Health secretary Matt Hancock has denied the claim that he incorrectly promised people discharged from hospitals into care homes at the outset of the pandemic were being tested for Covid.
Mr Hancock appeared on yesterday’s The Andrew Marr Show, where recent criticisms made by the Prime Minister’s former adviser Dominic Cummings were put to him.
After facing lengthy questioning from the broadcaster, Mr Hancock said he “did not” say that people being discharged into care homes were being tested, only that he said they would happen when capacity was available.
He said that the government brought in the policy of wanting to test every individual who went into a care home as soon as it had the tests available.
Concerning Mr Cummings’ remarks, Mr Hancock was asked if was a “question of tenses” and whether he didn’t tell the prime minister that people were going from hospitals into care homes without being tested?”
He replied: “Well, ironically, here I did exactly what is alleged, which is [say] we would bring in testing when the testing capacity was available.”
He added that the clinical advice had been that “hospital is a dangerous place for people who might end up getting Covid after they’d taken the test” and that “what matters is that you had the infection prevention control when you’re in the care home”.
Referring to the early stages of the pandemic, he said: “At the time… we didn’t have the testing capacity and I built that testing capacity, put in place the 100,000 (per day testing) target and we got the tests and then we could implement the policy.”
Almost 128,000 people in the UK have died within 28 days of testing positive for coronavirus, with a third of deaths happening in care homes.
Mr Hancock is set to appear at a joint hearing of the House of Commons health and science committees later this week, as part of an inquiry into lessons learnt from the pandemic.
During a hearing by the same committees last month, former PM advisor Mr Cummings said: “We were told categorically [by Mr Hancock] in March [last year] that people would be tested before they went back to care homes. We only subsequently found out that that hadn’t happened.
“Now all the government rhetoric was ‘We put a shield around care homes’ and ‘Blah, blah’. It was complete nonsense. Quite the opposite of putting a shield round them, we sent people with Covid back to the care homes.”