Covid, what Covid? 18,000 fans cricket fans party like its 2019 at Edgbaston – Daily Mail

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Heat maps, ‘human snakes’ and negative lateral flow tests: The rules 18,000 cricket spectators have to follow at Edgbaston pilot event 

There is no social distancing at Edgbaston, but the stadium is using a range of measures to minimise the risk of transmission of Covid. They include: 

  • Obtaining a negative lateral flow test, which are less accurate than the more expensive, lab-processed PCR tests, ahead of the match;
  • Joining a ‘human snake’ to make the 20-minute walk to the stadium from town to avoid public transport;
  • Using post code analysis of spectators’ home addresses to lay on extra buses on busy routes to avoid overcrowding;
  • Providing additional car parking spaces since fans may not want to use public transport;
  • Wearing face masks when not seated;
  • Providing more than 300 hand sanitising stations;
  • Using the ‘Edgbaston app’ for the ticket as well as ordering food and drink inside the ground;
  • Using the app to identify routes around the ground that are not congested and check toilet queues are short

Nearly 20,000 unmasked cricket fans have piled into Edgbaston Stadium in Birmingham today to watch the England vs New Zealand Test, despite Cabinet ministers threatening to extend lockdown into July as coronavirus surges across England for a third time.

Though Downing Street is making plans to keep severe social distancing restrictions in place after June 21, it has allowed the stadium to operate at 70 per cent capacity – meaning 18,000 spectators are currently watching the action without masks in scenes reminiscent of the 2020 Cheltenham Festival. 

All fans were required to present a negative lateral flow test ahead of the Test match, join a ‘human snake’ to make the 20-minute walk to the stadium from Birmingham city centre to avoid public transport, and use an app to present their tickets as well as for ordering food and drink in the grounds.

Stadium operators also laid on extra buses on busy routes to avoid overcrowding by using postcode analysis of spectators’ home addresses. However, fans are not required to wear masks when seated. 

And lateral flow tests, which give results in 15 minutes and can be done on the spot, are less accurate than the more expensive PCR tests which have to be processed in labs because the nasal or throat swab is self-administered. This means they may not be pushing the swab deep enough to get enough of a sample, and could mean the virus is going undetected. 

An FAQ page on the Edgbaston Stadium website confirms that spectators had to book their home test kits via the gov.uk website, and then conduct and record the negative test within 24 hours of the match.  

Meanwhile, Euro 2020 matches at Wembley Stadium will be given an exemption from lockdown rules even if the Prime Minister extends lockdown into July, after the Football Association was required to give UEFA a commitment that at least 22,5000 fans will attend each of the seven games hosted in London. 

Though studies show that Covid-19 does not spread easily outdoors, Downing Street is likely to face fierce criticism from those who are calling for an extension of shutdown as the virus surges yet again. 

The scenes are similar to those seen at Cheltenham in March last year, when thousands flocked to the Gloucestershire racecourse as the pandemic took grip in the UK. Though ministers were encouraging social distancing even then, they were later blamed for not preventing the deaths which followed.   

Prime Minister Boris Johnson is understood to be considering implementing a so-called ‘mix and match’ unlocking on June 21, with face coverings, work-from-home guidance and the rule of six all likely to remain mandatory into July but the 30 guest cap on weddings to finally be dropped.  

He hinted lockdown could be extended after saying ‘everybody can see cases and hospitalisations are going up’. Though there were 7,540 positive tests recorded yesterday in the biggest week-on-week increase since February, the surge is yet to result in deaths because of the efficacy of vaccines.

It comes as official figures show the Indian variant, which is more transmissible than the so-called Kent variant which launched the second wave in the winter, accounts for more than 90 per cent of all confirmed cases.

Positive tests in England have risen by nearly 45 per cent in a week, with more than 25,000 people who were swabbed in the seven-day spell ending June 2 having the virus, up from 17,000 the week before. This was despite around 850,000 fewer coronavirus tests being carried out. 

However, SAGE adviser Professor Neil Ferguson has warned that it will be three weeks before reliable data becomes available that will help ministers decide whether the easing needs to be halted – in an indication that the Government may torpedo ‘Freedom Day’ preemptively. 

Professor Tim Spector, an epidemiologist at King’s College London, also said the rising case numbers were caused by ‘increased social interaction and a newly dominant variant that is much more transmissible’.  

As the coronavirus pandemic enters its next crucial phase, it emerged today:

  • The Indian variant now makes up 91 per cent of all cases in the UK, according to official data revealed today;
  • Department of Health figures show hospital admissions have risen by around 40 per cent in the last week; 
  • Ministers were told in January there could be 820,000 deaths in a ‘reasonable worst case scenario’ but refrained from locking down amid fears Britons would not tolerate the restrictions;
  • Health Secretary Matt Hancock told MPs that health chiefs did war-game a pandemic before the nation was eventually hit by coronavirus last year, but tried to keep it secret;
  • Professor Susan Michie, a SAGE adviser and member of the Communist Party of Britain, is recommending social distancing and wearing face masks remain in place forever;  
  • More than 5 million people in England are waiting for NHS hospital treatment – the highest number ever;
  • Britain’s nightclubs are planning to reopen at midnight on June 21 to revellers desperate to party while bosses threaten to sue the Government if lockdown is extended;
  • A British Airways pilot who spent a record 243 days in a US hospital with coronavirus before returning to the UK has died after mounting an extraordinary and brave battle with illness.
Unmasked cricket fans stand in Edgbaston Stadium in Birmingham at another 'pilot event' allowed by the Government

Unmasked cricket fans stand in Edgbaston Stadium in Birmingham at another 'pilot event' allowed by the Government

Unmasked cricket fans stand in Edgbaston Stadium in Birmingham at another ‘pilot event’ allowed by the Government

A general view of the Hollies stand as the spectators fill the stand during day one of the second Test Match between England and New Zealand at Edgbaston

A general view of the Hollies stand as the spectators fill the stand during day one of the second Test Match between England and New Zealand at Edgbaston

A general view of the Hollies stand as the spectators fill the stand during day one of the second Test Match between England and New Zealand at Edgbaston

Unmasked cricket fans stand in Edgbaston Stadium in Birmingham at another 'pilot event' allowed by the Government

Unmasked cricket fans stand in Edgbaston Stadium in Birmingham at another 'pilot event' allowed by the Government

Unmasked cricket fans stand in Edgbaston Stadium in Birmingham at another ‘pilot event’ allowed by the Government

General view of the fans in the stands watching the action on the pitch as England bat during day one of the Test match

General view of the fans in the stands watching the action on the pitch as England bat during day one of the Test match

General view of the fans in the stands watching the action on the pitch as England bat during day one of the Test match

Fans in the stands who are part of the Government's latest pilot event which is allowing up to 18,000 spectators in the arena

Fans in the stands who are part of the Government's latest pilot event which is allowing up to 18,000 spectators in the arena

Fans in the stands who are part of the Government’s latest pilot event which is allowing up to 18,000 spectators in the arena

A wide shot of Edgbaston Stadium, which is operating at 75 per cent capacity - 18,000 people in attendance

