Matt Hancock responds to Dominic Cummings allegations

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At a Downing Street news conference yesterday, the Health Secretary faced questions about the allegation made by Dominic Cummings. Mr Hancock had been the target for the most stinging criticism in the former Downing Street chief adviser’s testimony to two Commons committee hearings on Wednesday.

He was accused of “criminal behaviour” over the lack of protection at care homes by Mr Cummings.

Hitting back, Mr Hancock said: “We worked as hard as we could to protect people who live in care homes. And, of course, those who live in care homes are some of the most vulnerable to this disease because by its nature it attacks and has more of an impact on older people.

“Now when it comes to the testing of people as they left hospital and went into care homes, we committed to building the testing capacity to allow that to happen.

“Of course it then takes time to build testing capacity.

“One of the critical things we did was set the 100,000 target back then to make sure we built that testing capacity and it was very effective.

“And then we were able to introduce the policy of testing everybody before going into care homes. But we could only do that once we had the testing capacity which I had to build, because we didn’t have it in this country from the start. We started with a capacity of less than 2,000 in March last year and got to 100,000 tests a day. And we set all of this out at the time in public documents.”

During his seven-hour evidence session on Wednesday, Mr Cummings claimed Mr Hancock told the Prime Minister “categorically in March that people will be tested before they went back to care homes” when in fact they were not. It was “complete nonsense” to claim the Government had put a shield around care homes, Mr Cummings claimed.

A senior Tory MP last night called for an immediate probe into Covid deaths in care homes.

Dan Poulter, vice-chairman of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Coronavirus, said: “There is a strong case for conducting an immediate inquiry into Covid-related deaths in care homes.

“This would help ensure lessons are learnt so that care homes are better protected ahead of any third wave.

“It is one of the most troubling aspects of this pandemic that the elderly have borne the brunt despite being the most vulnerable in society.

“We must ensure these mistakes are not repeated and that care homes are never again treated as an afterthought in pandemic planning.”

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