The grim lesson of the Lockdown Files
The Government sacrificed care home residents in favour of mass testing
Overnight, The Telegraph published an investigation dubbed the Lockdown Files. It is comprised of more than 100,000 WhatsApp messages, totalling 2.3 million words, sent between the then-health secretary, Matt Hancock, and other ministers and officials at the height of the pandemic.
The paper obtained the messages from Isabel Oakeshott, co-author of Hancock’s Pandemic Diaries, with whom the minister had shared the messages for the purpose of writing the book. Oakeshott says she felt it was in the public interest to release this sensational cache of private communications now because she fears that the recently launched official government Covid-19 Inquiry, which I wrote about yesterday, risks becoming a colossal whitewash. Besides, the Inquiry could take years to conclude. “We absolutely cannot wait any longer for answers,” she says.
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The messages provide an unrivalled behind-the-scenes insight into some of the key decisions that were taken at the beginning of the pandemic — and their disastrous outcomes. The bulk of the first messages released focus on one of the most crucial issues of the entire pandemic management, in the UK and elsewhere: the handling of care homes, particularly during the first wave.
In the first two years of the pandemic, there were more than 40,000 Covid deaths in care homes across England and Wales — that’s around 30% of all Covid deaths, despite the fact that care home residents account for only around 5% of the total population aged 65 or more. It’s a colossal tragedy, which many families believe could have been avoided if ministers had made the right decisions at the start of the crisis.
Much of the blame has been attributed to guidance issued in spring 2020 which ordered NHS hospitals to “urgently discharge” all patients “who are medically fit to leave” in order to free up beds. Against the Chief Medical Officer’s advice, the Government also told care homes that “negative tests are not required before transfers”, and that patients without Covid symptoms or a positive test could be safely cared for “as normal”. Testing of all care home staff was ruled out as well. Testing was subsequently made mandatory for those entering care homes from hospital, but not for those coming from the community. Regular testing wasn’t introduced until July, by which time four in every 10 care homes had experienced an outbreak.
It’s now clear that this led to tens of thousands of care home residents getting infected and dying — as Hancock himself would later tell the Health and Social Care Committee. The reason he gave for refusing to approve the blanket testing for care home admissions, as revealed by the WhatsApp conversations, is astonishing: he was afraid it could “get in the way” of his self-imposed and widely publicised target of 100,000 Covid tests per day. In other words, the targeted testing of people coming into contact with the most vulnerable, high-risk group of all — care home residents — was sacrificed in favour of what was largely a propaganda sting: the mass testing of the general population, most of whom were never at risk from Covid in the first place.
The story exemplifies everything that was wrong in the all-of-society lockdown approach. We were told that it was a test of solidarity, that it was the only way to “save lives” and protect the most vulnerable. As it turns out, it was the exact opposite of that: while the Government was busy keeping healthy people from leaving their homes, and forcing them to get tested on a regular basis, it was all but abandoning those it should have protected — the elderly. And this despite the Government knowing full well that Covid was almost exclusively a serious threat for elderly people and those with underlying health risk conditions, as it noted in its coronavirus action plan that was published on March 3, 2020.
In other words, a huge number of Covid deaths, particularly in the first wave, weren’t caused by the virus itself, and certainly weren’t caused by the decision not to lock down sooner. They were in fact caused by the decision to abandon the kind of focused protection of at-risk groups championed by all pre-2020 pandemic plans, in favour of a completely untried and untested model. This model didn’t just have a devastating impact on people’s livelihoods, physical and mental health, education, and civil and democratic rights. It also failed disastrously in achieving the one thing it was supposed to achieve, as the Lockdown Files make clear: reducing Covid deaths. We must demand that those responsible for this peacetime catastrophe are held accountable.
Sums it up nicely. Biggest c**k up I have ever seen.
It was INTENTIONAL!!!!!!!!!
Biggest crime against humanity since WWII – but directed by leaders Against their Own Citizens!
Tens of Thousands of Global leaders should never see life again outside their prison cells. Time for the Great Justice. Time for every vax pusher – every lockdown and mask forcer – for every Pharma boss to get Life Behind Bars!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Every Teaching Union leader, every Social Media and MSM owner and executive Life behind bars!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Nuremberg Trials!!!! The corrupt Tyrants to their punishment!!!!!!!!!