A wide shot of Edgbaston Stadium, which is operating at 75 per cent capacity - 18,000 people in attendance

A wide shot of Edgbaston Stadium, which is operating at 75 per cent capacity – 18,000 people in attendance

General view as fans watch the action at Edgbaston Stadium during the England vs New Zealand match

General view as fans watch the action at Edgbaston Stadium during the England vs New Zealand match

General view as fans watch the action at Edgbaston Stadium during the England vs New Zealand match

Spectators arrive at the ground before day one of the second Test Match between England and New Zealand at Edgbaston

Spectators arrive at the ground before day one of the second Test Match between England and New Zealand at Edgbaston

Spectators arrive at the ground before day one of the second Test Match between England and New Zealand at Edgbaston

Unmasked cricket fans stand in Edgbaston Stadium in Birmingham at another 'pilot event' allowed by the Government

Unmasked cricket fans stand in Edgbaston Stadium in Birmingham at another 'pilot event' allowed by the Government

Unmasked cricket fans stand in Edgbaston Stadium in Birmingham at another ‘pilot event’ allowed by the Government

A trumpeter plays music in a packed Edgbaston Stadium in Birmingham as England play New Zealand in a Test match

A trumpeter plays music in a packed Edgbaston Stadium in Birmingham as England play New Zealand in a Test match

A trumpeter plays music in a packed Edgbaston Stadium in Birmingham as England play New Zealand in a Test match

Spectators in the Hollies Stand stack up plastic cups during day one of the second Test Match between England and New Zealand at Edgbaston

Spectators in the Hollies Stand stack up plastic cups during day one of the second Test Match between England and New Zealand at Edgbaston

Spectators in the Hollies Stand stack up plastic cups during day one of the second Test Match between England and New Zealand at Edgbaston

Fans in the stands who are part of the Government's latest pilot event which is allowing up to 18,000 people in the arena

Fans in the stands who are part of the Government's latest pilot event which is allowing up to 18,000 people in the arena

Fans in the stands who are part of the Government’s latest pilot event which is allowing up to 18,000 people in the arena

Spectators in fancy dress enjoy themselves during day one of the second Test Match between England and New Zealand at Edgbaston

Spectators in fancy dress enjoy themselves during day one of the second Test Match between England and New Zealand at Edgbaston

Spectators in fancy dress enjoy themselves during day one of the second Test Match between England and New Zealand at Edgbaston

Spectators in fancy dress enjoy themselves during day one of the second Test Match between England and New Zealand at Edgbaston

Spectators in fancy dress enjoy themselves during day one of the second Test Match between England and New Zealand at Edgbaston

Spectators in fancy dress enjoy themselves during day one of the second Test Match between England and New Zealand at Edgbaston

The number of people falling ill with Covid has more than doubled in a week, a symptom-tracking study warned today amid the rapid spread of the Indian variant across the UK

The number of people falling ill with Covid has more than doubled in a week, a symptom-tracking study warned today amid the rapid spread of the Indian variant across the UK

The number of people falling ill with Covid has more than doubled in a week, a symptom-tracking study warned today amid the rapid spread of the Indian variant across the UK

Graph shows: The number of people testing positive for Covid and the positivity rate — the proportion of tests taken that are positive

Graph shows: The number of people testing positive for Covid and the positivity rate — the proportion of tests taken that are positive

Graph shows: The number of people testing positive for Covid and the positivity rate — the proportion of tests taken that are positive

Illness is rising significantly more rapidly in 20- to 29-year-olds than in vaccinated older age groups, There were more than 400 symptomatic cases per 100,000 people in the cohort compared to less than 50 in over-60s

Illness is rising significantly more rapidly in 20- to 29-year-olds than in vaccinated older age groups, There were more than 400 symptomatic cases per 100,000 people in the cohort compared to less than 50 in over-60s

Illness is rising significantly more rapidly in 20- to 29-year-olds than in vaccinated older age groups, There were more than 400 symptomatic cases per 100,000 people in the cohort compared to less than 50 in over-60s

There are currently 1,917 vaccinated people falling ill with the virus, compared to 9,991 unvaccinated people. But cases are increasing in both groups, with 89 per cent more symptomatic cases in people week-on-week even after being jabbed

There are currently 1,917 vaccinated people falling ill with the virus, compared to 9,991 unvaccinated people. But cases are increasing in both groups, with 89 per cent more symptomatic cases in people week-on-week even after being jabbed

There are currently 1,917 vaccinated people falling ill with the virus, compared to 9,991 unvaccinated people. But cases are increasing in both groups, with 89 per cent more symptomatic cases in people week-on-week even after being jabbed

Meanwhile, Test and Trace figures released today showed the number of positive cares in England rose by almost 45 per cent last week. More than 25,000 people who were swabbed in the seven-day spell ending June 2 had Covid, up from 17,000 the week before

Meanwhile, Test and Trace figures released today showed the number of positive cares in England rose by almost 45 per cent last week. More than 25,000 people who were swabbed in the seven-day spell ending June 2 had Covid, up from 17,000 the week before

Meanwhile, Test and Trace figures released today showed the number of positive cares in England rose by almost 45 per cent last week. More than 25,000 people who were swabbed in the seven-day spell ending June 2 had Covid, up from 17,000 the week before

The rise in Test and Trace figures came despite around 850,000 fewer tests being carried out compared to the week before

The rise in Test and Trace figures came despite around 850,000 fewer tests being carried out compared to the week before

The rise in Test and Trace figures came despite around 850,000 fewer tests being carried out compared to the week before

Currently, no event can have more than 25 per cent stadium capacity, up to a maximum of 10,000 people, as part of step three in the government’s roadmap out of lockdown.

Step four could take place as soon as June 21 when all social distancing may be lifted, provided the spread of the virus remains under control and the vaccination programme continues to roll out. The next stage of the

The first phase of pilot events relied upon testing attendees to ensure they did not have the virus, as well as social distancing once inside.

But sport has been clear that social distancing is not a viable option to support the return of fans in large numbers and the next phase of events are designed to test much greater capacities with additional safeguards.

The events include 12,000 spectators attending Royal Ascot each day from June 15-19 and 22,000 fans at Wembley for England’s Euro 2020 group games against Croatia on June 13 and Scotland on June 18. Some of them are expected to include testing covid passports, which will confirm if a person is vaccinated against coronavirus or received a negative test.

There are plans in place to accommodate those who do not have a smartphone and cannot use the app, but Edgbaston is hoping that most people will be able to access the technology.

But the scenes at Edgbaston are likely to fuel panic among certain pockets of the Government, as SAGE advisers call for an extension of draconian curbs on liberty and the economy.

Professor Susan Michie, a SAGE adviser and member of the Communist Party of Britain, has called for social distancing and face masks to remain in place forever. Wanting them to become a normal part of everyday life, she bizarrely compared coverings to seat belts and picking up dog litter in the park – claiming that people learned to adjust over time.  

She told Channel 5 News: ‘Vaccines are a really important part of the pandemic control but it’s only one part. Test, trace and isolate system, border controls are really essential. And there third thing is people’s behaviour.

