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Covid inquiry live: Hancock ‘wanted to decide who should live or die if NHS became overwhelmed’

Lord Simon Stevens says Cabinet ministers ‘avoided’ Cobra meetings chaired by then-health secretary

Matt Mathers,Archie Mitchell,Andy Gregory
Tuesday 07 November 2023 16:27 GMT
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Covid inquiry roundup: Lee Cain and Dominic Cummings provide worrying insight into No 10

Ex-health secretary Matt Hancock believed that he – rather than doctors or the public – should decide “who should live and who should die” if hospitals became overwhelmed with Covid patients, the former NHS chief executive has said.

Lord Simon Stevens said that “fortunately this horrible dilemma never crystallised”, as he told the Covid inquiry on Thursday that it would have to look “very carefully” at the issue of asymptomatic Covid patients being discharged from hospitals into care homes.

Meanwhile, Mr Hancock, who was health secretary at the start of the Covid outbreak, told Public Health England’s then medical director Yvonne Doyle “not to patronise him” when she warned that the virus could be in the UK, she told the inquiry.

She said she was barred from doing media interviews for a time after that, and apologised to him, even though she had been telling the truth.

It comes a day after former top civil servant and ethics chief Helen MacNamara said the “female perspective” was missed during the pandemic as she condemned a “toxic” and “macho” culture at the highest levels of Mr Johnson’s government.

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‘Scotland always wanted to do it slightly differently to England,’ Ed Lister

Downing Street was “frustrated” because the Scottish government always wanted to do things slightly differently to England” during the pandemic.

Boris Johnson’s former chief of staff Lord Lister said for “political reasons” Scottish ministers did not want to be seen to do the same as their English counterparts.

“It always almost seemed that there was a desire just to be different,” he told the Covid inquiry.

Joe Middleton7 November 2023 16:27
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Civil service chief: ‘I’ve never seen a bunch of people less well-equipped to run a country’

Simon Case said he had “never seen a bunch of people less well-equipped to run a country” after becoming the top civil servant in No10.

Mr Case, now cabinet secretary, said he would “struggle to last six months” after becoming the permanent secretary in Downing Street.

The former cabinet secretary Lord Sedwill said he was “ok so far” as he had joined in a “good news phase”. And in WhatsApp messages shown to the inquiry, Lord Sedwill said: “It’s hard to ask people to march to the sound of gunfire if they’re shot in the back”.

Mr Case replied: “I’ve never seen a bunch of people less well-equipped to run a country.”

(Covid-19 Inquiry)
Joe Middleton7 November 2023 16:23
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Dominic Cummings was ‘not easy to deal with’, Lord Lister

Lord Lister has told the Covid inquiry Dominic Cummings was “not an easy man to deal with”.

Asked about the working environment in No10, which the inquiry has so far heard was toxic and chaotic, Boris Johnson’s former chief of staff said there was “tension” driven by different personalities.

Regarding Mr Cummings, Lord Lister said “he was not an easy man to deal with”.

Joe Middleton7 November 2023 16:13
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Covid taskforce 'blindsided' by Eat out to Help Out scheme, Covid inquiry told

Covid taskforce 'blindsided' by Eat out to Help Out scheme, Covid inquiry told
Joe Middleton7 November 2023 16:00
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Rise in domestic abuse was ‘not particularly high on the list’, Ed Lister confirms

Lord Lister has confirmed a potential rise in domestic abuse was “not particularly high on the list” of concerns ahead of the introduction of Covid lockdowns.

“I don’t think people thought about it as being a likely outcome,” the former No10 chief of staff said.

He added: “Lockdown was a very blunt instrument which was being used to try and stop the spread of Covid, and there were all sorts of consequences from that.

“Yes, we should have thought much more about domestic abuse.”

Archie Mitchell7 November 2023 15:59
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Boris Johnson wanted to be injected with Covid live on TV ‘to show it did not pose a threat’

Lord Lister has told the Covid inquiry that Boris Johnson - who eventually almost died of Covid - wanted to be injected with the disease on live TV “to demonstrate that it did not pose a threat”.

Describing the comment as “unfortunate”, Lord Lister said it was made in the early days of the pandemic “in the heat of a moment”.

Joe Middleton7 November 2023 15:50
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Lord Lister rejected Sadiq Khan’s request to attend Cobra

Lord Lister refused a request by Sadiq Khan to attend a Cobra meeting in the early days of the pandemic.

The mayor of London believed the capital was “one of the most at risk places” in the country due to its large number of hospitals, airports and international visitors.

His government relations team asked Downing Street if he would be invited to attend a Cobra meeting.

In Mr Khan’s evidence, shown briefly to the inquiry, he said “a reply from No10 said that I would not be invited” and “no explanation” was given.

Lord Lister said it was about “parity” with the rest of the country and not giving London special treatment.

Joe Middleton7 November 2023 15:49
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A diplomatic response for the ages from Lord Lister

Asked at the Covid inquiry how he got on with Boris Johnson’s most senior adviser Dominic Cummings, Lord Lister said: “We worked together. We had desk facing each other.”

Joe Middleton7 November 2023 15:41
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Johnson’s top adviser: Economic impact was ‘real coronavirus threat’

Boris Johnson’s chief of staff during the pandemic said the economic impact of Covid was the “real threat”.

In messages from February 2020, Lord Lister said air freight rates in Asia were up 500 per cent and cited four days of falling stock markets.

“In my opinion this is the real coronavirus threat,” he said in a WhatsApp exchange with Mr Johnson and the rest of his top team.

“Can I suggest at the Cobra on Monday the economic bit is as important as the health input?” he added.

(Covid-19 Inquiry)
Archie Mitchell7 November 2023 15:40
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Lord Edward Udny-Lister, Boris Johnson’s former chief of staff in Downing Street, will now be giving evidence

Joe Middleton7 November 2023 15:16

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