The UK government censored former Health Secretary Matt Hancock’s Covid memoirs over claims that the pandemic began with a lab leak in Wuhan, according to an investigation by The Telegraph.
Hancock was pressed to tone down his claims because the government feared it would “cause problems” with China.
In correspondence from late last year, the Cabinet Office told Hancock that the government’s position was that the original outbreak’s location was “entirely coincidental”.
Hancock was warned that straying from this explanation risked “damaging national security”. In his book, Pandemic Diaries, Hancock also planned to say that “Global fear of the Chinese must not get in the way of a full investigation into what happened”. This was also watered down in the final copy.
The revelation comes just days before Prime Minister Rishi Sunak prepares to set out a new defence and security strategy. It is expected to take a less aggressive stance on China than that touted by Sunak’s predecessor, Liz Truss.
Before she was ousted from office, Truss had pledged to officially designate China as a “threat”. Sunak has advocated an approach of “robust pragmatism” towards China, instead describing it as a “systemic challenge” to the UK.
The investigation also revealed that Hancock rejected advice to give Covid tests to all residents going into English care homes, despite being told by Chief Medical Officer Professor Sir Chris Whitty in April 2020 that there should be testing for “all going into care homes”.
The messages suggest that Hancock did not follow the guidance, telling an aide the move “muddies the waters”. He introduced mandatory testing for those entering care homes from hospitals, but not from the community until later.
Hancock has responded to the leaked messages, hitting back at what he branded a “distorted account” on his handling of care home testing in the pandemic.
A spokesman for the West Suffolk MP said: “It is outrageous that this distorted account of the pandemic is being pushed with partial leaks, spun to fit an anti-lockdown agenda, which would have cost hundreds of thousands of lives if followed.”