Rishi Sunak Put 'Enormous Pressure' On Boris Johnson To Avoid Lockdown, Said Matt Hancock

WhatsApp messages reveal ex-health secretary was worried about being "screwed over".
Covid Inquiry

Rishi Sunak put “enormous pressure” on Boris Johnson not to do enough to halt the spread of Covid, Matt Hancock feared.

WhatsApp messages sent by the former health secretary on October 30, 2020 were published by the Covid inquiry on Friday.

Hancock worried in one exchange that Johnson could be persuaded not to impose the second lockdown in England because “Rishi was in the room” during a meetng.

“So the PM will be under enormous pressure to not do enough once again,” Hancock, who was health secretary at the time, said.

Hancock told the inquiry he had been “blocked” from joining the talks between Sunak and Johnson. “I wasn’t allowed physically present into this meeting,” he said.

In the event, Johnson decided to order a four-week lockdown from that was to run from October 31 to November 5.

In WhatsApps, sent to cabinet secretary Simon Case, Hancock said he was “very worried” about a “rearguard action” from others in government that had “screwed us over to often”

Asked what he meant by this, Hancock told the inquiry: “I was referring to the prime minister making a decision in principle to take action that was necessary to save lives and then others arguing strongly against it afterwards.”

Sunak has yet to give evidence to the inquiry but is expected to in the near future.

The prime minister is likely to be quizzed on his role as chancellor during the pandemic, including his Eat Out To Help Out scheme.

Hancock told the inquiry on Thursday he did not know about the policy until the day it was announced to the public.

In his evidence to the inquiry on Thursday, Hancock said the UK should have imposed its first lockdown three weeks earlier than it did.


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