Indian variant: Professor John Ashton discusses the three strains
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Professor John Ashton was speaking on the day Mr Hancock tendered his resignation after pictures emerged showing him in an apparent embrace with aide Gina Coaldangelo in his office, angering colleagues and the public who have been living under lockdown. Mr Hancock’s decision came at the end of a fraught 48 hours in which he initially tried to cling to his job with the support of Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who insisted the matter was closed.
But Prof Ashton, the former regional director of Public Health for North-West England and a prominent critic of the Government’s strategy for tackling the crisis, said Mr Hancock should have resigned long before he did – and not because of the incident in question either.
He explained: “Matt Hancock’s handling of the coronavirus crisis was an unmitigated disaster.
“His flawed public-policy decisions were as poor as his handling of his private.
“In both cases he left victims behind, in the case of Corona many more deaths than had the right decisions been made.”
Prof Ashton, author of Blinded by Corona: How the Pandemic is Ruining our Health and Wealth, added: “It is tragic that it was not his public failures, but only his private failures that led to his resignation.
“He broke his own social distancing rules to have his affair.
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“For more than a year NHS staff have put their health and lives on the line,
“Britain’s businesses risk folding, and 150,000 Brits lost their lives.
“His resignation is but a small sacrifice in the light of these immense sacrifices. Resignation was the only way out for him.”
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In his resignation letter to Mr Johnson yesterday, Mr Hancock said: “The last thing I would want is for my private life to distract attention from the single-minded focus that is leading us out of this crisis.
“I want to reiterate my apology for breaking the guidance, and apologise to my family and loved ones for putting them through this. I also need to be with my children at this time.
“We owe it to people who have sacrificed so much in this pandemic to be honest when we have let them down as I have done by breaching the guidance.”
Asked whether the health ministry was investigating how the images of Hancock had been taken in his government office and then leaked, Northern Ireland minister Brandon Lewis told Sky News: “It is a matter I know the department of health will be looking into to understand exactly how that recording got out of the system.”
He later told Times Radio there were two issues for the government to look into – whether the camera in Hancock’s office was there “appropriately” and, if it was there for security reasons, “how that video got out to the public domain”.
New health secretary Sajid Javid, appointed by Mr Johnson soon after Mr Hancock quit, praised his predecessor for working “incredibly hard” during the coronavirus pandemic.
He told the BBC he was honoured to take on the new role which he admitted “comes with huge responsibility”.
Former Chancellor Mr Javid said: “We are still in a pandemic, and I want to see that come to an end as soon as possible and that will be my most immediate priority to see that we can return to normal as soon and as quickly as possible.”
Labour’s deputy leader Angela Rayner said in a statement on Sunday in which she called for an investigation: “They say a fish rots from the head down.
“The stink of sleaze hanging around this government comes from the very top and the prime minister’s own total disregard for rules and ethics sets the standards for his ministers.”
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