‘That is the behaviour of social distancing, of when you’re indoors making sure there’s good ventilation and hand and surface hygiene. We’ll need to keep these going in the long term and that will probably be good not only for Covid but to reduce other diseases at a time when the NHS is…’

She was cut off by presenter Claudia-Liza Armah who asked her: ‘When you say the long term, what do you mean by that – how long?’

Professor Michie replied: ‘I think forever, to some extent.’ Both the host and the professor laugh at the bizarre suggestion. Later in the programme she was asked if she realistically thought people could continue to live with masks and social distancing.

She said: ‘I think there’s lots of different behaviours we’ve changed in our lives. We now routinely wear seat belts, we didn’t use to. We now routinely pick up dog poo in the park, we didn’t use to. When people see that there is a threat and there is something they can do to reduce that… themselves, their loved ones and their communities, what we see now over this last year is people do that.

‘And I think we can just begin to adopt routines. When we go out of the house we check we’ve got our phone, we’ve got our keys, we’ve got tissues, we’ve got a face mask in case we need to use it. 

Spectators watch the action on the first day of the second Test cricket match between England and New Zealand at Edgbaston Cricket Ground in Birmingham

Spectators watch the action on the first day of the second Test cricket match between England and New Zealand at Edgbaston Cricket Ground in Birmingham

Spectators watch the action on the first day of the second Test cricket match between England and New Zealand at Edgbaston Cricket Ground in Birmingham

General view as fans react inside Edgbaston Stadium, Birmingham during the England vs New Zealand Test match

General view as fans react inside Edgbaston Stadium, Birmingham during the England vs New Zealand Test match

General view as fans react inside Edgbaston Stadium, Birmingham during the England vs New Zealand Test match 

Cheering fans are seen in Edgbaston Cricket Ground without face masks as mass pilot event at sports ground proceeds

Cheering fans are seen in Edgbaston Cricket Ground without face masks as mass pilot event at sports ground proceeds

Cheering fans are seen in Edgbaston Cricket Ground without face masks as mass pilot event at sports ground proceeds

A general view of the action during day one of the second Test Match between England and New Zealand at Edgbaston

A general view of the action during day one of the second Test Match between England and New Zealand at Edgbaston

A general view of the action during day one of the second Test Match between England and New Zealand at Edgbaston

Up to 18,000 people are packed into Edgbaston Stadium, where they can watch the cricket Test without face masks

Up to 18,000 people are packed into Edgbaston Stadium, where they can watch the cricket Test without face masks

Up to 18,000 people are packed into Edgbaston Stadium, where they can watch the cricket Test without face masks

Spectators put their arms in the air as they cheer at Edgbaston Stadium in Birmingham at a mass pilot event

Spectators put their arms in the air as they cheer at Edgbaston Stadium in Birmingham at a mass pilot event

Spectators put their arms in the air as they cheer at Edgbaston Stadium in Birmingham at a mass pilot event 

Edgbaston Stadium is operating at 75 per cent capacity in a government-approved pilot event in the sports ground

Edgbaston Stadium is operating at 75 per cent capacity in a government-approved pilot event in the sports ground

Edgbaston Stadium is operating at 75 per cent capacity in a government-approved pilot event in the sports ground

Some 18,000 people are currently watching the England vs New Zealand Test match at Edgbaston without masks

Some 18,000 people are currently watching the England vs New Zealand Test match at Edgbaston without masks

Some 18,000 people are currently watching the England vs New Zealand Test match at Edgbaston without masks

Spectators enjoy themselves in the stand during day one of the second Test Match between England and New Zealand

Spectators enjoy themselves in the stand during day one of the second Test Match between England and New Zealand

Spectators enjoy themselves in the stand during day one of the second Test Match between England and New Zealand

Indian Covid variant now makes up 91% of all cases in Britain: PHE data reveals outbreaks are spiralling in nine out of ten areas of England with ‘Freedom Day’ on knife-edge – as Britain’s daily cases and hospitalisations shoot up by 40% 

India’s Covid variant now makes up 91 per cent of all cases in the UK, Matt Hancock warned today as official data revealed outbreaks are growing in nine out of ten areas in England — leaving hopes of ‘Freedom Day’ going ahead on June 21 hanging in the balance.

Speaking at a select committee today where he was grilled by MPs on mistakes Number 10 made in handling the pandemic, the Health Secretary revealed he was told about how quickly the mutant ‘Delta’ strain was taking over in a behind-closed-doors briefing last night.

No10’s top scientists fear the Indian strain could be up to 60 per cent more transmissible than the once dominant Kent version and SAGE modellers fear it will trigger a ‘substantial’ third wave.

Public Health England data released today showed cases are now spiralling in 90 per cent of authorities. Halton in Cheshire saw its outbreak quadruple in size, from 8.5 positive tests per 100,000 people in the week ending May 30 to 43.27 for the seven-day spell ending June 8.

Meanwhile, Britain today recorded another 7,393 cases as the curve continues to swing upwards — the toll was up by 40 per cent on the figure posted last Thursday.

Separate data from a symptom-tracking study today showed the number of Britons falling ill with Covid has more than doubled in a week. An estimated 11,908 people across the UK were catching the virus every day in the week ending June 5, according to the ZOE Covid study, up 109 per cent from 5,677 last week.

The same researchers — who insisted it was ‘clear’ the epidemic was only growing in the unvaccinated and adults given one jab — also named Stirling in Scotland as the UK’s current hotspot. Other badly-hit areas were centered around Greater Manchester, where the Indian variant is known to be rife.

Department of Health figures released today also showed hospital admissions have risen by around 40 per cent in the last seven days, with 153 infected patients needing care on June 6, the most recent day statistics are available for, compared to 110 the week before. Deaths were down on the week before, with just seven victims compared to 18 last Thursday.

‘It’s not going to be a huge big deal the kind of changes we’re talking about and I think we also need to think about the way we plan our cities, our transport our lifestyles.

‘Instead of going back to huge long commutes, have more local working hubs where people don’t have to travel so much – good not only for the health, but there environment.’ 

However, others have called for calm, while anti-lockdown Tories have demanded that the Prime Minister stick to his June 21 pledge. Mr Johnson had insisted that the roadmap would be ‘cautious’ and ‘irreversible’. 

NHS bosses say hospitals should be able to cope with surging cases because vaccines have meant fewer infected patients need medical care. Dr Richard Cree, an intensive care consultant in Middlesbrough, today claimed he was confident the third wave won’t mirror the crises seen last spring and in January.

Meanwhile, one virus-tracking scientist even claimed the outbreak could plateau soon because of the combined effect of jabs and warmer summer weather.

In other developments today, Matt Hancock claimed that he was told by scientists that there could be more than 820,000 deaths in a ‘reasonable worst case scenario’ in January 2020, but refrained from locking down because ministers did not believe that Britons would tolerate the restrictions for long. 

In a dramatic evidence session with MPs, the Health Secretary said he was presented with a picture of the huge potential toll, based on the Spanish Flu pandemic.

But imposing the draconian restrictions did not happen until March 23, with Mr Hancock pointing to expert advice that the public would only ‘put up with it’ for a limited time and concerns about the ‘immediate costs’. He said of the anxiety over people obeying the tough rules: ‘That proved to be wrong.’

