Wuhan lab leak mystery deepens after new Hancock messages leaked

Isabel Oakeshott was sent 'menacing message' from Matt Hancock after leak

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Matt Hancock’s Covid memoirs were censored over his claims that the coronavirus pandemic began with a lab leak in Wuhan. He was pressed to tone down the claims in his book, published earlier this year, because the Government worried it would “cause problems” with China. The former Health Secretary was planning to say that China’s explanation for the virus “just doesn’t fly”.

Beijing had claimed that the virus being discovered close to a government science lab in Wuhan was coincidental.

In correspondence from late last year, the Cabinet Office told Mr Hancock that the Government’s position was that the original outbreak’s location was “entirely coincidental” – the first time that the British position has been explicitly stated.

The former Health Secretary was warned that straying from this explanation risked “damaging national security”.

In his book, Pandemic Diaries, Mr Hancock also planned to say that “Global fear of the Chinese must not get in the way of a full investigation into what happened”. This was also watered down in the final copy.

The revelation comes just days before Prime Minister Rishi Sunak prepares to set out a new defence and security strategy.

It is expected to take a less aggressive stance on China than that touted by Mr Sunak’s predecessor, Liz Truss.

Before she was ousted from office, Ms Truss had pledged to officially designate China as a “threat”.

Mr Sunak has advocated an approach of “robust pragmatism” towards China, instead describing it as a “systemic challenge” to the UK.

Mr Hancock’s correspondence, published as part of an investigation by the Telegraph, suggests the former Health Secretary rejected advice to give Covid tests to all residents going into English care homes.

The messages show Chief Medical Officer Professor Sir Chris Whitty told the then-Health Secretary in April 2020 there should be testing for “all going into care homes”.

But the messages suggest Mr Hancock did not follow the guidance, telling an aide the move “muddies the waters”.

He introduced mandatory testing for those entering care homes from hospitals, but not from the community until later.

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Mr Hancock expressed concerns that expanding care home testing could “get in the way” of the target of 100,000 daily coronavirus tests he was desperate to hit, according to the messages.

In one message, Mr Hancock said Sir Chris had finished a review and recommended “testing of all going into care homes, and segregation whilst awaiting result”.

The then-Health Secretary described it as “obviously a good positive step”.

The investigation said he later responded to an aide: “Tell me if I’m wrong but I would rather leave it out and just commit to test & isolate ALL going into care from hospital. I do not think the community commitment adds anything and it muddies the waters.”

Matt Hancock is “considering all options” over the leaked messages, hitting back at what he branded a “distorted account” on his handling of care home testing in the pandemic.

A spokesman for the West Suffolk MP said: “It is outrageous that this distorted account of the pandemic is being pushed with partial leaks, spun to fit an anti-lockdown agenda, which would have cost hundreds of thousands of lives if followed.”

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