No one can overlook the harrowing photos of frontline employees clad in bin liners and different makeshift PPE on the top of the Covid first wave.
But on Thursday, Matt Hancock was accused of insulting bereaved households as he insisted there was by no means a nationwide shortage and tried to shift the blame for the disaster onto others.
And the brazen Health Secretary even claimed there was “no evidence” an absence of PPE led to any deaths.
But the grandaughter of healthcare assistant Janice Glassey, 66 – one of many estimated 850 medical and social care employees killed by the virus – led the livid backlash in opposition to Mr Hancock’s lack of responsibilty over the scandal.
Rhian Quammie, 23, branded his response to a grilling at a choose committee investigation into the Government’s dealing with of the pandemic “incredibly hurtful”.
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She mentioned: “What he says is dismissive of how my nan passed away and disrespectful to my family and hundreds of others across the country.”
Janice spent 14 years caring for terminally unwell sufferers in Halton, Cheshire, and Rhian mentioned when Covid hit final March the one PPE she had was an apron and gloves.
A&E physician and Shadow Health Minister Dr Rosena Allin-Khan mentioned: “It’s insulting to all the frontline staff who didn’t have the right masks or gowns.
“They were put at unnecessary risk.”
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Anthony Johnson, of marketing campaign group Nurses United UK, added: “How can Hancock deny the PPE shortage when we’ve seen photos of nurses wrapped in bin bags?
“He does not get to rewrite history and the families of those affected by his callousness deserve an apology.”
Committee chair Layla Moran mentioned: “We have received harrowing evidence from families who lost loved ones and from NHS and care home staff who were left without adequate PPE.”
Mr Hancock had instructed MPs: “There is no evidence I have seen that a shortage of PPE led to anyone dying of Covid.
“There was never a point where we ran out at a national level.”
His response got here after Boris Johnson’s former aide Dominic Cummings mentioned the Health Secretary ought to have been sacked for lies and deadly failings over PPE, testing and care houses.
Mr Hancock rejected the allegations and mentioned it was “telling” Mr Cummings has not but produced any proof to again them up.
But hours later, the ex-adviser introduced he’ll publish the proof – and instantly marketing campaign for a public inquiry.
Mr Hancock admitted he was warned in January final year the pandemic might trigger 820,000 UK deaths – however lockdown nonetheless by no means occurred till March 23.
He mentioned he takes “full responsibility for the areas I am responsible for”.
But he then went on to blame scientists for claiming the virus couldn’t be handed on with out signs.
He additionally claimed scientific recommendation that individuals would solely tolerate lockdowns for a restricted interval was unsuitable.
SAGE sub-group knowledgeable Prof Stephen Reicher mentioned: “This is an inversion of the truth.
“If this were a proper inquiry, Hancock would be guilty of perjury.”
Lobby Akinnola, of the Bereaved Families for Justice group, accused Mr Hancock of blaming “everyone but himself and the Government for the handling of the pandemic”.
He mentioned: “Scientists, the public and advisors are all seemingly at fault. Our loved ones were placed in jeopardy and they paid for it with their lives.”
Mr Hancock repeated his declare that “at a national level there was never a point at which we ran out” of PPE.
He additionally recommended there was “no evidence” that issues getting equipment to the front-line price lives.
Labour accused him of attempting to “rewrite history” as medics’ lives had been put at pointless threat by shortages.
NHS Providers had warned ranges had been “dangerously low”, with robes and visors in significantly quick provide.
The Health Secretary didn’t absolutely deny he had blamed shortages on Rishi Sunak and NHS chiefs.
He mentioned there had been “individual challenges”, however claimed they had been to do with distribution to native areas somewhat than provide.
Mr Hancock quoted a National Audit Office report from November which mentioned NHS supplier had reported they “were always able to get what they needed in time”.
But he didn’t learn the subsequent paragraph, which says: “This was not the experience reported by many front-line workers.”
Seeking to justify the delay to the primary lockdown, Mr Hancock mentioned the timing adopted scientific recommendation which ministers discovered it onerous to overrule.
