Earlier Lockdown Would Have Saved 'Many, Many Lives', Matt Hancock Claims

The former health secretary is the most senior figure to admit the government was too slow to act.
Matt Hancock arrives to give evidence for the second time at the Covid inquiry
Matt Hancock arrives to give evidence for the second time at the Covid inquiry
Dan Kitwood via Getty Images

Locking the UK down three weeks earlier would have saved “many, many lives” during the Covid pandemic, Matt Hancock has claimed.

The former health secretary said the measures should have been introduced on March 2, 2020 instead of March 23.

He admitted that he was speaking with the benefit of hindsight and defended the government’s decision to hold off from locking down the country at the time.

Hancock was speaking during his second evidence session at the Covid Inquiry.

He said: “At the time, there was still enormous uncertainty, the number of cases was still very low – in fact, there were only 12 cases reported on March 1 – and the costs of what I’m proposing were known and huge.

“So I defend the actions that were taken by the government at the time, knowing what we did, but with hindsight, that’s the moment we should have done it, three weeks earlier, and it would have been, would have saved, many, many lives.

“Having obviously thought about this and reflected on this a huge deal over the last few years, the first moment we realistically could have really cracked it was on March 2, three weeks earlier than we did.”

Hancock was also accused by Dominic Cummings of lying to the inquiry over his claim that he had pushed then prime minister Boris Johnson on March 13 to order a lockdown.

Cummings posted on X (formerly Twitter): “Hancock flat out lying to inquiry claiming he privately pushed for lockdown on 13th with PM - but admits there’s no evidence for it .”

An ally of Hancock hit back: “Cummings is not a reliable witness and this tweet is wrong.

“Matt called Boris on 13th, argued for lockdown on 14th and then Boris invited Matt into the smaller meeting after Cummings had tried to exclude him.”


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