And all the Doctors giving the vax – the hospital admin, the health department workers, University and school admin – sued till they own Nothing! Nothing but a begging cup to beg on the streets. Pay for the hell they inflicted on the innocent!!!!!!!!!!
Look at all those exclamation marks! He must be somebody worth listening to!
The problem in care homes was the itinerant staff. The government hid that because it did not want to have to address the problem of low paid people on zero hours contracts moving between homes to earn enough to live on, often using public transport because they can’t afford cars.
This is a vital point and the reason why in Melbourne the death rate increased every day for 56 days from the day the very harshest lockdown began.
At the beginning of that cycle, 11% of all deaths were in aged care facilities by the end it was 50%.
Cause low-paid immigrant workers with multiple jobs spread the virus whilst the rest of the population was locked up.
To say the Labour administration that ran Victoria were naive idiots is polite.
What was so upsetting, living in New Zealand at the time, I watched this unfold in real-time and listened to the Premier spouting nonsense, clearly not able to identify where the genuine vulnerabilities lay.
I said it in the spring of 2020 but we would look back on the policy decisions that were made at the time and compare them to the policy decisions of the officer class in the first world war for their naivety, inappropriateness, and disregard for what was happening on the ground.
The last paragraph of this article is right on the money.
Hancock should spend the rest of his life in a Supermax Prison. The deaths which can be laid directly on his wickedness makes him one of the world.s worst mass murderers.
Always been the suspicion that the approach to Care Home protection and testing been less than candid, and the hope the truth would come out of the Inquiry. Oakeshott right to leak as it’s taking too long to initiate the Inquiry. Other countries have already significantly progressed their’s, suggesting Tories have lots to hide?
But feels a bit of a leap for the Author to then contend this proves the first Lockdown never necessary. Obviously we want the Inquiry to rapidly review, investigate and conclude, but for what’s it’s worth the driver for Lockdown 1 was hospitals being overwhelmed to the point we’d have tents outside, ambulances unable to respond to other serious emergencies (much worse that the recent 1 day strikes) and diminishing numbers of staff able to run hospitals. When healthcare dries up much else would too, hence the Lockdown 1, it would be contended, stopped a much worse societal meltdown. Nonetheless this argument and justification must be reviewed.
The Care Home issue if anything was driven by hospitals being overwhelmed and nowhere to move people to. But it appears Hancock et al knew the risk implications and weren’t candid. His silly testing target then added to the clash of priorities.
I think you’ve just about nailed it there. I don’t agree with Oakeshott leaking the messages however. It’s entirely unethical on many levels, including the NDR and could hinder how the government effectively communicate in the future. The Telegraph have also taken the opportunity to create a misleading narrative that may change people’s perspective of the final outcome of the review.
It’s a difficult choice for any journalist. But it is she who will pay the price. She could lose work in future because contacts won’t trust her. If she has broken NDAs or employment contracts, she has left herself open to suit. But to me this is brave, in the circumstances. If she hadn’t disclosed we might never have known how poorly we have been governed through a crisis. This knowledge is vital for the future of our democracy.
And yet the Nightingale hospitals remained empty.
I don’t disagree with the meat of this comment but I have a point of order: if you’re going to compare the total number of people living in care homes with the proportion who died of Covid19, you should also factor in the difference in the number of people who normally die in care homes compared to the general population. Sloppy statistics just undermine the message
It’s slowly becoming clearer and clearer that lockdown sceptics, and natural-origin sceptics, were right. Brendan O’Neill, Jay Bhattacharya, Matt Ridley, Alina Chan, Nigel Farage, Toby Young, Isabel Oakshott and numerous others, censored, slandered and suppressed by government and its social media puppets. Next: Climate Crisis.
What does “held accountable ” mean ?
This is something i’ve always wondered.
Does it mean: admitted guilt, publicly humiliated, fined, imprisoned, beheaded?
It’s a fairly meaningless “catch all” phrase.
you are on the right direction, yes, all those.
