The UK health secretary, Matt Hancock, has said he never lied to the prime minister and defended himself against a slew of allegations made by Dominic Cummings, from care homes to testing and PPE, saying it was “telling” the former aide had not provided evidence.
At a parliamentary hearing the health secretary barely mentioned Cummings by name but made a series of veiled digs at his conduct in government.
During his evidence:
- He denied there were national shortages of PPE, saying though there had been individual cases of difficulty, no area had run out of stocks.
- Defended his 100,000 testing target, which Cummings said interfered with the system but which Hancock said had worked.
- Claimed all patients had received the Covid treatment they needed, despite Cummings’ claim that the chief scientific adviser had said otherwise.
He also defended the government’s actions in the run-up to the November lockdown, a time when according to Cummings the prime minister was forcefully against another lockdown. He said the spread of the virus had been far more regional, rather than the initial wave when the spread had been across the country.
“Decisions are made through discussion,” he said. “Of course, people have a tendency for one side of the argument or the other at times, but actually at the moment everybody is very aligned.”
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Jon Henley has more from the WHO on prospects for Europe:
Covid-19 infections, hospitalisations and deaths are falling fast across Europe, but the risk of a deadly autumn resurgence remains high as societies open up and the more transmissible Delta variant advances, the World Health Organization (WHO) has said.
Urging people and governments to exercise “caution and common sense” over the summer, the WHO Europe’s regional director, Hans Kluge, said on Thursday that community transmission was still widespread and would continue as travel and social gatherings increased.
“We’ve been here before,” Kluge said. “Last summer, cases gradually rose in younger age groups, then moved into older age groups, leading to a devastating … loss of life in the autumn and winter of 2020. Let’s not make that mistake again.”
Katy Smallwood, a senior emergency officer, said the Delta variant first detected in India was of particular concern. “It is not yet prevalent in the European region but in some countries has already displaced the dominant Alpha variant,” she said.
“We’ve seen very significant evidence of significantly higher transmissibility, we’ve seen initial basis for increased risk of hospitalisation, and we’ve seen some evidence of immune escape, especially after only one dose of vaccine. Our assessment is that this does pose a significant risk in terms of community transmission.”