Five key moments from Matt Hancock’s pandemic memoir

In published extracts former health secretary says he broke Covid rules because he ‘fell in love’

Straight from appearing on the ITV reality show I’m a Celebrity, the focus on former health secretary Matt Hancock has turned to his upcoming memoir called Pandemic Diaries: The Inside Story Of Britain’s Battle Against Covid.

Here are five key moments from the book, which have been revealed in extracts published by the Daily Mail and Mail+.

1) Hancock claims coronavirus was brought into care homes by staff

In the upcoming book, Hancock defends his handling of the care home crisis during the pandemic – the decision to discharge care home residents from hospital without testing – by claiming that the virus was introduced into the homes by care staff.

In the entry dated 13 March 2020, Hancock claims that Simon Stevens, NHS England’s chief executive, said that frail elderly patients who did not need urgent treatment could be discharged from hospital, either to their own homes or to care homes.

In a subsequent entry dated 14 May 2020 Hancock says that people “blame us for discharging elderly people from hospital into residential settings without testing them properly”, but claims that this is false.

Rather, Hancock claims there was “scandalous behaviour” by some care home operators who were using staff who had tested positive for coronavirus, saying there were at least 40 care homes where this was happening.

2) Hancock says ministers were told Covid could kill 820,000 in the UK

Hancock also claims that Chris Whitty, the chief medical officer, warned two months before the country was put into lockdown that the virus could kill as many as 820,000 people across the UK. According to Hancock, Conservative ministers responded with a “shrug shrug”.

Hancock claims: “The reaction was somewhat ‘shrug shrug’ – essentially because they didn’t really believe it. I am constantly feeling that others, who aren’t focused on this every day, are weeks behind what’s going on.”

3) Boris Johnson did not initially think coronavirus would be a serious disease

Hancock claims Boris Johnson was reluctant to take the issue of a pandemic seriously when he first raised the issue of the outbreak in Wuhan. The former health secretary notes that Johnson’s response to him was: “You keep an eye on it. It will probably go away.”

One month later, Hancock says he warned Johnson that although it may be possible to contain the virus, the most likely scenario was “we’re going down”. He says that Johnson’s response to this was “Bash on.”

4) Dominic Cummings viewed the pandemic as a ‘distraction’

Hancock claims that Johnson’s former chief adviser Dominic Cummings viewed the pandemic as a “distraction” from other topics, including the UK’s exit from the EU.

He writes: “That’s all he wants Boris talking about.”

5) Hancock says he broke coronavirus rules because he ‘fell in love’

Hancock said that he fell in love with Gina Coladangelo, a friend from university, after she started working for him.

“We realised we had feelings for each other which were as strong as they were. It was very sudden and took us both by surprise,” he said.

“We realised what was happening was of huge consequence that would last for the rest of our lives but … this was an affaire de coeur [affair of the heart] and therefore my political judgment was off.”

He added that he wanted forgiveness from the public for breaking the rules, rather than seeking it over his handling of the pandemic.

Hancock wrote: “I want forgiveness for the mistake I made, the failure of leadership at the end of the pandemic when I fell in love with Gina and I broke the guidance that I’d signed off. I want forgiveness for the human error I made ... but I’m not asking for forgiveness for how I handled the pandemic.”


Tobi Thomas

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Matt Hancock’s decision to quit as MP has been a long time coming
Former health secretary’s exit from politics may have been on the cards since he was snubbed day Rishi Sunak became PM

Pippa Crerar Political editor

07, Dec, 2022 @8:39 PM

Article image
Matt Hancock’s I’m a Celeb appearance ‘insulting’, says bereaved daughter
Dr Cathy Gardner, whose father died from Covid in a care home, urges viewers to boycott ITV show

Robert Booth Social affairs correspondent

06, Nov, 2022 @10:45 PM

Article image
Needy Matt becomes Door Matt in defending Dom’s Durham flit | John Crace
The health secretary casually rewrote half the penal code in a mere half-hour press conference

John Crace

26, May, 2020 @7:06 PM

Article image
Rishi Sunak dismisses Matt Hancock’s I’m a Celebrity justification
PM rejects former cabinet colleague’s view that politicians can use series to connect with the public

Jessica Elgot in Bali

15, Nov, 2022 @12:00 PM

Article image
Matt Hancock’s leaked messages being ‘used to rewrite history’, say civil servants
Some advisers and civil servants speaking to the Guardian say an ‘anti-lockdown filter’ has been placed on events

Jessica Elgot

11, Mar, 2023 @7:00 AM

Article image
Matt Hancock could be stopped from standing as Tory MP in next election
West Suffolk MP had whip removed for I’m A Celebrity … appearance and may not have it restored before 5 December deadline

Miranda Bryant

19, Nov, 2022 @11:29 AM

Article image
Care workers hit back at Matt Hancock’s claim staff brought Covid to care homes
Most cases not caused by decision to discharge patients from hospital without testing, says former health secretary

Sophie Zeldin-O'Neill

03, Dec, 2022 @8:09 PM

Article image
Gavin Williamson said teaching unions ‘just hate work’ during Covid pandemic
Former education secretary said to have made comments in leaked WhatsApp exchanges to Matt Hancock, then health secretary

Jessica Elgot Deputy political editor

01, Mar, 2023 @10:48 PM

Article image
Matt Hancock accused of rewriting history in pandemic book
Tory ex-minister Steven Dorrell questions whether Hancock would stand by some of his claims under oath

Aubrey Allegretti

05, Dec, 2022 @6:33 PM

Article image
Matt Hancock could be ‘set for life’ after I’m a Celebrity, says ex-MP
Former health secretary could have his ‘Peter Andre moment’, jungle veteran Lembit Öpik says

Rachel Hall

04, Nov, 2022 @2:34 PM