Repeatedly pinning the blame on scientists, he said it was ‘hard’ to go against their advice, arguing that the Prime Minister was having to make one of the most difficult decisions in peacetime on the basis of ‘incomplete information and at great pace’. 

Mr Hancock also gave a damning assessment of the expert views on asymptomatic transmission, saying the WHO told him at the end of January that claims coming out of China were ‘likely a mistranslation’. He said he wished he had ‘stuck to my guns’ on the issue, and suggested that he had been ahead of the experts on forecasting the scale of the impact. 

The Cabinet minister also boasted that he had ‘driven’ the successful vaccine development.   

Addressing the barrage of claims about his conduct from Dominic Cummings, Mr Hancock denied claims that he ‘lied’ to fellow ministers and the public about the coronavirus response.

The ZOE Covid Study data suggests cases are higher and increasing faster in the unvaccinated population in the UK. There are currently 1,917 vaccinated people falling ill with the virus every day, compared to just shy of 10,000 unvaccinated people. 

Cases are increasing in both groups, jumping by 89 per cent among vaccinated people. But the rate of growth was quicker among those not yet jabbed (114 per cent).  Scotland and the North West were the worst affected regions in the UK.  

An estimated 3,465 people are now coming down with Covid every day in the North West – in which swathes of the region have been given guidance to combat the Indian variant in hotspots – and 2,446 in Scotland. 

But illness is rising significantly more rapidly in 20- to 29-year-olds than in vaccinated older age groups. There were more than 400 symptomatic cases per 100,000 people in the cohort, compared to fewer than 50 in over-60s. 

Professor Spector said: ‘The Covid situation in the UK has rapidly changed from one of the best performing nations to a nation again struggling with rising cases. 

‘Official confirmed cases are now around 7,500, which is the highest daily figure since late February. However, when you dig into the data, it’s clear that this is an epidemic among the unvaccinated and partially vaccinated populations in the UK and, due to the way vaccines have been rolled out, is largely affecting younger generations.

‘The rapid rise is likely down to two compounding factors; increased social interaction and a newly dominant variant that is much more transmissible. 

 

The Prime Minister Boris Johnson with his wife Carrie on the beach at the Carbis Bay, Cornwall, ahead of Friday's G7 summit

The Prime Minister Boris Johnson with his wife Carrie on the beach at the Carbis Bay, Cornwall, ahead of Friday's G7 summit

The Prime Minister Boris Johnson with his wife Carrie on the beach at the Carbis Bay, Cornwall, ahead of Friday’s G7 summit

Britain DID simulate a coronavirus pandemic before Covid struck and didn’t just mock-up a flu outbreak… but health chiefs WON’T say how secret war-game went because it would damage national security 

British health chiefs did war-game a coronavirus pandemic before the nation was eventually hit by Covid but tried to keep it secret, it was revealed today.

Matt Hancock — who faced a grilling from MPs today about No10’s failures throughout the virus crisis — has only ever confessed to carrying out a mock-up of a flu crisis called Exercise Cygnus.

And giving evidence today, the Health Secretary reiterated that ‘famously all the preparations and the plans that were in place were for a flu pandemic’.

But Public Health England has now admitted it carried out ten other epidemic-fighting scenarios between 2015 and 2018.

One of the preparation tests — called Exercise Alice — focused on MERS, one of only seven coronaviruses known to infect humans. It kills around 35 per cent of people it strikes.

But PHE refused to reveal any details about how the secret operation went, claiming revealing any information about the exercise would damage national security.

The only details known are that it was carried out in February 2016 and involved PHE and Department of Health officials.

Dr David Matthews, a Bristol University virologist, told The Guardian the findings of the report may have been ‘completely relevant’ to No10’s Covid response.

Dr Moosa Qureshi, an NHS consultant who uncovered the previously unpublished exercises, accused Mr Hancock of never confessing that the UK had already carried out a coronavirus-fighting exercise.

But the Department of Health insists that it has always been clear that it undertakes exercises regularly.

‘It’s no surprise that people are becoming fatigued with social distancing after a long 15 months of restrictions, which will only encourage the spread. 

‘The good news is that fully vaccinated people have much greater protection. Vaccines are working and we want to encourage people to exercise caution, especially if they feel at all unwell, until they’ve been fully vaccinated. The race is on to fully vaccinate the whole population to save lives and return to normal life.’ 

Separate Test and Trace figures today showed 25,091 people tested positive for Covid in England at least once in the week to June 2. It is the highest number of people testing positive since the week to March 31.

Data also showed the number of people taking rapid Covid tests has fallen to its lowest level for three months – despite all members of the public being eligible to take two rapid tests a week.

Just under 3.5million lateral flow device (LFD) tests were conducted in England in the week to June 2, according to the latest Test and Trace figures. 

This is down from 4.8million in the previous week, and is the lowest total since the week to March 3, when just under 2.8million tests were carried out. The drop in the latest week coincided with the summer half-term holiday in schools, the Department of Health said.

LFD tests are swab tests that give results in 30 minutes or less without the need for processing in a laboratory. Since April 9, everyone in England has been eligible for rapid Covid-19 tests twice a week. 

Speaking at the G7 summit in Cornwall yesterday, Mr Johnson gave the clearest hint yet that lockdown easing on June 21 would not go ahead because of the rapid spread of the Indian variant. 

Mr Johnson said: ‘What everybody can see very clearly is that cases are going up and in some places hospitalisations are going up. What we need to assess is the extent to which the vaccine rollout, which has been phenomenal, has built up enough protection in the population in order for us to go ahead to the next stage. 

‘So that is what we will be looking at and there are arguments being made one way or another. But we will be driven by the data, we will be looking at that and setting it out on Monday.’ 

Just hours before the Prime Minister spoke, ‘Professor Lockdown’ Neil Ferguson suggested it would take at least another three weeks for scientists to know how much more transmissible the Indian variant is, suggesting hopes of ending lockdown in a fortnight are unlikely. 

Professor Ferguson, who has guided the Government through the pandemic, said scientists still don’t know how much faster the variant spreads, how much more deadly it is nor how big the third wave will be. 

He said: ‘It’s well within the possibility that we could see another, third, wave at least comparable in terms of hospitalisations, as the second wave. At least deaths, I think, would certainly be lower. It’s hard to judge.’

The Imperial College London epidemiologist said researchers need to see how many people are admitted to hospital and die as a result of the current surge in infections. 

They believe it is around 60 per cent more transmissible than the Kent variant, more likely to put people in hospital and that vaccines work less well against it. 

There have now been more than 19,000 new cases in just three days and Professor Ferguson suggested the outbreak’s doubling time could be less than a week, warning of ‘quite fast doubling, comparable with what we saw before Christmas.’

The SAGE member’s warning is the closest thing to confirmation that Mr Johnson will delay the ending of social distancing laws planned for June 21. His ministers today took a ‘wait and see’ approach to questions about the roadmap and told people to hold off making summer plans.

