Health Secretary Matt Hancock is coming under increasing pressure for addressing the coronavirus crisis, as leading statistician professor David Spiegelhalter said his test grades are “utterly embarrassing.”
During the BBC’s Andrew Marr show, he accused the government of misleading the public about the number of tests performed daily by combining the number that was done with the number that was posted.
It follows that Hancock urged Boris Johnson to “give me a break” in a furious failure over the coronavirus crisis, and his department’s failure to pass his 100,000 tests a day for the seventh day in a row.
The escalating feud – raising questions about the beleaguered future of the cabinet of the minister – can be revealed as the prime minister prepares to use a televised speech to the nation tonight to outline his roadmap to facilitate national closure.
The government has been criticized for its daily test data, which aggregates the number of tests performed with the number posted across the country
Matt Hancock is coming under increasing pressure for addressing the coronavirus crisis. He is pictured above approaching Downing Street on VE day
The statistician, president of the Winton Center at Cambridge University, said in a fiery interview: ‘We did many large numbers (at the most recent daily press conference), accurate numbers of tests …
“Well, that’s not how many were done yesterday, it contains tests posted.”
Full of criticism, he continued, “We are told that 31,587 people have died – no they are not, it is much more than that.
“So I guess it’s not reliable statistics communication, and it’s such a missed opportunity.
“There is an audience that generally supports the measures, they long for details, for facts, for real information.
And yet they get what I call number theater, which seems to be coordinated much more by a No10 communications team, rather than really trying to educate people about what’s going on.
“I wish the data was brought together and presented by people who really know the strengths and limitations and could treat the public with some respect.”
Prof Spiegelhalter has also written a book on numbers called The Art of Statistics.
The government has repeatedly referred to its article on global coronavirus data to suggest that British deaths should not be compared to other countries.
However, in a tweet on May 6, he dismissed their claims, “Polite request to Prime Minister and others: please stop using my Guardian article to claim we can’t make an international comparison yet.”
“I’m just referring to detailed rankings – of course we should now use other countries to try to figure out why our numbers are high.”
The statistician also slammed the government’s claims that 31,587 people had died from the virus, saying the actual number is much higher
Britain today announced 252 coronavirus deaths, bringing the official death toll in the UK to 31,493. Daily deaths are expected to rise when the Department of Health announces fatal accidents in nursing homes later today
Number of coronavirus tests performed since the May 1 deadline
May 1 – 122,347
May 2 – 105,937
May 3 – 76,496
May 4 – 85186
May 5 – 84,806
May 6 – 69,463 (low since May 1)
May 7 – 86,583
May 8 – 97,029
May 9 – 96,878
Hancock claimed the UK had reached its goal of 100,000 tests per day by May 1, completing 122,347, but numbers have deteriorated dramatically since then.
Yesterday figures from the Department of Health say that only 96,878 tests have been completed, 3,000 below the original target. They fell to a low of 69.463 on May 6.
As criticism grew, it also appeared that 50,000 coronavirus tests have been sent to the US for analysis of capacity problems in the UK.
The government has attributed this to “operational issues,” while the Department of Health said it was “unforeseen circumstance” to address “problems.”
The Prime Minister will announce how the UK’s lockdown will continue today after 7pm.
His plans included the introduction of a five-stage alert system – similar to that highlighting the risk of a terrorist attack – to identify the risk of infection in different parts of the country.
While a green Level One warning would mean life continues normally, a red Level Five means the NHS is in a critical condition and about to be overwhelmed.
No. 10 is also preparing to launch a new slogan – “stay alert, control the virus, save lives” – to replace the advice to stay at home, indicating a gradual transition to a less draconian set of restrictions.
But the government will be cautious after scientific advisers warn that Covid-19 is “ripping through healthcare facilities.”
The prime minister will speak to the nation at 7pm on Sunday, detailing his five-step locking plan. This weekend he is expected to announce that garden centers will open from Wednesday and publish guidelines for safer working in offices
An increase in the R number, which measures how fast the virus is spreading, came to the cabinet in a “chilling briefing” from the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage).
A source said, “Sage says we’re a wrong step from R back to where it was in March.”
Pressure on Mr. Hancock over his handling of last night’s crisis intensified as more than 25 million goggles did not adequately protect the frontline NHS workers from the deadly virus.
The latest news in a series of embarrassing government failures related to personal protective equipment (PPE) came on Sunday, as senior sources at The Mail suggested that Mr. Hancock was now living “on loan” in the cabinet.
A source alleged that Boris Johnson had asked Mr. Hancock questions about his department’s grip on the crisis, but the minister just said, “That’s not fair – give me a break.”
The 25.6 million pairs of Tiger Eye glasses purchased for the NHS are not fit for purpose, according to the British Standards Institute: 15.9 million of them have already been distributed, and hospitals are now being told they have the remaining 9 , 7 million to be decommissioned.