It has been claimed the delay price tens of hundreds of lives.
Former authorities adviser Professor Neil Ferguson has mentioned that deaths throughout the UK would have been halved if lockdown had been launched every week earlier.
Mr Hancock admitted that in January final year he was warned a few “worst-case scenario” of 820,000 deaths, primarily based on Spanish Flu – but it surely took one other 51 days earlier than Boris Johnson introduced the primary lockdown.
By March 9 the info started to comply with roughly the trail of that worst-case state of affairs.
Yet the lockdown didn’t come till March 23.
The Health Secretary claimed the proof was nonetheless “highly sketchy” and the choice was the “most significant judgement” any peacetime Prime Minister might make.
3. Asymptomatic circumstances
Boris Johnson has mentioned his largest remorse from the pandemic’s early days was the size of asymptomatic transmission was not recognized.
But Hancock claimed he had recognized about it as far again as January 2020 – but it took the Government months to behave.
The Health Secretary mentioned he first heard proof of asymptomatic transmission as the virus took maintain in China however was instructed by the World Health Organisation it was “likely a mistranslation”.
He added that he “bitterly” regretted not ignoring the scientific recommendation.
As early as January 28 SAGE consultants pointed to proof it was occurring.
At a meeting in April, it was famous that an NHS examine indicated the constructive take a look at rate amongst asymptomatic well being staff was 5-6%.
Hancock admitted: “I should have said even if it’s uncertain we should base policy on that.”
If the Government had executed this it might have dramatically modified the course of the pandemic right here.
4. Care houses
Hancock mentioned that at first of the pandemic his powers over social care had been “extremely limited”.
And he admitted: “When I first asked for a list of all of elderly care homes, we didn’t have one. Which I find totally extraordinary saying – but it’s true.”
After Cummings branded his declare to have thrown a “ring” round care houses “nonsense”, Mr Hancock mentioned: “The most important words in the sentence are ‘we tried to’. It was very hard.” And he mentioned he was not conscious that recommendation on discharge testing was softened on the instruction of his division.
Asked if he instructed the PM in March 2020 that individuals in hospital can be examined earlier than going again to care houses, he replied: “We set out a policy that people would be tested when tests were available. Then, I set about building the testing capacity.”
But care house chiefs reject his declare of a “protective ring”, claiming tons of if not hundreds of individuals died unnecessarily.
5. Cummings’ claims
Dominic Cummings accused Hancock of repeatedly mendacity, failing on care houses and “criminal, disgraceful” behaviour on testing.
The Health Secretary had “no idea” why Cummings had focused him however knew the aide needed him out. He denied telling the PM in March 2020 that sufferers despatched to care houses had been being examined first.
He mentioned his 100,000 every day exams goal had “galvanised” the system.
Hancock denied there had been nationwide PPE shortages or that he lied by saying all sufferers received the Covid therapy they wanted within the first wave.
Hancock mentioned it was “telling” Cummings had but to provide proof – and claimed the Government had run higher since he left.
Hancock additionally denied utilizing the phrase “we follow the science” to shift blame for Government failures.
Cummings claimed he heard the Health Secretary inform the PM they may say they had been misled by the science for errors that they had made.
6. Wuhan lab concept
Hancock mentioned there needs to be a full inquiry into the outbreak in China after US President Joe Biden ordered intelligence companies to report again in 90 days on what was recognized concerning the origins of the virus.
It follows unverified claims that three employees on the Wuhan Institute of Virology had been hospitalised in November 2019 with signs in keeping with Covid or seasonal flu.
Hancock mentioned he “just doesn’t know” whether or not the idea is true. “It’s vital that we have a fully independent investigation in China.”
He mentioned the early response to the pandemic was hampered by a lack of know-how popping out of China. “One of the things that hindered our early response was a lack of transparency from China.
“That must be put right in terms of preparedness for future pandemics. It is vital for the world that China is more transparent about its health information as soon it understands there are problems.”