Government set to give permission for 45,000 crowds at Wembley for Euro 2020 knock-out games even if June 21 Freedom Day is pushed back… and England could play Germany in front of a half-full crowd on June 29 with all matches given exemption from 

Every Euro 2020 match at Wembley will be given an exemption from lockdown rules with permission for up to 45,000 fans in the knock-out stages, even if Prime Minister Boris Johnson delays Freedom Day.

Rumours of a possible delay to the final stage of the government’s roadmap out of lockdown, which would see social distancing restrictions lifted, have raised questions about what will happen at sports events in the coming weeks.

Sports are desperate to increase capacities above the current limit of 10,000 spectators, or 25 per cent of stadium capacities at smaller venues with major events, including Wimbledon just weeks away.

To date, only those fixtures that have been part of the government’s Events Research Programme have been allowed more than 10,000 fans. The Football Association was required to give UEFA a commitment that at least 22,500 fans will attend each of the eight games hosted in London. 

However, if Freedom Day on June 21 is pushed back it is expected that the country will remain bound by the existing restrictions, with the limits on crowd numbers still in place.

June 21 had been named as the earliest date social distancing can be dropped in England

June 21 had been named as the earliest date social distancing can be dropped in England

June 21 had been named as the earliest date social distancing can be dropped in England

The FA had to commit to UEFA that Wembley would be 25 per cent full for matches

The FA had to commit to UEFA that Wembley would be 25 per cent full for matches

The FA had to commit to UEFA that Wembley would be 25 per cent full for matches

All eight Euro 2020 games at Wembley will be played in front of a minimum of 22,500 fans

All eight Euro 2020 games at Wembley will be played in front of a minimum of 22,500 fans

All eight Euro 2020 games at Wembley will be played in front of a minimum of 22,500 fans

Prime Minister Boris Johnson's roadmap created the possibility of full houses after June 21

Prime Minister Boris Johnson's roadmap created the possibility of full houses after June 21

Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s roadmap created the possibility of full houses after June 21

But Sportsmail understands the government will not row back on its commitment to UEFA and the round of 16 matches on June 26 and 29, semi-finals on July 6 and 7 and final on July 11, will all be allowed to go ahead with at least 22,500 spectators.

But, according to the Telegraph, ministers are prepared to grant Wembley permission to increase attendances even further, up to 45,000 for the round of 16, semi-finals and final.

If England win group D and Germany finish second in Group F, the two nations will meet at Wembley on Tuesday June 29.  

The first three matches at Wembley, in Group D, when England play Croatia on June 13, Scotland on June 18 and the Czech Republic on June 22, have been designated test events and are allowed 22,500 fans, who will trial covid certification measures.

Fully vaccinated fans will be allowed to use the NHS app to gain entry in the first time that vaccine passports have been used at a major UK sporting event – everyone else will have to take a test to enter to prove they are Covid-free. 

Matt Hancock admits ministers were warned in JANUARY that 820,000 could die of Covid but STILL delayed lockdown because of concerns over ‘immediate costs’ and believed ‘wrong advice’ that Britons would not tolerate being under restrictions for so long

Main points from Hancock’s evidence  

  • As early as January ministers were presented with a ‘reasonable worst case scenario’ of 820,000 deaths from coronavirus, based on the example of Spanish Flu.
  • Matt Hancock said the first lockdown was delayed amid ‘wrong’ expert advice that the public would only ‘put up with it’ for a limited time and concerns about the ‘immediate costs’. 
  • He said it was ‘hard’ to go against scientific advice, especially when the PM was having to make one of the most difficult decisions in peacetime on the basis of ‘incomplete information and at great pace’. 
  • Mr Hancock said the WHO told him at the end of January that claims coming out of China about asymptomatic transmission were ‘likely a mistranslation’. He said he wished he had ‘stuck to my guns’ on the issue. 
  • He said SAGE had been wrong to argue that the Test & Trace system was having no significant impact on transmission. 
  • Mr Hancock said he had tried to protect care homes in the early stages of the pandemic, but said he did not have sufficient ‘powers’ and conceded the government did not even have a list of homes.
  • He said that ‘from the evidence I have seen’ there were no deaths as a result of PPE shortages. 
  • Mr Hancock boasted that he had ‘driven’ the successful vaccine development project. 
  • Addressing the barrage of claims about his conduct from Dominic Cummings, Mr Hancock denied claims that he ‘lied’ to fellow ministers and the public about the coronavirus response. 
  • He said he had ‘no idea’ why Mr Cummings was targeting him specifically over the problems. But he admitted that he knew the PM’s top aide had wanted him sacked because there was ‘briefing to the newspapers’. 

Matt Hancock today admitted the first lockdown was delayed despite initial warnings over 820,000 deaths amid fears Britons would not tolerate the restrictions for long.

In a dramatic evidence session with MPs, the Health Secretary said that as early as January he was presented with a ‘reasonable worst case scenario’ of the huge potential toll, based on Spanish Flu.

But imposing the draconian first national restrictions did not happen until March 23, with Mr Hancock pointing to expert advice that the public would only ‘put up with it’ for a limited time and concerns about the ‘immediate costs’. He said of the anxiety over people obeying the tough rules: ‘That proved to be wrong.’ 

Repeatedly pinning the blame on scientists, he said it was ‘hard’ to go against their advice, arguing that the PM was having to make one of the most difficult decisions in peacetime on the basis of ‘incomplete information and at great pace’. 

Mr Hancock also gave a damning assessment of the expert views on asymptomatic transmission, saying the WHO told him at the end of January that claims coming out of China were ‘likely a mistranslation’. He said he wished he had ‘stuck to my guns’ on the issue, and suggested that he had been ahead of the experts on forecasting the scale of the impact. 

The Cabinet minister also boasted that he had ‘driven’ the successful vaccine development.   

Addressing the barrage of claims about his conduct from Dominic Cummings, Mr Hancock denied claims that he ‘lied’ to fellow ministers and the public about the coronavirus response.

He replied bluntly ‘No’ when he was asked by science committee chair Greg Clark whether he had misled Boris Johnson about people being tested before returning from hospitals to care homes.

He said he had ‘no idea’ over why Mr Cummings was targeting him specifically over the problems. But he admitted that he knew the PM’s top aide had wanted him sacked because there was ‘briefing to the newspapers’.   

Mr Clark kicked off the session by confirming that Mr Cummings has yet to provide promised evidence backing up the barrage of allegations he made about Mr Hancock last month. 

The former No10 chief also branded Mr Hancock ‘disastrously incompetent’ and said he should have been sacked on multiple occasions. 

But Mr Clark said that Mr Cummings had missed deadlines to back up his claims, and they must be viewed as ‘unproven’. Mr Hancock said the lack of evidence was ‘telling’. 

In an intense and at times emotional appearance before MPs:

  • Mr Hancock insisted he wished he had ‘stuck to my guns’ when the WHO and scientists dismissed suggestions Covid could transmit asymptomatically;
  • He swiped that government has ‘operated better in the past six months’ since Mr Cummings was ousted from Downing Street;
  • He claimed he had been pushing for a stronger response to the pandemic before dire updated forecasts from scientists in March forced a shift in the government’s approach.
  • The Health Secretary defended his handling of the care home situation saying news reports from Spain of stricken residents was ‘burned across my soul’;
  • He said SAGE had been wrong to argue that the Test & Trace system was having no significant impact on transmission. 
Matt Hancock replied bluntly 'No' when he was asked by science committee chair Greg Clark whether he had misled colleagues about people being tested before returning to care homes.

