Boris Johnson appears tense in first public appearance since the leak of 100,000 WhatsApp messages sent at the height of the coronavirus pandemic by ghostwriter of Matt Hancock’s Pandemic Diaries
- Isabel Oakeshott shared the huge trove of information after writing the book
- They raise questions over handling of the pandemic and care home protection
Former Prime Minister Boris Johnson looked tense as he arrived in Westminster on Wednesday evening following the leak of 100,000 WhatsApp messages between government ministers and public health advisors during the coronavirus pandemic.
Mr Johnson, who steered the UK through the majority of the pandemic, features in many of the WhatsApp messages along with then Health Secretary Matt Hancock – who was later forced to resign for breaking his own lockdown rules.
Isabel Oakeshott shared the huge trove of messages with The Telegraph after receiving them while ghostwriting Mr Hancock’s book, Pandemic Diaries.
They have exposed serious questions about the way that some decisions were made, including in relation to face masks, care home testing and shielding.
Mr Johnson made his first public appearance since the messages were revealed to support his wife Carrie at a campaign event this evening for killer Robert Brown to be kept behind bars.
Pictured arriving in Westminster on Friday, Boris Johnson appeared tense after the leak of WhatsApp messages from the height of the pandemic
While supporting wife Carrie at a campaign event this evening, Mr Johnson was seen talking intently with her and appearing somewhat distracted
As he made his way into Westminster Mr Johnson appeared tense and concerned, before giving a member of the public a thumbs-up gesture after he was spotted in central London.
Pictures from the campaign event seem to show him talking intensely with Mrs Johnson while appearing serious and somewhat distracted.
He was then photographed at various points with his head in his hands and a stern expression on his face.
His appearance comes after the release of messages between Matt Hancock, Mr Johnson and various scientific and public health advisors to the government sent during the height of the pandemic.
Mr Hancock is said to be ‘considering all options’ in response to Isabel Oakeshott’s leak of more than 100,000 WhatsApps.
‘She’s broken a legal NDA. Her behaviour is outrageous,’ a source close to the former health secretary said.
Leaked messages seemingly showed Mr Hancock rejected the Chief Medical Officer’s call to test all residents going into English care homes for Covid at the start of the pandemic.
Mr Hancock’s representatives have vehemently pushed back against this ‘distorted’ impression saying he was ‘supportive of’ Whitty’s advice but was told it was ‘undeliverable’ but insisted on testing those coming from hospitals.
Sir Chris Whitty told him there should be Covid testing for ‘all going into care homes’ – but Mr Hancock’s WhatsApp messages revealed he did not follow the guidance, instead telling advisers it ‘muddies the waters’.
The message show that Sir Chris demanded in April 2020 ‘testing of all going into care homes’.
Mr Johnson was pictured with his head in his hand on Wednesday evening as the fallout from the 100,000 messages continues
Former Health Secretary Matt Hancock has pushed back against the leaked messages and accused the Telegraph of displaying a ‘distorted’ version of events
The WhatsApp messages include those from Matt Hancock, Mr Johnson, former editor of The Evening Standard George Osbourne and various scientists
In the messages Mr Johnson told his health secretary he was ‘quietly going crackers’ about a lack of testing capacity
Read more: Matt Hancock rejected Sir Chris Whitty’s call to test ALL residents going into English care homes for Covid and Boris Johnson was ‘going quietly crackers’ about ‘achilles heel’ of testing, according to leaked WhatsApp messages
After initially supporting the guidance, Mr Hancock then appeared to change his mind, telling aides: ‘I would rather leave it out and just commit to test & isolate ALL going into care from hospital.
‘I do not think the community commitment adds anything and it muddies the waters.’
Mr Hancock denied the ‘distorted account’ with a spokesman alleging the messages leaked by journalist Ms Oakeshott after she worked on his Pandemic Diaries memoir have been ‘spun to fit an anti-lockdown agenda’.
The spokesman said: ‘Having not been approached in advance by the Telegraph, we have reviewed the messages overnight.
‘The Telegraph intentionally excluded reference to a meeting with the testing team from the WhatsApp. This is critical, because Matt was supportive of Chris Whitty’s advice, held a meeting on its deliverability, told it wasn’t deliverable, and insisted on testing all those who came from hospitals.
‘The Telegraph have been informed that their headline is wrong, and Matt is considering all options available to him.
‘This major error by Isabel Oakeshott and the Telegraph shows why the proper place for analysis like this is the Inquiry, not a partial, agenda-driven leak of confidential documents.’
Mr Hancock was also informed by a former social care minister that a ban on care home visits was ‘inhumane’.
Helen Whately contacted Mr Hancock on October 12, 2021 and said: ‘I’m hearing there’s pressure to ban care home visiting in tier 2 as well as tier 3. Can you help? I really oppose that.
‘Where care homes have Covid-secure visiting, we should be allowing it. To prevent husbands seeing wives because they happen to live in care homes for months and months is inhumane.’
The leaked texts also include exchanges between the former Health Secretary and then Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who revealed he was going ‘quietly crackers’ about the UK’s shortage of test kits.
On the morning of June 4, 2020, Mr Johnson sent a message saying: ‘It’s all about testing. That’s our Achilles heel. We can’t deliver a sensible border policy or adequate track and trace because we can’t test enough.
‘Did we go to the Germans for those kits that Angela Merkel was offering? What is wrong with us as a country that we can’t fix this?’
In two follow-up messages, Mr Johnson said Mr Hancock’s department ‘had months and months’ to sort the issue, before adding: ‘I am going quietly crackers about this’.
It comes as Mr Hancock was accused of ‘putting social care on the altar to be slaughtered’ after 20,000 elderly residents in homes died of Covid in the first wave.
The messages also reveal how Mr Hancock pushed for tens of thousands of tests to be sent out to help hit his 100,000 daily target, despite knowing many would not be used.
Mr Hancock said he had thousands of spare testing slots which is ‘obvs good news about spread of virus’, but ‘hard for my target’ as he asked former Tory MP and editor of the Evening Standard for front page coverage.
Mr Osborne responded: ‘Yes – of course – all you need to do tomorrow is give some exclusive words to the Standard and I’ll tell the team to splash it.’
The then health secretary later added: ‘I WANT TO HIT MY TARGET!’
Mr Osborne also sent him a candid message saying: ‘No one thinks testing is going well’ – as the Health Secretary continued to claim it was during the height of the pandemic.
Reports also claimed that Mr Hancock’s adviser arranged for a personal test to be couriered for fellow top Tory Jacob Rees-Mogg’s child at a time of national shortage in September 2020.
An aide messaged Mr Hancock to say the lab had ‘lost’ the original test for one of the then Commons leader’s children, ‘so we’ve got a courier going to their family home tonight’.
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