Matt Hancock ‘profoundly sorry’ for every death caused by Covid-19

Britain’s former health secretary says he understands why his apology might be hard to accept

Britain’s former health secretary Matt Hancock has said he is “profoundly sorry” for every death caused by Covid-19.

He told the UK coronavirus inquiry in London on Tuesday that he understood why some people would find it difficult to accept his apology though it was “honest and heartfelt”.

In a response when questioned about pandemic planning, the MP said he struggled to talk about his feelings as he blamed “doctrine” for believing the UK had things under control.

He said doctrinal failures had “consequences” in areas such as “stockpiles, testing, antivirals, contact tracing, and much more widely” when the pandemic struck in 2020.


He added that having pandemic plans focusing on flu was not the central flaw.

“By not preparing to stop a pandemic, and worse by explicitly stating in the planning that it would not be possible to stop a pandemic, a huge amount of other things that need to happen when you’re trying to stop a pandemic didn’t happen, and we had to build them from scratch when the pandemic struck,” he said.

“For instance, large-scale testing did not exist and large-scale contact tracing did not exist because it was assumed that as soon as there was community transmission, it wouldn’t be possible to stop the spread, and therefore, what’s the point in contact tracing?

“That was completely wrong.”

Speaking about the lack of proper preparedness, he added: “I am profoundly sorry for the impact that it had, I’m profoundly sorry for each death that has occurred.

“And I also understand why, for some, it will be hard to take that apology from me.

“I understand that, I get it. But it is honest and heartfelt, and I’m not very good at talking about my emotions and how I feel. But that is honest and true.

“And all I can do is ensure that this inquiry gets to the bottom of it, and that for the future, we learn the right lessons, so that we stop a pandemic in its tracks much, much earlier.

‘Completely wrong’

“And that we have the systems in place ready to do that, because I’m worried that they’re being dismantled as we speak.”

Under questioning from Hugo Keith KC, lead counsel to the inquiry, Mr Hancock said the UK’s attitude of planning for the consequences of a disaster was “completely wrong”.

He told the hearing: “The attitude, the doctrine of the UK was to plan for the consequences of a disaster.

“Can we buy enough body bags?

“Where are we going to bury the dead?

“And that was completely wrong.

“Of course, it’s important to have that in case you fail to stop a pandemic, but central to pandemic planning needs to be – how do you stop the disaster from happening in the first place? How do you suppress the virus?”

Mr Hancock listed the issues the UK faced with PPE (personal protective equipment), tests, antivirals and vaccine preparedness.

Mr Hancock further told the inquiry the system was “geared towards how to clear up after a disaster, not prevent it” and this “flaw, that failure, went back years and years and was embedded in the entire system response.”

Earlier, the inquiry heard there “isn’t a day that goes by” when Mr Hancock does not think of those who died from coronavirus.

In written evidence to the inquiry, Mr Hancock said: “There isn’t a day that goes by that I do not think about all those who lost their lives to this awful disease or the loved ones they have left behind.”

Earlier, as Mr Hancock entered the inquiry building in London, widow Lorelei King (69), held up pictures of her husband, Vincent Marzello, who died from coronavirus aged 72 in a care home in March 2020.

One poster featured an image of Mr Hancock with Ms King’s husband and was captioned: “You shook my husband’s hand for your photo op.”

The other poster featured an image of her husband’s coffin, with the caption: “This was my photo op after your ‘ring of protection’ around care homes.” - PA