Matt Hancock replied bluntly 'No' when he was asked by science committee chair Greg Clark whether he had misled colleagues about people being tested before returning to care homes.

Matt Hancock replied bluntly ‘No’ when he was asked by science committee chair Greg Clark whether he had misled colleagues about people being tested before returning to care homes.

In a dramatic evidence session with MPs, the Health Secretary said that as early as January he was presented with a 'reasonable worst case scenario' of the huge potential toll, based on Spanish Flu

In a dramatic evidence session with MPs, the Health Secretary said that as early as January he was presented with a 'reasonable worst case scenario' of the huge potential toll, based on Spanish Flu

In a dramatic evidence session with MPs, the Health Secretary said that as early as January he was presented with a ‘reasonable worst case scenario’ of the huge potential toll, based on Spanish Flu

Matt Hancock will field hours of questions from a cross-party committee as he confronts the barrage of allegations from maverick former No10 chief Dominic Cummings (pictured)

Matt Hancock will field hours of questions from a cross-party committee as he confronts the barrage of allegations from maverick former No10 chief Dominic Cummings (pictured)

Matt Hancock will field hours of questions from a cross-party committee as he confronts the barrage of allegations from maverick former No10 chief Dominic Cummings (pictured)

Matt Hancock’s ‘lies’ according to Cummings 

Dominic Cummings claimed in his bombshell committee evidence that there were ‘numerous’ examples of Matt Hancock lying during the pandemic. 

He gave four main examples – all of which Mr Hancock has made clear he rejects. 

‘Lie’ 1: Hospital patients were being tested for Covid before they went back to care homes

On care homes, Mr Cummings told MPs Government talk of putting a shield around care homes was ‘complete nonsense’.

‘We were told categorically in March (by Mr Hancock) that people would be tested before they went back to homes, we only subsequently found out that that hadn’t happened.

‘Now while the Government rhetoric was we have put a shield around care homes and blah blah blah, it was complete nonsense. Quite the opposite of putting a shield around them, we sent people with Covid back to the care homes.’

‘Lie’ 2: Patients were getting treatment they needed in first peak 

Mr Cummings alleged Mr Hancock lied about everybody getting the treatment they deserved in the first peak when ‘many people were left to die in horrific circumstances’.

Asked to provide evidence of the Health Secretary’s lying, the former chief aide to the Prime Minister told the Commons committee: ‘There are numerous examples. I mean in the summer he said that everybody who needed treatment got the treatment that they required.

‘He knew that that was a lie because he had been briefed by the chief scientific adviser and the chief medical officer himself about the first peak, and we were told explicitly people did not get the treatment they deserved, many people were left to die in horrific circumstances.’

‘Lie’ 3: Pandemic plans were up to scratch

Mr Cummings said that assurances given to him by Mr Hancock in January last year that pandemic preparations were brilliant ‘were basically completely hollow’. 

The former chief aide to the Prime Minister told the Commons committee he received a response from Health Secretary Matt Hancock assuring: ‘We’ve got full plans up to and including pandemic levels regularly prepared and refreshed, CMOs and epidemiologists, we’re stress testing now, it’s our top tier risk register, we have an SR bid before this.’

Mr Cummings told the committee: ‘I would like to stress and apologise for the fact that it is true that I did this but I did not follow up on this and push it the way I should’ve done.

‘We were told in No 10 at the time that this is literally top of the risk register, this has been planned and there’s been exercises on this over and over again, everyone knows what to do.

‘And it’s sort of tragic in a way, that someone who wrote so often about running red teams and not trusting things and not digging into things, whilst I was running red teams about lots of other things in government at this time, I didn’t do it on this.

‘If I had said at the end of January, we’re going to take a Saturday and I want all of these documents put on the table and I want it all gone through and I want outside experts to look at it all, then we’d have figured out much, much earlier that all the claims about brilliant preparations and how everything was in order were basically completely hollow, but we didn’t figure this out until the back end of February.’

‘Lie’ 4: PPE supplies were hampered by NHS and Treasury 

Mr Cummings made an allegation that Mr Hancock squirmed over shortages of PPE during the pandemic.  

He claimed that in mid-April, just before he and the PM were diagnosed with having Covid, Mr Hancock gave assurances that ‘everything is fine with PPE, we’ve got it all covered, etc, etc’. 

However, when Mr Cummings returned to work he discovered there was a ‘disaster over PPE and how we were actually completely short, hospitals all over the country were running out’. 

‘The Secretary of State said in that meeting this is the fault of Simon Stevens, this is the fault of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, it’s not my fault, they’ve blocked approvals on all sorts of things. I said to the cabinet secretary, please investigate this and find out if it’s true,’ Mr Cummings claimed.

‘The Cabinet Secretary came back to me and said it’s completely untrue, I’ve lost confidence in the Secretary of State’s honesty in these meetings. The Cabinet Secretary said that to me and the Cabinet Secretary said that to the Prime Minister.’

… And the alleged hampering of test & trace to hit ‘incredibly stupid’ daily testing target   

Mr Cummings took aim at Mr Hancock over his introduction of a target of carrying out 100,000 tests a day last summer.  

‘This was an incredibly stupid thing to do because we already had that goal internally,’ Mr Cummings said.

‘What then happened when I came back around the 13th was I started getting calls and No 10 were getting calls saying Hancock is interfering with the building of the test and trace system because he’s telling everybody what to do to maximise his chances of hitting his stupid target by the end of the month. 

‘We had half the Government with me in No 10 calling around frantically saying do not do what Hancock says, build the thing properly for the medium term.

 ‘And we had Hancock calling them all saying down tools on this, do this, hold tests back so I can hit my target.’

Mr Cummings claimed that Mr Hancock should have been ‘fired for that thing alone’.

‘The whole of April was hugely disrupted by different parts of Whitehall fundamentally trying to operate in different ways completely because Hancock wanted to be able to go on TV and say ‘look at me and my 100k target’,’ the former aide said. 

‘It was criminal, disgraceful behaviour that caused serious harm.

LOCKDOWN DELAY DOWN TO BAD ADVICE AND FEARS OVER COSTS

Mr Clark put it to Mr Hancock that the maths of the potential scale of deaths from coronavirus were ‘stark’ early on. 

‘Did you not see that for all of the complex models, that actually the mathematics of this pandemic, were pretty stark?’ he said.

‘That you have 60million people in the adult population, if two thirds of them contracted Covid, and 1 per cent of those who contracted it died, we’d have 400,000 deaths, and that is unacceptable and liable to overwhelm the NHS.’

Asked how this was missed for so long, Mr Hancock responded: ‘I would absolutely say that we knew about this problem from the start.

‘And the challenge in those early weeks of March was making a massive judgment, probably the most significant judgment that any prime minister has made in certainly peacetime, based on incomplete information, and at great pace.’

