Matt Hancock discussed ‘deploying’ new virus variant to ‘frighten the pants off everyone’ as former Health Secretary demands immunity on care home deaths during the pandemic
- Mr Hancock said he wanted to frighten the public into changing their behaviour
- It comes as he told a top law firm he should not be help responsible for failings
- It follows the texts yesterday showing his reaction to his affair being discovered
Matt Hancock told aides he wanted to ‘frighten the pants off everyone’ to ensure compliance with Covid-19 restrictions, leaked messages reveal, as it emerges he told top London lawyers he should be immune from prosecution just days before the WhatsApp scandal broke.
In an online Q&A with law firm Mishcon de Reya, Matt Hancock accused those prosecuting Secretaries of State as ‘chasing tabloid headlines’ just 12 days ago, The Mirror reports.
It comes as a new swathe of messages from Mr Hancock’s WhatsApp account were revealed today, involving discussions over how to scare the public to limit the spread of coronavirus, and when to ‘deploy’ details of a new strain.
The latest set of WhatsApp exchanges show Mr Hancock and others discussed how to use an announcement about the Kent variant of the virus to scare the public into changing their behaviour.
The messages, among more than 100,000 WhatsApps passed to the Telegraph by journalist Isabel Oakeshott, show that Cabinet Secretary Simon Case suggested in January 2021 that the ‘fear’ factor would be ‘vital’ in stopping the spread of the virus.
The latest set of WhatsApp exchanges show Mr Hancock and others discussed how to use an announcement about the Kent variant of the virus to scare the public into changing their behaviour
The discussion took place in December, just three weeks before the whole of the country was placed back under lockdown rules
In December 2020, the exchanges show concern that London Mayor Sadiq Khan could follow the example of Mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham, who had clashed with the Government over the decision to impose stringent lockdown restrictions on the region.
Mr Hancock’s adviser said: ‘Rather than doing too much forward signalling, we can roll pitch with the new strain.’
‘We frighten the pants of everyone with the new strain,’ the then Health Secretary responded.
‘But the complication with that Brexit is taking the top line,’ he said, in an apparent reference to media coverage of the UK’s EU exit.
‘Yep that’s what will get proper behaviour change,’ the adviser said.
‘When do we deploy the new variant,’ Mr Hancock said.
The conversation, on December 13, came amid concerns about the rapid spread of the virus in south-east England.
Mr Hancock announced that a new Covid-19 variant had been identified in the UK on December 14.
London and south-east England were to enter a new Tier 4 alert level, it was announced on December 19, when then prime minister Boris Johnson also cancelled a promised Christmas ‘bubbles’ policy allowing families to meet.
The entirety of England entered the third national lockdown on January 6 2021.
Messages from January 10 show Mr Hancock and the Cabinet Secretary discussing ways to ensure compliance.
‘More mask-wearing might be the only thing to consider.
‘Effectively free and has a very visible impact? Wear masks in all settings outside home and in more workplaces?
‘Am not sure that got us much further, did it? Basically, we need to get compliance up.’
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