Matt Hancock tells us about a warning about the death toll from Covid in the diary

Matt Hancock’s diary detailing what went on behind the scenes during the pandemic has been released

Matt Hancock said he was warned that the Covid pandemic could kill hundreds of thousands of people in the UK two months before the government locked down the country.

The former health secretary said England’s chief medical officer Professor Sir Chris Whitty told him in January 2020 that in a “reasonable worst-case scenario” up to 820,000 people could die.

However, he said that when he relayed the warning to his fellow ministers at a cabinet meeting three days later, the reaction was a “shrug” because they didn’t really believe him.

In the book, Hancock said Sir Chris warned him on January 17 that there was a “50:50 chance” that the virus, which had spread in China, would reach Britain.

“The whole room froze.”

Eleven days later, at a meeting with the officials, Sir Chris explained what that could mean. “In his characteristic way, sitting in the back peeling a tangerine, Chris Whitty calmly tells everyone that in a plausible worst-case scenario as many as 820,000 people in the UK could die. The transmission is so loud that almost everyone will pick it up,” he wrote.

The entire room was frozen. We are looking at a human catastrophe on a scale not seen here in a century.” However, when he shared expectations with the Brexit Day meeting of the Cabinet in Sunderland on January 31, Hancock said he was largely met with indifference.

“The reaction was kind of a ‘shrug’ — mainly because they didn’t really believe it. I constantly feel like other people, who don’t focus on this every day, are weeks behind what’s happening.”