The Health Secretary said he asked for a planning assessment for the pandemic that was signed off by SAGE at the end of January, and suggested that based on the example of Spanish Flu 820,000 people could die.

‘I asked for a reasonable worst case scenario planning assumption, and I was given the planning assumption based on Spanish flu,’ he said.

‘And it was signed off at Cobra on January 31, and that was a planning assumption for 820,000 deaths, and I was determined that that would not happen on my watch.’

Mr Hancock added: ‘And in the middle of February the scientific advice confirmed that the reasonable worst case scenario should be taken as read that this was equivalent to Spanish flu.

‘I mean if you think about it, at the time at the end of January when that was first presented at Cobra, I, like everybody else, thought of Spanish flu as something you’ve read about in the history books, but as Health Secretary, you’re always worried about new pathogens.

‘But knowing that that was the reasonable worst case scenario, we planned for it.’

He said: ‘The week beginning the ninth of March, what happened is that the data started to follow the reasonable worst case scenario, and by the end of that week, the updated modelling, showed essentially that we were on the track of something close to that reasonable worst case scenario.’

But Mr Hancock admitted that the stance within government on lockdown did not start to shift until March 9 when the SPI-M subgroup of SAGE presented new estimates that looked in line with the reasonable worst case scenario.

He said that he then spoke to an ‘ashen faced’ senior No10 official who suggested action would have to be stepped up.

Mr Hancock said he told them: ‘I am glad the projections are now showing what I think is happening.’ 

Mr Hancock said there were concerns about the ‘immediate costs’ of lockdown – but also that the public would quickly start to flout the rules.  

‘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 the costs of lockdown start immediately and, critically, the clear advice at the time was that there’s only a limited period that people would put up with it, would put up with lockdown. Now that proved actually to be wrong,’ he said.

Mr Hancock insisted he scrutinised the advice.

‘We absolutely debated and challenged that advice but when you’re faced with a decision of this enormity, and ultimately of course as Health Secretary my primary goal is protecting lives, finding a way out of this, and protecting the NHS, I made that argument,’ he said.

‘But ultimately we didn’t know how long people would put up with it and now it seems obvious that people will put up with lockdowns – it was not at all obvious.

‘These are huge decisions, to take those decisions against the scientific advice is an even bigger decision to take. Now when the scientific advice moved that became easier.’

EXPERTS WRONG ON ASYMPTOMATIC TRANSMISSION AND TESTING WAS ALWAYS BEING RAMPED UP  

Mr Hancock also pointed to clinical advice as he defended the lack of community testing early in the crisis. 

He said the screening was abandoned because there was not enough capacity – but also due to experts advising that it was ineffective when people did not have symptoms. 

It has since emerged that a significant proportion of Covid cases are asymptomatic. 

‘Testing was at no point scaled down, on the contrary, we were driving up testing capacity all the way through,’ he said.

But he accepted community testing ceased early in the pandemic and said he was not advised in the run-up to the first lockdown whether expanding community testing was an option.

‘Unlike other countries we did not go into this with a testing capacity. So one of the reasons we had to reduce the use of community testing is because we didn’t have a big enough capacity and we had to target the testing at where it’s clinically most needed,’ Mr Hancock said.

‘The second point, which is really important here, is that the clinical advice I received is that testing people asymptomatically would lead to false negatives.’ 

CHINA HAMPERED COVID RESPONSE 

Mr Hancock said the early response to the pandemic was hampered by the lack of information coming 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 future preparedness for future pandemics,’ he said.

‘It is absolutely vital for the world that China is more transparent about its health information as soon it understands there are problems.’

He said that some south-east Asian countries which were better prepared when the pandemic broke have suffered from previous outbreaks of Sars and Mers.

‘Here that shock in around 2009 was not heeded as much as it should have been,’ he said.

He added: ‘It is harder in a democracy to take some of the steps that some of the authoritarian countries took.’

FEUD WITH DOMINIC CUMMINGS 

Mr Cummings lobbed a series of grenades at Mr Hancock during his own hearing before the committee last month.

Asked whether he knew why Mr Cummings disliked him, Mr Hancock said: ‘I have no idea.’

He said he worked ‘directly with the PM from the start of this’.

Pressed as to whether he had been aware the ex-aide wanted him fired, Mr Hancock said: ‘Yes, because he briefed the newspapers at the time. Or somebody briefed the newspapers, I now have a better idea who that was.’

He added: ‘I think the best thing to say about this, and this will be corroborated by lots of people in Government, the best thing to say, is that Government has operated better in the past six months.’

Mr Hancock also insisted he never said PPE shortages were the fault of the Chancellor Rishi Sunak or NHS chief Sir Simon Stevens, and did not accuse them of blocking approvals – as Mr Cummings claimed.

‘That is not a fair recollection of the situation,’ he said.

‘Getting hold of PPE was always a huge challenge, and as the National Audit Office have shown in their reports into this when they went through all of the details, there was never a point to which NHS providers couldn’t get access to PPE, but there were huge challenges.’

He explained that in March China introduced new export restrictions and a ‘piece of bureaucracy’ that put a limit on the price that could be paid for PPE that needed to be removed.

Mr Hancock said: ‘And we took a policy decision that we should pay at the top of the market – that did require the Treasury to make that change, the Chancellor was incredibly helpful in driving that through, and we managed to get to this position where despite local challenges – and I don’t deny at all there were challenges in individual areas – there was never a national shortage of PPE because of the action that we took.’

He added that his whole approach to the pandemic has been that ‘this is a team effort’ and you ‘can’t respond to a pandemic, just by pointing fingers’.

Mr Hancock batted away jibes that his target of carrying out 100,000 tests a day was a PR exercise and distracted government resources.

He said he was ‘surprised’ by those accusations from Mr Cummings. ‘The PM was absolutely four square behind me,’ he said.

Opening the hearing, Mr Clark said a deadline of last Friday had been set for Mr Cummings to supply evidence for his allegations about Mr Hancock.

But he said: ‘We have not received that evidence nor any explanation as to why that has not been available.

‘It’s important that if serious allegations are made against an individual, they should be corroborated with evidence and it must be counted as unproven without it.’ 

THE ‘RING OF STEEL’ AROUND CARE HOMES 

Mr Hancock was repeatedly grilled about the disastrous death toll in care homes – including Mr Cummings’ claim that he lied about whether residents would be tested before being returned from hospitals.

The Health Secretary stressed that he followed the clinical advice. ‘We set out a policy that people would be tested when tests were available. Then I set about building the testing capacity for us to be able to deliver on that,’ he said.

‘The challenge was not just that we didn’t have the testing capacity but also that the clinical advice was that a test on somebody who didn’t have any symptoms could easily return a false negative and therefore give false assurance that that person did not have the disease.

‘At the same time, the clinicians were worried that, because it took four days to turn a test around, that if they leave somebody in hospital for those four days they might catch Covid and therefore go back to a care home with a negative result but having caught it.’

Mr Hancock said the Government had tried to throw a ‘protective ring’ around care homes but that it had proved difficult.

