Covid inquiry: Hancock ‘wanted to decide who should live or die’ if NHS overwhelmed

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matt-hancock
Pandemic Inquiry: Digging Deep into Government Incompetence

Chaos and Indifference: The Charlatans We Have in Charge

As the Covid inquiry continues, a picture emerges of incompetence and callousness amongst our supposed leaders during the pandemic. Their self-serving priorities exacerbated the crisis at public expense.

Former Health Secretary Matt Hancock wanted to play God, personally deciding who would “live or die” if hospitals were overwhelmed.

“Fortunately, this horrible dilemma never crystallized,” noted Simon Stevens in a witness statement.

It was noteworthy that Hancock’s stance, formed during a planning exercise at the Cabinet Office in February 2020, was contrary to that of his predecessor, Jeremy Hunt, who had advocated leaving such decisions to clinical staff.

Lord Stevens informed the inquiry that this ethical question remained unresolved and resurfaced during discussions of NHS service rationing throughout the pandemic.

This chilling authoritarian impulse overrides medical ethics. Fortunately such scenarios were avoided, but the mindset is telling.

Evidence also revealed Hancock’s inadequate leadership of COBRA meetings, with senior ministers ducking out when he chaired. Meanwhile, he plotted to oust experts like NHS head Simon Stevens who challenged his authority.

The inquiry exposed government chaos and mixed messaging around lockdowns, with policy incoherence undermining public health. Critical pandemic planning exercises proved futile, ignored by a distracted, reshuffling Cabinet.

This section – or “module” – will consider the UK’s political and administrative decision-making in relation to COVID between early January 2020 and February 2022.

It will pay particular attention to the decisions made by the prime minister and his cabinet – and advice received from civil servants and advisers – from January to March 2020.

There are six main points of scope for the inquiry. It will examine:

  1. How involved government departments and structures responded to the pandemic and their relationship with devolved administrations;
  2. The initial understanding of, and response to, the nature and spread of COVID in light of information received from the World Health Organisation;
  3. The decision-making relating to the imposition of UK-wide interventions, such as lockdowns, regional restrictions and working from home;
  4. Access to and use in decision-making of medical and scientific expertise. This includes the measuring and understanding of transmission, infection, mutation, re-infection and death rates;
  5. Public health communications in relation to steps being taken to control the spread of the virus, and the transparency of government messaging;
  6. Public health and coronavirus legislation and regulations that were proposed and enacted.

Where’s all the money gone?

What many would also like to see is how MPs exploited the crisis for personal gain. Ministers carved out VIP fast-lanes for government contracts that enriched their families friends and cronies. Protecting the people paled beside profiteering and power games.

This deplorable display contrasts with frontline workers struggling valiantly to contain the virus despite the odds. Their selflessness highlights the self-interest of those elected to lead.

When history judges the pandemic response, few in government will emerge well. The priority was not national welfare, but entitlements of the privileged. Let the inquiry expose every sordid detail of their incompetence and indifference. The people deserve unvarnished truths, not official whitewashes.

Perhaps now the folly of entrusting vital public services to such callow ideologues will become clear. But the damage is done. We must learn these lessons to avoid repeating this nightmare whenever the next crisis emerges, as we all know one will, when they are ready to create one that is…

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