Matt Hancock faced accusations of acting very late to save the lives of older people in care homes during the coronavirus pandemic. Channel 4 presenter Alex Thomson asked: “I’m sure you will accept what is obvious. You have been very late in dealing with the crucial issues of care home staff and residents. Is that because frankly, you are wanting to prioritise the lives of younger people in hospitals on the NHS sharp end? And have people simply died in British care homes unnecessarily?”
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Speaking at Downing Street, Mr Hancock said: “No Alex, neither of those things are the case and very obviously not.
“The truth is that we first put our guidance to the social care in February and we’ve repeatedly updated that guidance according to the circumstances, the progress of the disease, the increasing prevalence, and the community.
“In terms of the support that’s been available and what we’ve been able to do today is update that guidance and improve some of the policies to respond to the conditions that prevail today.
“That’s why we’ve put out the action plan now, it builds on the work that we’ve been doing since the very first moment since we understood coronavirus.
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Matt Hancock hit out at claims the Government responded very late
Alex Thomson accused Matt Hancock of prioritising young people
“One of the very first things we understood about this disease is it has a disproportionate impact on older people.”
Mr Hancock’s awkward exchange with the Channel 4 news presenter comes a day after he received a lot of backlash on Twitter for criticising the Prime Minister.
Mr Thomson wrote: “So the PM is recuperating in his second home. Isn’t that illegal?”
Social media users were quick to complain as one wrote: “It’s the Official Country Residence of The Prime Minister.”
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Another added: “Think his main house will be a tad busy wouldn’t u think Alex? Or is that less of a story.”
A third person said: “He was discharged from the hospital directly to his non-work residence. Hope that helps.”
In the briefing, the Health Secretary announced new procedures so that “wherever possible” people will be given the “chance to say goodbye” to loved ones dying with coronavirus.
Mr Hancock said “wanting to be with someone you love at the end of their life is one of the deepest human instincts”, and said he wept at reports of 13-year-old Ismail dying without a parent at his bedside.
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“I’m pleased to say that working with Public Health England, the care sector and many others, we are introducing new procedures so we can limit the risk of infection while wherever possible giving people’s closest loved ones the chance to say goodbye.”
Mr Hancock set out a package of measures aimed at combating the spread of coronavirus in care homes.
The plans included increased testing and improved access to protective equipment as well as measures designed to help social care workers enjoy similar benefits to NHS staff.
At the daily Downing Street briefing he gave a further hint that lockdown measures would be extended tomorrow, said: “We cannot let up in our efforts, we cannot let go of the hard work that’s been done so far.
“This shared sacrifice – and I know it’s a sacrifice – is starting to work but we will not lift these measures until it is safe to do so.”