Taxi for Hancock! Health Secretary and wife look relaxed while waiting for cab on day UK records zero Covid deaths… after Cummings said he should be sacked
- Matt Hancock, 42, looked picture of happiness with wife Martha in London in Tuesday enjoying the sights
- The health secretary was all smiles despite a heavy past few days where his record has been under scrutiny
- His competency has been questioned by former No 10 aide Dominic Cummings in a blistering attack to MPs
- But there was good news with zero Covid deaths recorded yesterday for the first time since the pandemic
Health Secretary Matt Hancock ordered a taxi with his wife yesterday – as Covid variant cases rose amid questions over his competency sparked by former No 10 adviser Dominic Cummings.
The Minister – who denied ‘criminal, disgraceful behaviour’ alleged by Mr Cummings – looked relaxed yesterday in Exmouth Market in London.
He was accompanied by his wife Martha, with whom they share four children, on the day the good news of zero Covid deaths were announced.
Mr Hancock, 42, has had turbulent few days amid the fallout from the former Downing Street aide’s evidence to ministers.
But as he and his wife waited for the cab he was seen grinning broadly and appeared to have not a care in the world.
Both of them seemed preoccupied by their mobile phones and were spotted glancing at them, perhaps hoping for an update on their car.
A happy Matt Hancock smiles as he waits with his wife Martha in the sunshine in London as she clutches her mobile phone
Martha and Matt Hancock were in Exmouth Market in London yesterday for the day while Parliament is in recess
The pair seem fascinated by their mobile phones, which may have been connected to the cab which arrived shortly after
He married Martha, whose full name was Martha Hoyer Millar, back in 2006.
She works as an osteopathand is the granddaughter of Frederick Millar, 1st Baron Inchyra.
Pictures of them together – during Parliament recess – came as it emerged the health minister has ordered officials to draw-up a detailed timeline of decisions made around care homes during the pandemic.
The scheduling list has been commissioned in a bid to rebut allegations made against him by Mr Cummings.
He effectively admitted he had allowed patients to be discharged from hospitals into care homes without being tested for coronavirus during the first surge.
‘My recollection of events is that I committed to delivering that testing for people going from hospital into care homes when we could do it,’ Mr Hancock told a Downing Street press conference.
The pair looked in bliss as they strolled around the tourist spot hand in hand as a couple as the temperatures stayed high
It was a dressed-down look for Mr Hancock, who is normally seen in his smart suits in the official Downing Street briefings
At one point them were seen queuing and maintained strict social distancing, despite being a couple and living together
Matt Hancock at a Downing Street press conference on May 27, 2021, in his usual attire for the serious announcements
Dominic Cummings in Parliament giving evidence to MPs on May 26, 2021, where he slated Mr Hancock and his record
The Health Secretary is under growing political pressure after last week admitting he had allowed patients to be discharged from hospitals into care homes without being tested for coronavirus during the first surge. Stock image used
Ministers are preparing to offer vaccines to all over-18s within weeks to help halt the spread of the Indian variant as the UK reported zero Covid deaths for the first time in 10 months.
So far only adults aged 30 and over have been invited for their jabs and health leaders are focusing their efforts on giving older people their second dose.
But it is understood officials are planning to open up the eligibility to all age groups amid concerns the Indian strain – which has been renamed as the ‘Delta variant’ – is spreading very quickly among the young.
Meanwhile in a speech today Health Secretary Matt Hancock will praise the country’s ‘extraordinary vaccine heroes’ – including healthcare staff and volunteers.
At a speech outside the Jenner Institute in Oxford, where the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine was developed, Mr Hancock will pay particular tribute to the NHS, scientists and the armed forces for helping deliver 65million vaccines so far.
‘The biggest risk would have been the failure to find a vaccine at all. So we explicitly embraced risk early on,’ he will say. ‘So we backed lots of horses and invested at risk.
