Matt Hancock has been accused of failing to tell the Prime Minister about a major report with promising conclusions about vaccine effectiveness against the Indian Covid variant at a crucial meeting before ministers decided to delay easing restrictions.
The claims in the Sunday Telegraph heap more pressure on the beleaguered Health Secretary after axed Number 10 advisor Dominic Cummings revealed that Boris Johnson had branded his response to the pandemic ‘f***ing hopeless’. Questions about the effectiveness of vaccines in preventing Covid hospitalisations caused by the Indian strain were at the centre of the ministers’ decision last week to delay ‘Freedom Day’ until July 19.
That decision was taken after a meeting of ‘the quad’ of Boris Johnson, Chancellor Rishi Sunak, Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove and Matt Hancock on June 13.
But critics now claim that the data shows the decision to delay was not necessary and argue that ‘Freedom Day’ should be brought forward to July 5 because, they suggest, surging coronavirus cases will not result in a wave of hospitalisations that would overwhelm the NHS.
The Health Secretary is believed to have known about study produced by Public Health England (PHE) into the AstraZeneca and Pfizer vaccines on June 10. The data in the report shows that the two vaccines were more effective at stopping hospitalisations from the now-dominant Indian variant than with previous strains.
PHE also provided written analysis on the data which they sent to Mr Hancock on June 12. But the information was not shared with the Prime Minister, Mr Sunak, or Mr Gove during their meeting on Sunday that led to the postponement of June 21.