During another weekend full of dramatic developments:
- Johnson is expected to confirm that garden centers will open from Wednesday and publish guidelines for safer work in offices – but stricter fines of up to £ 3,000 for rule violations
- Airports and travel agencies reacted angrily to plans to quarantine anyone entering the country for two weeks, including UK citizens returning from vacation
- The death toll in the UK increased from 346 to 31,587, including over 200 health workers. Worldwide there have been nearly 4 million cases in which more than 276,000 lives have been lost
- Ministers suspected that political opponents and union lords conspired to block the reopening of schools until pay requirements were met
- Transport Secretary Grant Shapps has announced a £ 2 billion package to boost cycling and walking
- Actress Miriam Margolyes was outraged for hoping that Mr. Johnson would die from the corona virus
Mr Hancock’s spokesman said ministers were “furious” over the mistake with the glasses, which they said had been ordered by Gordon Brown’s labor government in 2009.
A health department source called them “Gordon’s goggles” and added that they were bought at the 2001 protection standards that were replaced by the time they were bought. “Even a decade later, we still have to clean up Labor’s mess,” the source added.
About 3 million eye protectors are used in hospitals every day, which means that there is no more stock for more than eight days. But a health ministry spokesperson insisted that the NHS had enough inventory to immediately stop using the Tiger Eye glasses.
However, the latest PPE fiasco will be detrimental to the health secretary in the coming days after it was discovered that surgical gowns ordered from Turkey and flown to the UK under great fanfare were not all in compliance with UK safety standards.
“The feeling is that Hancock is on borrowed time,” said a high government source.
“He dropped out with the most powerful figures in government, from the prime minister down.
“Nothing changes immediately. But once we beat this thing, expect it to be moved. ‘
A source close to Mr Hancock admitted that tensions had run high in the run-up to the deadline for reaching a goal of 100,000 tests per day, but said “the Prime Minister was full of praise for his performance.”
“We’ve worked incredibly well with the PM and the entire No10 team and have had nothing but full support from them,” the source said.
During the cabinet, Prime Minister praised Matt for “doing a fantastic job in very difficult circumstances.” ‘
Mr. Johnson will speak to the country after leading a meeting of the Cobra Emergency Committee this afternoon.
A number 10 source said: “This is a critical moment, so after carefully reviewing the evidence, the Prime Minister will ask for a decision from the public as we continue to do whatever it takes to get this devastating virus defeat.’
In a similar way to how the terror threat level is determined by the Joint Terrorism Analysis Center and MI5, the Covid alert level will be determined by medical and data experts working for a new Joint Biosecurity Center.
‘School prefect’ Matt Hancock ‘lives on borrowed time’ after clashes with Michael Gove, Rishi Sunak and Boris Johnson
Matt Hancock lives on “borrowed time” as health secretary after clashes with the three most powerful members of government during the Covid crisis, The Mail on Sunday has been told.
Mister Hancock is said to have pleaded ‘give me a break’ when Boris Johnson chided him about the virus testing program, leading to open questions in Downing Street about Mr. Hancock’s long-term political future.
His run-up with Mr Johnson follows battles with both Rishi Sunak and Michael Gove over the best strategy for controlling the pandemic.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock is on “borrowed time” after arguing with the top three members of the government.
Mr. Hancock’s clash with the Prime Minister follows battles with Chancellor for the Duchy of Lancaster Michael Gove (left) and Chancellor of the Treasury Rishi Sunak (right)
Shortly after Mr. Johnson returned to work at No. 10 fourteen days ago, he and Mr. Johnson had a tense discussion about the health department’s “grip” on the crisis, in which Mr. Hancock said to the Prime Minister in what is described as a “sulky” tone: “That’s not fair – give me a break.”
In some government quarters, he is also blamed – or scapegoat according to his allies – for not moving fast enough to do more to protect nursing homes from the epidemic.
Officials in Whitehall knew as early as the first week of March that the expected death rate among those over 90 was expected to reach 50 percent, sparking discussions about the institutions ‘cocooning’ against infection.
Hancock has also been accused of not moving fast enough to protect nursing homes from the deadly virus
But when infection rates started to rise later that month, caregivers were still entering the homes – many of them traveling by public transport – without the necessary protective equipment.
With the virus’s rate of reproduction now declining in the wider community, it has been the continued spread in nursing homes that has so far prevented Mr. Johnson from lifting more of the closure measures.
And Mr. Hancock has annoyed Downing Street with his tendency to come up with spontaneous policies – such as his threat last month to ban all outside exercises, which he had to climb over almost immediately.
A No10 source expressed irritation at what she described as “Hancock’s urge to play the big man” during the crisis.
