief medical officers, adding that he thought they would be “sympathetic” to Mr Hancock’s concerns.
In a statement this week, Mr Hancock said that all the materials for his book had been made available to the official COVID-19 inquiry.
Presented with the news that the chief medical officers believed the 14-day isolation period could be removed and replaced with just five days of testing – provided the medicines regulator signed off on at-home testing – Mr Hancock said: “This sounds very risky and we can’t go backwards.”
He then asked: “Wouldn’t test every day for ten days be a safer starting point?”
Sir Chris replied: “We could push out to seven but the benefits really flatten off after five. We would expect symptomatic people to get a pcr test as normal.”
The self-isolation period was shortened to 10 days on December 14 2020.
*This story has not been edited by The Infallible staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.