Sued till their houses, cars, savings, pensions are taken and given to the innocents they destroyed. They should be homeless on the streets living in boxes. That is what I think accountable means. Every last Vax pusher, school closer, teacher not teaching, cop writing tickets, hospital admin, pharma executive, government mandater, and on and on – all of them need to lose everything to pay for their crimes against humanity!
“This model didn’t just have a devastating impact on people’s livelihoods, physical and mental health, education, and civil and democratic rights. It also failed disastrously in achieving the one thing it was supposed to achieve .. reducing Covid deaths.”
It’s even worse than that. It had a devastating impact on people’s trust in a number of key building blocks of modern society. I won’t live long enough to see the results dissipate, and I don’t think my kids will either.
Oh dear, oh dear! We can usually rely on Thomas for a well-researched analysis of a topical issue but not here, unfortunately.
Never mind, let’s tell Lady Hallett not to bother with her enquiry, cos Thomas has read thousands of documents overnight and reached his own conclusion. A conclusion that, of course, ignores the complexity of the issue and the conflicting priorities, ignores the fact that every developed country (yes, even Sweden – Sweden failed to protect elderly in COVID pandemic, commission finds | Reuters ) had a disastrous outcome in care homes, suggesting that there was no easy answer, and ignores the fact that The Telegraph has written up a very limited set of the relevant WhatsApp messages in order to justify a clickbait headline.
No doubt Lady Hallett will give some consideration to the fact that frail, elderly people in hospital were at grave risk of catching Covid if they remained there, that most care home admissions from the community were people who had been self-isolating at home iaw Government guidance and that it now seems possible that most Covid infections in care homes were brought in by staff.
I’m sure Sunak is delighted that scrutiny of the Windsor Framework has been elbowed off the front pages. We should be very suspicious of the timing of this disclosure.
Other European Countries have done their reviews and reports. Lady Hallet’s has barely met .
What is the rush? Who cares when the report is delivered? Most people, me included, would rather never read another word about Covid.
It’s a pity people can’t transfer their votes to others who are more engaged in performing their civic duty.
This is an absolute travesty.
The responsibilty falls not only on Boris’s corrupt, dishonest junta worthy of a fly blown Latin American backwater, but also on the cowardly, papier mache backboned, quisling pipl of nu britn, whose working life behind a computer, beholden to a line manager, has destroyed any scintilla of democracy. To keep their jobs, they comply not only with their line manager, but with the identikit ‘ line manager” creatures who currently form our parliament.
I have some understanding for the initial response but when medical mandates became political, as they did, my tolerance for the loss of freedoms by the stroke of a pen evaporated. What worried me most pehaps was the response by vast numbers of the general public to the restrictions and propaganda spewed out by the media.
The Great Barrington Declaration (GBD) called for targeted lockdown of the vulnerable only, in October 2020. It was signed by 10000 qualified practitioners, including a nobel prize winner, and authored by three eminent, tenured epidemiologists at Stamford, Harvard and Oxford. Yet Fauci et al described them as “fringe epidemiologists” and instructed the MSN and the social media giants to kill coverage of the GBD, discredit the authors and cancel the story. Within days this was achieved. The NYT and other MSM dutifully published hit pieces and Jay Battacharia, one of the authors, who joined Twitter to spread the word and gained 100k followers within days, was put of the “trending blacklist” by Twitter, meaning his tweets were blocked from trending beyond his followers. The evidence for these practices – Twitter files, FOI rulings etc., are now all public domain.
How many lives and national treasure would have been saved had focused protection of the vulnerable been our strategy rather than blanket lockdowns?
On this basis alone I pray Desantis becomes president, as he seems to be the only politician with clout in the West prepared to take on this criminal scandal at the level of detail necessary. If he tackles it in the US, perhaps it will spread to the rest. Let’s hope so.
So Ms Oakeshott releases messages shown to her in strict confidence for financial or political gain? Is this not very fishy behaviour? Who will ever trust her, or any co-biographer or ghost writer ever again?
Or is there some deeper agenda here, by somebody party to the original messages?
She is doing the job of an actual journalist.
