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Tell us why Hancock had Covid tests couriered to Rees-Mogg home during shortage, demand Labour

Labour says No 10 ‘more than capable of answering those questions now’

Kate Devlin,Adam Forrest
Wednesday 01 March 2023 19:47 GMT
All the times Matt Hancock defended his Covid care home strategy

Labour has accused the government of hiding behind the official Covid inquiry after it stonewalled questions over suggestions a cabinet minister receieved preferential treatment for one of his children during the pandemic.

Downing Street conceded there was “significant public interest” in claims officials couriered a Covid test to Jacob Rees-Mogg’s home.

But the prime minister’s official spokesperson said: “On all these issues clearly there is significant public interest, that’s why we have established an independent public inquiry that will look to establish the facts.

“It’s not for me to look at individual claims put out.”

No 10 also defended the use of Whatsapp for government business.

Labour said that “to hide behind the inquiry at this stage seems bizarre” adding “the government is more than capable of answering those questions now”. Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer also called for the formal inquiry to report by the end of the year.

In September 2020, during a severe backlog in testing, messages suggest an adviser to Mr Hancock helped get a test sent to Mr Rees-Mogg’s address.

The aide messaged Mr Hancock to say the lab had “lost” the original test for one of the then Commons leader’s children, “so we’ve got a courier going to their family home tonight”.

That same month there was a backlog of 185,000 Covid tests waiting to be processed across the UK. The rules in place at the time also meant people had to isolate until they received a negative test.

Only a few days before the test was couriered to Mr Rees-Mogg, Sarah Marsh, director of testing at NHS Test and Trace, had issued her “heartfelt apologies to anyone who cannot get a Covid test at present”.

Liberal Democrat deputy leader Daisy Cooper said the claims were “yet more evidence that it’s one rule for Conservative ministers and another for everyone else”.

Mr Hancock has denied claims he rejected official advice while health secretary to give Covid tests to all residents going into English care homes.

The allegations come from a leaked trove of more than 100,000 WhatsApp messages obtained by The Daily Telegraph.

Mr Hancock’s spokesperson said a report claiming he rejected clinical advice on care home testing was “flat wrong” because he was told it was “not currently possible” to carry out the tests.

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