Hancock texts: Claims Covid test couriered to Rees-Mogg's child during shortage
Health officials couriered a Covid test to Jacob Rees-Mogg's child during a huge diagnostics shortage in the UK, Matt Hancock's leaked WhatsApp messages have suggested.
A delivery to Mr Rees-Mogg's family home was arranged by the former health secretary's political special adviser Allan Nixon after a laboratory lost the child's initial test - the courier was told to wait for the Covid check to be complete and take it directly to a lab, the texts say.
There was a severe lack of coronavirus tests at the time the texts were allegedly exchanged, when a waiting list was said to have grown to 100,000 people.
Two days before, a test and trace boss issued a "heartfelt" apology to "to anyone who cannot get a Covid test at present".
People have accused the government of allowing Mr Rees-Mogg's family to receive favourable treatment via Mr Hancock's team at a time when many people were still dying with the virus and those unable to be tested were being forced to self-isolate.
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The WhatsApp messages - which according to the Telegraph were sent to Mr Hancock by his special adviser Mr Nixon just before 7pm on September 10 2020 - said: "The lab lost JRM’s [Jacob Rees-Mogg] [child’s] test, so we’ve got a courier going to their family home tonight, [child] will take the test, and courier will take it straight to the lab. Should have result tomorrow am.”
Mr Nixon added: “Jacob’s spad [special advisor] is aware and has helped line it all up, but you might want to text Jacob.”
It is not clear whether Mr Hancock did inform his Cabinet colleague, where the test would be delivered and whether the operation actually took place - however the former health secretary has not directly denied it.
But he has rejected other revelations from the more than 100,000 leaked messages, which were provided to the Telegraph by journalist Isabel Oakeshott.
The newspaper has led its coverage of the leak with claims Mr Hancock rejected advice to give coronavirus tests to all residents going into English care homes.
Mr Hancock denied the “distorted account”, with a spokesman claiming the messages leaked by Ms Oakeshott after she worked on his Pandemic Diaries memoir have been “spun to fit an anti-lockdown agenda”.
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak refused to comment on the leak, referring to the messages as "piecemeal bits of information".
He told Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer at PMQs that the official coronavirus inquiry is the “right way” to investigate the government’s handling of the pandemic.
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Labour asked an Urgent Question about the leak after Prime Minister's Questions, with Social Care Minister Helel Whately speaking for the government.
She defended her former boss, saying "tough decisions about prioritisation had to be made" during the pandemic.
Liberal Democrats' deputy leader Daisy Cooper, said Mr Rees-Mogg's child receiving a test showed there is "one rule for Conservative ministers and another for everyone else".
A spokesman for Mr Hancock said he is “considering all options” in response to the leak, with a source close to him telling the PA news agency: “She’s broken a legal NDA [non-disclosure agreement]. Her behaviour is outrageous.”
The messages were provided to Ms Oakeshott by the former minister to help her write his book the 'Pandemic Diaries'.
Ms Oakeshott, who has described lockdowns as an “unmitigated disaster”, said she was releasing the messages because it would take “many years” before the end of the official Covid inquiry, which she claimed could be a “colossal whitewash”.
“That’s why I’ve decided to release this sensational cache of private communications – because we absolutely cannot wait any longer for answers,” she said.
Rules at the time the Rees-Mogg texts were reportedly sent forced anyone without a test result who had symptoms - and their close contacts - to self-isolate for 14 days.
In the week ending September 11, 2020 - the day the test was allegedly delivered - there were 120 fatalities where Covid was mentioned on the death certificate as one of the causes, according to government figures.
Mr Hancock was blaming "operational issues" for people being told to drive 100s of miles for a test at the time - and was also urging people to follow the rules to avoid infecting loved ones.
“Don’t kill your gran by catching the coronavirus and then passing it on,” Mr Hancock said on September 7, 2020.