The reason he gave for refusing to approve the blanket testing for care home admissions, as revealed by the WhatsApp conversations, is astonishing: he was afraid it could “get in the way” of his self-imposed and widely publicised target of 100,000 Covid tests per day.
Hancock says that Isabelle Oakshott has deliberately left out messages where he was advised that blanket testing was not possible due to the lack of tests so he decided to restrict it to transfers from hospital to care homes.
I’m not trying to defend Matt Hancock (God forbid!) and I actually agree with the position of the author but UnHerd should really avoid smearing people to make a point. There is a public enquiry underway which will weigh all the evidence and pass what judgements can be made. Why not wait for that to conclude?
Right. Just trust the authorities.
Matt Hancock will go down in history as one of the most loathed and despised Britons since King John.
Cunmings, Whitty, JVT, Hancock, Michie, Ferguson all should be on trial.
Why is the entire narrative focused on Hancock? There was Gove, there was Cummings, the rest of the cabinet, the parliamentary party, the labour party, all of the institutions of the state, the universities, the schools….
Most of all there is Johnson.
It’s clear from this article and the previous one that the author has an axe to grind on the issue and created another completely one sided narrative – I’m hesitant to leap to Hancock’s defence but there is far more to this than the whatsapp messages. Oakeshott also has an agenda, being highly critical of lockdowns and the dispicable act of abandoning the NDR agreement for a publicity stunt. btw lockdowns are nothing new either and were widely used in the past during times of plague and disease.
The real point is whether locking down all of society was a plus or a minus. No question that the elderly and those with severe and multiple co-morbidities needed to be protected. But by locking down everybody in a 1 size fits all policy enormous harm was done both in the immediate and the long-term. And, unfortunately, the devastating economic consequences translate down the road into medical ones.
The truth is that both the US and UK severely bungled their response by being overly authoritarian mandating and enforcing measures that were next to useless, as is evident from wave after wave of COVID.
The real point is whether locking down all of society was a plus or a minus.
As you suggest, this is subjective depending on what you are measuring, be it deaths, financial cost or subsequent harms. The moral and ethical dilemma you appear to be proposing is were the lives of tens of thousands of mostly old people worth saving?
I know what my answer is.
Of course it’s worth trying to save the lives of old people. What you fail to understand or appreciate is that this did not require one to shut down the whole of society. That’s what focussed protection as advocated by the Great Barrington Declaration was all about. As it turned out they were 100% correct, and this is evident by just looking at the outcome after 3 years in Sweden. Yes the Swedes bungled up the nursing homes in the 1st few months, but once they realized the issue they corrected that, and the rest of society was still able to live a normal life. The result a much healthier nation with vastly fewer excess deaths currently than the UK or US.
Focused protection is one of those high level fantasy concepts that have no grounding in reality, which is why no one did it. It’s baffling why people point to Sweden as the model to follow when they had horrific levels of deaths compared to similar countries. Had the UK tried that it would have been an epic catastrophy.
The ‘lockdowns’ were simply a pathetic effort at being seen to do something – anything.
Of course, the ‘lockdowns’ couldn’t possibly work as around 30% of the population were still going about their business in the ‘health’ service, in social care and nursing homes, the police and security services, agriculture, food warehousing, transport, food retailing, pharmacies, telecommunications, electricity generation and distribution and, most unfortunately, senior government officials.
That’s more than enough to spread the virus far and wide – most particularly, in the case of social services to the most vulnerable.
Pathethic, a grotesque fiasco.
This was a PLANDEMIC – this was intentional to destroy the world economy – and my guess to depopulate as Gates, Welcome Trust, and the WEF all say they are going to. The Covid-19 AND the mRNA ‘vax’ were Bio-Weapons.
You sheep have been hit with a bio-weapon. This is not going to go well, except for them.
Spot on. All planned a long time ago by the global elites. People find that very hard to believe and that is their greatest weapon. Global Pandemic Treaty, Global Vaccination Passports and Global Digital Currencies and that’s it, game over for anyone who still believes they have ANY democratic control over anything.
These are, if I may say so, the same idiotic criticisms that came out when Assange and Snowden revealed the depths of government depravity.
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