The Health Secretary didn’t have a good day yesterday.
It began with an interview on Good Morning Britain in which Piers Morgan attacked him unrelentingly for refusing to appear on the programme for the previous 201 days.
“Do you think it’s right and proper than in the biggest health crisis this country has faced for a hundred years, that you as Health Secretary and the entire Cabinet and the prime Minister have boycotted a big morning breakfast television programme and our viewers for six months?” asked Piers. “Did you support the boycott? Did you agree with it?”
Gurning and waffling didn’t really cut it. After cataloging all the health failures on Hancock’s watch, Piers told him he should resign.
That was followed directly afterwards by an appearance on Julia Hartley Brewer’s talkRADIO show in which she pressed him on whether the Government had “ruled out” a mandatory mass vaccination programme.
“Honestly, I’ve learnt not to rule things out during this pandemic because you have to watch what happens and you have to make judgements accordingly,” he said.
That surely wasn’t part of the script? It generated headlines afterwards, such as this one in the Telegraph: “Matt Hancock refuses to rule out making coronavirus vaccine mandatory.”
He then had to step in for Boris at the Downing Street briefing, where he made a series of implausible claims, including that “the virus remains a potent threat… not just to the oldest and the most vulnerable but to anyone of any age and of any background…”
Eh? As I pointed out yesterday, 88% of those who’ve died so far in Scotland are aged 70 or over and only 8% of the people who’ve succumbed to the virus have had no underlying health condition. According to John Ioannidis, Professor of Medicine at Stanford, the infection fatality rate for healthy under-70s is 0.05% – hardly a “potent threat”.
Worse was Hancock’s admission that it was “too early to know” whether the second lockdown would end on December 2nd, or whether some areas might be plunged into Tier 4 restrictions on December 3rd, prompting an angry exchange afterwards between the Prime Minister and member of the Covid Recovery Group. The Telegraph has the details.
Conservative MPs have blasted the “grim” and “terrible” suggestion that lower tiers could be “strengthened” after national lockdown is lifted, with Boris Johnson on another collision course with his backbenchers.
Tories had hoped for a general loosening of restrictions ahead of Christmas, with those in the lower tiers particularly aggrieved at the blanket measures.
Hancock claimed daily cases were still rising, comparing the daily average last week with the daily average the week before. But as Carl Heneghan pointed out on Twitter, the latest ONS infection survey suggests otherwise.