British minister denies government tried to scare citizens into following lockdown rules

The minister said the UK government had taken the COVID-19 pandemic after leaked messages suggesting former health secretary Matt Hancock wanted to “scare everyone into taking their pants off” to ensure compliance. He denied trying to scare the public into following lockdown rules.

A set of latest WhatsApp exchanges, published in The Sunday Telegraph, show how Hancock and other officials discussed how the announcement about the Kent variant of the virus could be used to scare the public into changing their behavior. is showing.

Epoch Times photo
Health Secretary Matt Hancock in Downing Street, London, December 10, 2020 (Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)

In more than 100,000 messages sent to The Telegraph by journalist Isabel Oakshott, Chief Cabinet Secretary Simon Case said in January 2021 that the ‘fear’ factor was ‘to persuade people to follow the lockdown rules’. It also shows that it suggested that it was “essential”.

However, government minister Chris Heaton Harris denied that it was the government’s strategy to scare the public during the pandemic.

The Northern Ireland secretary told the BBC: “The government’s strategy has been to try to protect the British public as much as possible … and to provide as much information as possible in a timely manner.”

“Let’s scare him into taking off his pants.”

In a Dec. 13, 2020 exchange between Hancock and the aide, an adviser to the then-Health Secretary said, “Instead of signaling too much forward, we can get the pitch rolling with the new strain.” .

Hancock replied, “We’re going to scare everyone with our new stock.”

“Yes, that’s what makes the right behavior change,” the advisor said.

“When will the new variants roll out?” asked Hancock.

The next day, Hancock announced that a new COVID-19 variant had been identified in the UK.

The government announced on 19 December that London and south-east England would enter a new Tier 4 alert level, canceling a promised Christmas ‘bubble’ policy to allow families to meet.

On 6 January 2021, the whole of England went into a third national lockdown.

“Fear/Guilt Vitals”

A January 10, 2021 message shows Hancock and the Chief Cabinet Secretary discussing ways to ensure compliance.

Hancock told Case, “Honestly, unless we make a big step forward, not even the smallest thing will move.”

Case agreed: Small things look ridiculous. Enhanced messaging — the fear/guilt factor is essential.

A senior public official said news that the National Health Service (NHS) had opened a specialized COVID-19 ‘Nightingale Hospital’ in London would help create the needed scare.

“I think the London Nightingale coming into use will feel like a big public moment, especially in a few days (based on current data).”

“Big Reset”

Some messages also provided insight into then-Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s thoughts during different stages of the pandemic.

In one of the newly released messages, Johnson said we need to be “absolutely belligerent” about social distancing in COVID-19 hotspots.

In a July 2020 conversation with Simon Case, he wrote:

“And maybe we need to tighten up the rules. Now six people from different households can be indoors. Do people really understand and observe that?” he asks. rice field.

The exchange came a month after the Prime Minister broke the rules by attending a birthday party in June 2020.

In August 2020, Johnson warned that the government’s message was “totally incomprehensible and confusing.”

“There needs to be a big reset and simple themes on the airwaves, especially around things like social distancing and how many people you can have in your house,” he wrote.

A spokesman for the former prime minister said, “It is not appropriate to comment on these leaks. A public inquiry will provide an appropriate process to investigate these matters.”

“partial account”

Oakshott, who shared the message with the Telegraph, co-authored Hancock’s memoir, Pandemic Diaries, covering his time as health secretary.

Hancock denounced the leak as a “massive betrayal” designed to support the “anti-lockdown agenda”, but Oakshott said the disclosure was in the public interest.

Speaking to the BBC on Sunday, Heaton-Harris said the leaked messages did not give the full picture of what happened at the heart of the British government between 2020 and 2021.

“It’s a partial account of what was really going on, and it’s closer to Matt Hancock’s view of the psyche rather than the actual decision-making,” he said.

Asked if he was satisfied with the tone of the conversation revealed in the message, the minister said: It was fearless during the initial lockdown when we didn’t know what the pandemic would turn out to be.

“Today’s exposure came at a time when there was no vaccine and limited testing,” he said, adding that the public should wait for an official inquiry into the government’s pandemic response. Like everything else. ”

PA Media contributed to this report.