It is claimed that Hancock withheld information from the prime minister over the impact of vaccines in the Indian variant (Image: REUTERS)
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Matt Hancock held back information from Boris Johnson about the effectiveness of vaccines on the Indian variant ahead of the government’s call to extend Covid restrictions, it is reported.
The Health Secretary didn’t fully inform Johnson about an important Public Health England (PHE) study before a meeting last Sunday where it was decided to extend current measures until July 19, according to a Sunday Telegraph source.
The newspaper’s “multiple” sources then said that Hancock did not bring it up at the meeting and neither did he put it in briefing papers for the prime minister and other leading ministers.
It raises the possibility that the government could have decided to lift restrictions as originally planned on June 21, and it will fuel calls for the measures to end earlier than July 19.
The PHE report indicated that AstraZeneca and Pfizer were more effective at preventing hospitalisations against the Indian variant than they had been against previous strains.
This latest controversy follows messages published by Dominic Cummings where Johnson called the health secretary “hopeless”.
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Steve Baker, the deputy chairman of the Coronavirus Research Group of Conservative MPs, told the Telegraph: “If Matt Hancock was deliberately withholding relevant information, what was he trying to gain? Was the Prime Minister bounced?”
Senior ministers are reportedly angry with Hancock's actions and how the decision to delay the ending of restrictions was decided.
It is claimed that the usual modelling by Sage scientists, showing in this case how a June 21 reopening would be detrimental, was not provided at the meeting which was attended by Rishi Sunak and Michael Gove, along with Hancock and the prime minister.
It is reported that Hancock was told about the data on Thursday, June 10, before he was given it in writing on the Saturday.
It is claimed that Hancock received the report on the vaccines' effectiveness three days before the key meeting
(Image: Getty Images)
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But he did not give the data until the Sunday at 3pm, shortly before the meeting which gave little time for it to be taken on board.
A Telegraph government source insisted, though, that the ministers were aware of the effectiveness of the vaccines because they had been given “equivalent data” thought to be from Sage’s Scientific Pandemic Influenza Group on Modelling which had similar figures to the PHE’s study.
A Department of Health spokesman, reportedly, said: “Information which was provided by PHE was shared across government before the meeting.
“Analysis and work on the scientific paper continued over the weekend before it was published as soon as it was ready on Monday."
The PHE data was made public last Monday after the delay announced and based on 14,019 cases of the delta variant along with hospitalisations.
It was described by PHE as “hugely important findings” which “confirm that the vaccines offer significant protection against hospitalisation from the delta variant”.
The Daily Mirror has contacted the Department of Health for comment.