June 25, 2024

Matt Hancock asked when to 'deploy' next Covid variant to 'frighten pants off' public

Author : Lizzie McAllister | Editor : Anty | March 09, 2023 at 03:40 AM

Matt Hancock wanted to "deploy" a new Covid variant to "frighten the pants off" the public, leaked WhatsApp messages reveal.

The former health secretary hatched the plan, known as Project Fear, in a bid to get people to stick to lockdown restrictions, the Telegraph reports.

Hancock seemingly suggested that a new strain of Covid would be helpful to spread fear among the population in preparation for more restrictions in a series of messages to other officials prior to the third national lockdown in January 2021.

Hancock said: "We frighten the pants off everyone with the new strain," to which the Department of Health's media advisor Damon Poole responded: "Yep, that's what will get proper behaviour [sic] change."

The damning conversation over WhatsApp reportedly took place two days after the politician learned about the new variant – known as the "alpha" or the "Kent" variant.

Worried that other items on the news agenda might overshadow the importance of the new strain, Hancock messaged Poole, asking: "When do we deploy the new variant".

The alpha variant of the virus led to a dramatic rise in the number of cases and led then-Prime Minister Boris Johnson to announce people would not be able to travel to see relatives for Christmas on December 19.

A month later, in a message to Cabinet Secretary Simon Case, Hancock said "the fear/guilt factor" was "vital" to "ramping up the messaging" ahead of the lockdown, which meant Brits were almost completely unable to leave their homes other than for essential reasons or to exercise.

This is the latest in a series of leaked messages sent by Hancock and other former leaders during the pandemic in what has been dubbed the Lockdown Files.

More than 100,000 messages sent on WhatsApp by ministers and officials and others showed the scare tactics used to try to keep the public under control during the pandemic.

The damning revelations included that Hancock refused to test “all going into care homes” after being advised to by Sir Chris Whitty, England’s Chief Medical Officer, for fear that it "muddied the waters".

This is far from the first time the former health minister has found himself in hot water over scandals from the Covid era.

In the summer of 2021 he was caught having an affair with aide Gina Coladangelo, 43, after the pair were caught kissing on an office camera.

Aside from cheating on his then-wife, Hancock's not-so-secret snog was captured on film at the Department of Health’s London HQ during office hours after a new strain of Covid had started spreading.

He said at the time: "I accept that I breached the social distancing guidance in these circumstances.

"I have let people down and am very sorry.

"I remain focused on working to get the country out of this pandemic, and would be grateful for privacy for my family on this personal matter."

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- Source : Lizzie McAllister

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