'It's priceless': Matt Hancock laughs off suggestion test and trace was brought forward to distract from Dominic Cummings controversy

‘Many of my viewers will think it’s not a laughing matter,’ says Kay Burley – as health secretary chuckles vigorously

Adam Forrest
Thursday 28 May 2020 09:47 BST
Matt Hancock laughs hysterically after being asked about the 'rushed' test and trace launch

Health secretary Matt Hancock has laughed off the suggestion the government’s new test and trace system was brought forward to distract from the controversy over Dominic Cummings lockdown drive to Durham.

The cabinet minister began chuckling during an interview on Sky News when host Kay Burley asked whether he had “rushed” Thursday’s launch to help push the saga surrounding Mr Cummings down the news agenda.

“It’s priceless Kay – I’m normally accused of delaying these things, of bringing them in too slowly,” said Mr Hancock, who grinned and shaking his head.

“You can’t accuse me both of rushing and of there being a delay,” he added, laughing vigorously and shaking his head again.

“I suppose many of my viewers will think it’s not a laughing matter,” Ms Burley said.

Mr Hancock, turning more serious, replied: “Yes, well I can’t quite work out whether you’re telling me I’ve gone too fast or too slow. I think we’ve got it just right.”

Asked why the “essential” NHS contact-tracing app was still not ready, the health secretary said there was “a reason” it was not in place at the beginning of the new tracing programme.

“Asking people to isolate even if they’re healthy because the NHS has got in contact … that is quite a big change,” he said. “And one of the things we learned in the pilot on the Isle of Wight is that getting people used to that idea is important to do before we also add the technology capability, the app, on top.”

The health secretary also claimed: “I committed to getting this system in [place] mid-May, it’s still just about mid-May.”

Appearing on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme on Thursday, Mr Hancock refused six times to answer a question on whether Dominic Cummings “did the right thing” when travelling to Durham despite strict coronavirus restrictions.

NHS Test and Trace – seen as key to easing the lockdown restrictions in the weeks ahead – was set to launch in England and Scotland on Thursday. People who come into close contact with someone with the coronavirus will now be told to self-isolate for 14 days.

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