‘And instead of sitting back and waiting to see which vaccines came off, we were tenacious in helping them to get over the line, drawing on the abundant industry experience in our team. The team who worked on our vaccination programme was the single greatest asset that we had in this crisis.’
His comments came 24 hours after Mr Cummings told MPs that the Health Secretary had lied in March last year by announcing all care home residents returning from hospital would be tested when they were not.
Mr Hancock is understood to have tasked policy officials to write a chronology of decisions around adult social care and care homes during the pandemic.
The Telegraph reports that this is preparation for when he appears before MPs in two weeks to give his own evidence in response to Mr Cummings.
A senior Department of Health and Social Care source told the paper: ‘He’s not sparing any effort to rebut Cummings’s narrative.’
Around 25,000 people were discharged from hospitals into care homes without all getting a test during the first wave of the pandemic.
The latest figures from the UK’s statistics agencies show there have been 36,275 deaths involving Covid in care homes since the crisis began.
Public Health England also released data suggesting just 1.7 per cent of care home outbreaks between January 30 and October 12 were potentially seeded in a hospital.
Mr Hancock last week claimed he only promised to ‘build testing capacity’ after Mr Cummings accused him of lying to Prime Minister Boris Johnson about whether residents would be screened on leaving hospital.
The Health Secretary finally addressed the issue directly as he was repeatedly grilled on the allegations from the maverick former No10 chief at a Downing Street briefing.
Pressed on whether he had told Mr Johnson and others in government early in the pandemic that checks on discharge would happen, Mr Hancock said: ‘My recollection of events is that I committed to delivering that testing for people going from hospital into care homes when we could do it.’
But he insisted ‘it wasn’t possible’ to carry out the testing until the capacity had been built.
He also tried to bat away questions by suggesting they are best considered in the public inquiry, which will not begin until next year. ‘There will be a time when we can go into this in detail,’ he said.
Earlier, Mr Hancock told the Commons that Mr Cummings’ claims during an explosive committee hearing yesterday – including that he lied repeatedly, failed care home residents and should have been ‘sacked daily’ – were ‘not true’ and he had been ‘straight with people’.
The UK yesterday reported zero Covid deaths for the first time since July 30 last year
Ministers are preparing to offer vaccines to all over-18s within weeks
However, he was challenged on the issue again after he seemed to avoid responding to the specific allegation about care homes – where thousands died when coronavirus ran riot in the initial phase of the pandemic.
Mr Cummings said Mr Hancock ‘categorically’ told colleagues in March that people would be tested before being returned to homes.
But the former aide said they ‘subsequently found out that that hadn’t happened’.
Mr Hancock was asked if he could say he protected care homes, and was also asked if he made the commitment on testing.
He replied: ‘We worked as hard as we could to protect people who live in care homes, and of course those who live in care homes are some of the most vulnerable to this disease because by its nature it attacks and has more of an impact on older people.
‘Now when it comes to the testing of people as they left hospital and went into care homes, we committed to building the testing capacity to allow that to happen.
‘Of course it then takes time to build testing capacity.
‘In fact, one of the critical things we did was set the 100,000 target back then to make sure we built that testing capacity and it was very effective in doing so.
‘And then we were able to introduce the policy of testing everybody before going into care homes, but we could only do that once we had the testing capacity which I had to build, because we didn’t have it in this country from the start.
‘We started with a capacity of less than 2,000 in March last year and got to 100,000 tests a day. And we set all of this out at the time in public documents.
‘It’s all a matter of public record.’
Summoned to answer an urgent question in the House, Mr Hancock said: ‘These unsubstantiated allegations around honesty are not true.
‘I have been straight with people in public and in private throughout.’
Mr Hancock also dismissed Mr Cummings’ criticism of his testing target, saying it was ‘how you get stuff done in government’.
‘I am proud of everyone in my department,’ he said.
In a brutal swipe at the ex-No10 chief, who was ousted from Downing Street in November, he said people can see that over the past six months ‘governing has become a little easier and we have been able to deliver’.
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