‘I think the most important words in the sentence are ‘we tried to’. It was very hard,’ he said.

‘Each and every death in a care home weighs heavily and always will. We knew from the start from very early in January that the impact of this disease was most significant on the oldest and therefore care homes were going to be a particular risk.

‘We put in funding. We made sure PPE was as available as possible. We set guidance for care homes. Then later when we had the testing capacity – in July – we brought in weekly testing for staff.’

Mr Hancock said that at the beginning of the pandemic his powers over social care were ‘extremely limited’ and that the Department of Health and Social Care did not even have a list of care homes in England.

But he said he could ‘look in the mirror’ over his decision. ‘I know that I did that with the right motive being straight with people throughout,’ he said. 

Mr Hancock pointed to a recent Public Health England report suggesting only 1.6 per cent of cases going into care homes came from people discharged from hospital.

He said one reason why the proportion might be so low is that there were isolation rules for patients who were discharged into care homes because the testing capacity was not there.

The second reason is that a ‘much much higher’ proportion of staff enter a care home each day than residents.

He said: ‘If you think about a care home and who physically goes in the door, the number of times that that person going through the front door is a resident is really quite a small proportion of the total.

‘So I do understand why people feel very strongly about this point of residents going into care homes, but in terms of the volume of human movement and interaction with a care home, you can understand once you think of it that way, because this virus transmits between humans of whatever type, whether you’re a staff member or a resident… It’s therefore the staff testing regime that was the big change that we brought in over the summer, and then we learned all of these lessons and did a review with the care home providers, and CQC and others, and came up with the care home winter plan.

‘And so in the second peak throughout the winter the proportion of deaths that we had in care homes is far, far lower and that is part of, that’s one of the many lessons that we’re learning as we go through this.’

Mr Hancock said he had no recollection of Mr Johnson expressing surprise about the care home situation when he returned from hospital in April.

‘Not that I can remember,’ he said.

According to the Guardian, Care England raised concerns over ‘lack of testing in hospitals and in the care sector’ with the Department of Health and Social Care ‘several times’.

The Care Providers Alliance are also said to have told the Government to ‘prioritise testing for care residents’ in March 2020 and emailed Mr Hancock directly to warn anyone discharged from hospital to social care settings ‘MUST be tested before discharge’.

‘NO LIVES LOST’ DUE TO PPE SHORTAGES

Mr Hancock said he had received no evidence to suggest any medics died due to a failure to provide them with personal protective equipment (PPE) during the coronavirus pandemic.

He told MPs: ‘We’ve looked into this and there is no evidence that I have seen that a shortage of PPE provision led to anyone dying of Covid. That’s from the evidence I have seen.

‘What I do know though is PPE provision was tight, and it was difficult, and it was difficult throughout the world, but we did manage – it was pretty close sometimes – but we did manage to ensure that there was… at a national level we had the PPE and then distribution was a challenge to all areas.’

Pressed about nurses having to use bin bags instead of PPE, he said: ‘I have acknowledged throughout there were individual challenges at getting hold of PPE but at a national level there was never a point where we ran out.’

WHAT DID DOMINIC CUMMINGS SAY?

Launching a dramatic bid to bring down the PM and the Health Secretary last month, Mr Cummings blamed a toxic mix of complacency and indecision for the needless deaths.

He told MPs that senior ministers and advisers, including himself, had fallen ‘disastrously short’, adding: ‘When the public needed us most, the Government failed. Tens of thousands of people died, who didn’t need to die.’

In an epic seven-hour performance, Mr Cummings launched attacks on Mr Johnson, his then fiancee Carrie Symonds and Mr Hancock over their personal conduct during the crisis. 

Mr Cummings claimed the Prime Minister was ‘unfit for the job’ and could not lead Britain out of the pandemic.

He said the Health Secretary ‘should have been fired for at least 15 to 20 things, including lying’. 

He alleged Mr Hancock had lied to the PM over the disastrous policy of not testing older people for Covid before they were discharged from hospital into care homes. 

The former No10 aide outlined a series of failings by him and the ‘smoking ruin’ Department for Health, including lying in January last year that pandemic preparations were brilliant when they were ‘completely hollow’.

Mr Cummings alleged Mr Hancock lied about testing hospital patients for coronavirus before they were sent back into care homes, in a suggestion that thousands died because of his dishonesty. 

He also claimed that the Health Secretary lied about people getting the treatment they needed during the first peak last March and April – adding that ‘many people were left to die in horrific circumstances’.

Mr Cummings then accused Mr Hancock of ‘appalling’ behaviour towards chief medical officer Chris Whitty and chief scientific adviser Patrick Vallance, saying: ‘He used the whole ‘we’re following the science’ as a way so that he could always say, ‘well if things go wrong, we’ll blame the scientists and it’s not my fault’.’ 

Downing Street did not deny that Mr Johnson considered sacking the Health Secretary in April last year but insisted the Prime Minister has confidence in him now, as Mr Hancock disputed the allegations.

He suggested that Mr Johnson chose not to fire the Health Secretary at that point because he was allegedly told ‘you should keep him there because he’s the person you fire when the inquiry comes along’.  

Mr Cummings told a joint committee: ‘One thing I can say completely honestly is that I said repeatedly from February/March that if we don’t fire the Secretary of State and get testing into somebody else’s hands, we’re going to kill people and it’s going to be a catastrophe.’ 

On the claim that Mr Hancock lied, Mr Cummings said: ‘There are numerous examples. In the summer he said that everybody who needed treatment got the treatment they required. 

‘He knew that that was a lie because he had been briefed by the chief scientific adviser and the chief medical officer himself about the first peak. We were told explicitly people did not get the treatment they deserved, many people were left to die in horrific circumstances.’ 

Mr Hancock had also blamed NHS chief Sir Simon Stevens and Chancellor Rishi Sunak for PPE problems.

Mr Cummings said he asked the cabinet secretary to investigate, who came back and said ‘it is completely untrue, I have lost confidence in the Secretary of State’s honesty in these meetings’.

The former aide said Mr Hancock’s public promise to deliver 100,000 tests a day by the end of April was ‘incredibly stupid’ because it was already an internal goal.

‘In my opinion he should’ve been fired for that thing alone, and that itself meant the whole of April was hugely disrupted by different parts of Whitehall fundamentally trying to operate in different ways completely because Hancock wanted to be able to go on TV and say ‘look at me and my 100k target’.

‘It was criminal, disgraceful behaviour that caused serious harm.’ 

There have been reports that Mr Cummings has documents showing the PM’s office summoned Mr Hancock to No10 on May 3 last year, for a meeting the following day, to explain misleading him, the PM and then Cabinet Secretary Mark Sedwill on the testing of patients before discharge into care homes, as well as about further testing of residents and staff.

The DoH said it ‘did not recognise’ the claim and Mr Hancock ‘had many meetings with the PM across a range of issues’. 

Mr Hancock has previously said on care home testing: ‘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.’

Mr Johnson has said the government faced an ‘incredibly difficult series of decisions, none of which we have taken lightly’ and ‘at every stage we have been governed by a determination to protect life’.  

 

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