It has led the health secretary to be compared by some to a school pref, but someone ‘who never becomes a head boy.’
The health secretary has also been described as a prefect “who never becomes head boy” by a Downing Street source. (Cartoon by Henry Davies)
A high government source said, “The feeling is that Hancock is on borrowed time. He dropped out with the most powerful figures in government, from the prime minister down.
“Nothing changes immediately. But once we beat this thing, expect it to be moved. ‘
As a cabinet ‘pigeon’ opposed to an early loosening of the lockdown rules, Mr Hancock has been engaged in ideological battles with the Chancellor Mr Sunak, who leads the cabinet’s ‘hawks’ who the economy likes to get out of its Covid-induced dive as soon as possible.
While allies’ allies maintain that they have the same goal of saving lives while protecting the economy, there is no doubt that they differ in how they can achieve it – and have had “robust” exchanges on this.
Mister Hancock is said to have participated in several ideological battles with Chancellor Rishi Sunak, who wants to quickly take the economy out of his dive caused by Covid.
The health secretary has also argued with Mr. Gove (left) over the supply of fans and protective equipment across the country
Mr. Hancock also made the mistake of crossing the swords with Mr. Gove, the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster.
The two cabinet ministers – each chairing one of the four committees set up to tackle the virus, and serving on the daily C-19 super committee chaired by the prime minister, and the Cobra Emergency Commission – are in conflict about the range of fans and protective equipment.
Mr Gove was described by a colleague as ‘much more detailed’ than Mr Hancock – and ‘not shy about displaying it’.
Mr. Hancock is also viewed with suspicion within Mr. Johnson’s pro-Brexit circle because of his previous connection to George Osborne, former former Chancellor of Remainer.
He ran for the lead on a soft Brexit ticket last year, but retired when he collected only 20 votes. He switched to supporting Mr. Johnson, the forerunner, in the process of abandoning his soft Brexit views and mounting his opposition to Mr. Johnson’s plan to suspend Parliament to force Brexit.
At some point during Mr. Johnson’s campaign, when Mr. Hancock visited his Commons office to offer his support, Mr. Johnson reportedly made an obscene hand gesture when Mr. Hancock left.
Mr Hancock was also criticized last week for telling a female Labor Member of Parliament to “watch her tone” after talking to him about the government’s coronavirus testing strategy. His comment to Dr. Rosena Allin-Khan, who also works as an A&E doctor, caused a stir among MPs who accused him of sexism.
The health secretary was also charged with sexism after telling Labor MP and A&E physician Rosena Allin-Khan (left) to ‘look her tone’ in a House of Commons session
In a spontaneous policy, Mr Hancock threatened to ban all outdoor exercises in the UK to fight the virus, but pressure from Downing Street forced him to give up this idea
Mr. Hancock was forced to give up his threat to ban all outside exercises under intense pressure from Downing Street.
An official said at the time, “If he doesn’t dig himself out of this hole [at that day’s press conference] then we will do it for him ‘. Mr. Hancock duly made a sharp U-turn during the briefing.
A source close to Mr. Hancock said: “We have worked incredibly well with the Prime Minister and the entire No. 10 team and have had nothing but full support from them.” The source added that Mr. Johnson had praised Mr. Hancock for doing a “great job in hellish conditions.”
MoS LAUNCHES £ 3 MILLION FUND TO HELP SMALL FIRMS SUCCEED THE VIRUS
The Mail on Sunday today launches a £ 3 million support package to help small businesses fight the coronavirus crisis.
The owner of the MoS, Daily Mail, Metro and the i is giving away £ 3,000 of ads in his newspapers – and on Mail Online and metro.co.uk – to 1,000 small businesses.
The groundbreaking giveaway, launched in partnership with the Federation of Small Businesses, will open from Wednesday for applications at grants.fsb.org.uk.
It’s The Mail on Sunday’s way of doing our part to help companies that provide income to more than 17 million people and is coming on the heels of the hugely successful Mail Force initiative.
Founded by MoS owner Daily Mail and General Trust (DMGT) and its partners, that charity has already raised more than £ 6 million to bring in millions of items of essential protective equipment for NHS staff and caregivers.
Today, a survey by accounting software giant Sage shows that one in three companies expect sales to be 50 percent lower after the lockdown is lifted. Separate research from Buckworths law firm found that a quarter of small businesses believe existing government support measures will not be enough to survive.
Mike Cherry, president of the Federation of Small Businesses, said: “Our members will be very grateful to The Mail on Sunday for this generous support. It’s fantastic.
“The pandemic will likely have consequences for companies for months, if not years, and they will need a lot of help to get back on their feet.
“It is not enough to rely on word of mouth to attract new customers. We urge every eligible member to request this ad giveaway.