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Kate Garraway interviews Matt Hancock for the first time since husband Derek fell ill

Health Secretary Matt Hancock appeared on today’s Good Morning Britain where he spoke to Kate Garraway for the first time since her husband Derek fell ill.

Kate, who was hosting today alongside Ben Shephard, said: “We haven’t had a chance to speak since Derek got sick last March directly and I have watched you and all politicians wrestle with an impossible situation, just as I have watched doctors wrestle with an impossible situation, just as I have seen how things have changed for Derek.”

She then asked what planning there was for long Covid and helping people like her husband and others who are still ill many months after contracting the virus.

Hancock said: “I think this is an incredibly important subject and it is very close to my heart too. I know people close to me who have long Covid and it is a really serious problem. We have put significant funding into research to try to understand the causes and there appear to be a whole series of different syndromes that cause different symptoms that all amount to long Covid… I know that Derek had it very very seriously, but also some people don’t end up in hospital, don’t have particularly severe initial symptoms and end up having those symptoms stay with them for months.”

Kate pointed out that there are many more symptoms other than the main three highlighted on Government websites and asked when that will be redressed.

Hancock said: “I have seen that research and I have discussed with the Chief Med Officer. The challenge is that for the majority of people, cough, temperature, and loss of taste and sense of smell are the main symptoms… When you go to your GP, the clinicians of course know the longer list of potential symptoms and unusual symptoms so that is taken into account in the system.”

Kate pointed out that it might be time to review the main list of symptoms, as Derek never had a cough or temperature.

Hancock responded: “We absolutely always keep that under review and it is very much a clinical judgement exactly how we describe the main symptoms and how many symptoms we put up front… I am not a doctor so it is best to take that clinical advice… Of course, if you have any symptoms for anything that is making you ill, then you can go to your GP and the GP will know the longer list of symptoms for Covid which sometimes are more unusual perhaps.”

The interview then turned to the subject of holiday confusion and Ministers giving out mixed messages about whether we can go away this summer.

Hancock said: “We are saying exactly the same thing which is that unfortunately there is uncertainty about the months ahead… We are all working hard to try and make sure that we can get out of this as soon as safely possible and we are all working hard to make sure that people can have a holiday this summer and the centre of that is the vaccine rollout…”

When Kate pointed out that Ministers have given conflicting messages, he said: “I do understand the challenge of communicating when there is uncertainty… I really understand why people want certainty. We have got to get this thing under control and thankfully it is going in the right direction, the number of cases is coming down although it is still too high. The number of people in hospital is still 26,000 so we have all got to stick at this… it is a challenge but people get that.”

Reacting to Grant Shapps saying yesterday on GMB that it was “too soon” to book any holidays either internationally or domestically, despite Hancock previously admitting he has already booked a break in Cornwall, he said: “I do try to give straight answers to straight questions so if people ask me my own personal arrangements, I have explained that.”

Asked if he has spoken to his colleagues about it, he said: ” Oh yes, of course. We are all saying actually the same thing, which is that the future is uncertain, we want to have more uncertainty, we can’t yet but we are working very hard at it. It is the same problem that everybody faces in this country… People have to be patient... I want to get to a position during this pandemic where you no longer have to take the advice of the Health Secretary as to whether you can go on holiday or not.”

On today’s announcement of reforms to NHS and social care, Kate asked if this was the right time for a shake up when so many people need the health service at the moment.

Hancock explained: “Of course I want these changes to impact positively on people who are working so hard right now. The changes have been developed with the NHS, with local government to try and bring that integration that you talk about… I understand why people say, ‘Is now the right moment given that we still have 26,000 people in hospital?’ and my answer to that is emphatically yes. These are designed to help people on the frontline to deliver services better, in two ways. One to reduce bureaucracy so people can integrate services better and secondly so that we can get the funding and the support closer to the frontline [and] more decisions made locally.”

Earlier in the show, Kate also addressed her recent absence from our screens, saying: “I’ve taken some time off. They were very kind here on ITV and gave me some time off. I hadn’t been feeling very well. I think it was one of those things where the chickens came home to roost after a long year. I took some holiday leave at home, I know holidays are controversial, literally within the four walls of my home, had a lot of sleep, bit of medicine and I am feeling much better thank you.”

Asked by Ben how Derek is doing, she explained how she has not been allowed to visit, saying: “I haven’t been able to see him, I haven’t seen him since Christmas which means he is back in a situation of looking at strangers in masks. I think that is the situation for everybody who has someone they love in hospital at the moment, it’s not just him. It’s the same in care homes… When you are someone like him that is dealing with a consciousness problem and trying to emerge, I can’t help but feel that it is not helpful.”

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