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Matt Hancock has prompted anger after announcing he has been appointed a special representative to the United Nations to help tackle Covid-19 in Africa.
The former health secretary resigned as health secretary in June after leaked CCTV footage showed him kissing and embracing an aide in his office – in breach of social distancing rules.
His new role was revealed on the same day as a devastating report on Covid said the government’s early response to the pandemic was one of the “biggest health failures the UK has ever experienced”. Hancock was health secretary at the time.
Speaking at the time of his Cabinet departure, he 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.”
On Tuesday, Hancock said he was “honoured” to have been given the role, adding on Twitter: “I’ll be working with the UN, the UN Economic Commissions for Africa to help African economic recovery from the pandemic and promote sustainable development.”
Many on social media were incredulous.
I hope it works out better than your work on PPE or Track and Trace!
Is your former Pub Landlord an expert in International Development by any chance? https://t.co/xXuL31OOJt
— Alex Sobel MP 🟣 (@alexsobel) October 12, 2021
According to the UN, African countries face paying more than £300 billion to recover from the pandemic.
The under secretary-general of the UN, Vera Songwe, said Hancock’s “success” in handling the UK’s pandemic response is a testament to the strengths he will bring to the role.
In a letter posted on Twitter by Hancock, Songwe said: “The acceleration of vaccines that has led the UK move faster towards economic recovery is one testament to the strengths that you will bring to this role, together with your fiscal and monetary experience.
“The role will support Africa’s cause at the global level and ensure the continent builds forward better, leveraging financial innovations and working with major stakeholders like the G20, UK government and COP26.”
In his acceptance letter, also posted on Twitter, the Conservative MP wrote: “As we recover from the pandemic so we must take this moment to ensure Africa can prosper.”
His new role will be unpaid.
It comes as a damning report from MPs was published on how errors and delays by the government and scientific advisers cost lives during the pandemic.
The study, from the cross-party Science and Technology Committee and the Health and Social Care Committee, said the UK’s preparation for a pandemic was far too focused on flu, while ministers waited too long to push through lockdown measures in early 2020.
This article originally appeared on HuffPost UK and has been updated.