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UK health secretary hits back at ‘untrue’ Dominic Cummings claims on coronavirus failures – POLITICO

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LONDON — U.K. Health Secretary Matt Hancock dismissed a series of inflammatory allegations on his handling of coronavirus from Boris Johnson’s ex-top adviser as “untrue.”

Dominic Cummings, who left his post as the prime minister’s most senior aide late last year, accused Hancock of lying about aspects of pandemic preparedness and a “criminal, disgraceful” testing strategy in evidence to a parliamentary select committee Wednesday.

But, summoned to the House of Commons to address the claims, Hancock said: “These are serious allegations and I’m pleased to be able to put it on the record that these unsubstantiated allegations about honesty are not true. As health secretary, I got up each day and asked what I could do to save lives.”

Hancock also took the opportunity to launch a direct attack on Cummings, observing that in recent months “governing has become a little easier and we’re able to deliver.”

Westminster is still digesting the host of claims made by Cummings at Wednesday’s committee hearing, with the ex-aide unloading about what he saw as the “chaos” of Johnson’s Downing Street and saying he had pushed on multiple occasions for Hancock to be fired.

He accused Hancock of misleading the Cabinet about ensuring care home residents would be tested for coronavirus before they were discharged from hospitals, a point seized on by the opposition Labour party.

Shadow Health Secretary Jonathan Ashworth asked Hancock Thursday: “Is he ashamed that he promised a protective shield around care homes and 30,000 died? Did he tell No. 10 hospital patients were being tested when they weren’t until 15 April? Why didn’t he insist on a precautionary approach?”

Hancock stressed that the government had at all times followed clinical advice.

The health secretary was also quizzed on the implications of the spread of the so-called Indian variant in the U.K., admitting that it is “too early to say” if England can proceed to its final exit from lockdown rules next month.

Remaining restrictions are due to be lifted on June 21 but that has been thrown into doubt by the prevalence of new coronavirus cases in certain parts of the country and a higher number of hospitalizations.

This article is part of POLITICO’s premium policy service: Pro Health Care. From drug pricing, EMA, vaccines, pharma and more, our specialized journalists keep you on top of the topics driving the health care policy agenda. Email [email protected] for a complimentary trial. 

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