Watch: Matt Hancock grilled on GMB about government’s response to pandemic
Health secretary Matt Hancock has become the first government minister to appear on Good Morning Britain for more than 200 days following the high-profile departures of two senior Number 10 advisers.
In an often uncomfortable interview, Hancock was grilled on the ITV show on Monday by presenters Piers Morgan and Susanna Reid about the government’s response to the coronavirus pandemic.
It had been 201 days since a government minister previously appeared on GMB, following a boycott Morgan said was instigated by prime minister Boris Johnson’s chief adviser Dominic Cummings and his director of communications Lee Cain.
Cummings and Cain, who were accused of adopting a combative approach with sections of the media, left 10 Downing Street last week after reports of political infighting. The pair will work out their notice periods at home.
Just days after their departures, Hancock was available to appear on the programme - here are five things we learned:
1. Hancock won’t be resigning
Morgan went on the offensive early in the interview, accusing the government of a “constant series of failures and U-turns this year” and asking Hancock why he hadn’t resigned.
He asked Hancock: “Given that we now have over 50,000 deaths in this country, which is the worst death toll in the whole of Europe, why are you still health secretary and why haven’t you offered your resignation?”
The health secretary responded: “Because we’ve been building the response to all these enormous challenges of this unprecedented pandemic.”
Morgan ended the interview by saying: “We hope it’s not six months before we see you again.”
Hancock replied: “Lovely to be on,” and Morgan quickly added: “He said, lying.”
2. Hancock insists he has been busy
It is six months since a government minister has appeared on Good Morning Britain.
Morgan asked Hancock: “Given that we all live in a democracy, where the hell have you all been for the last 201 days?”
Watch: Good Morning Britain presenters slam government ‘boycott’
The TV presenter accused the government of boycotting the programme and its viewers.
Hancock said: “We haven’t been away, I’ve been working incredibly hard for instance building the testing capacity, expanding the number of tests that are available. That’s what I’ve been working on.”
3. Hancock admits the government has made mistakes
Morgan asked: “Are you prepared to admit to any mistakes?”
Hancock replied: “Sure, of course, we’ve made mistakes, absolutely.
“When we first put out the guidance for funerals in the first peak it was interpreted as being so tight that even your spouse couldn’t go to the funeral of somebody who’d died of coronavirus.
“Now, that was wrong, and we changed it. Absolutely, we’ve been learning.”
4. Hancock says government testing targets have been met
Morgan asked Hancock why the government does not publish how many people are tested each day, as opposed to the number of tests carried out.
He referred to a tweet sent on 4 April from Boris Johnson’s official account that read: “By the end of April, we will be testing 100,000 people a day”.
Health Secretary @MattHancock responds to @piersmorgan's question about why we aren't seeing the number of people being tested everyday.
He also refutes the claims that he didn't hit the target of 100,000 people being tested a day in April. @susannareid100 | #GMB pic.twitter.com/m6W0v3OFpn
— Good Morning Britain (@GMB) November 16, 2020
He asked if the government had missed its target, given it publishes figures for the number of tests, not the number of people who took them.
But Hancock insisted: “The target was set to have 100,000 tests a day and we delivered against that.”
5. Testing won’t be rolled out at all care homes yet
The government has launched a pilot testing scheme in care homes in Hampshire, Devon and Cornwall from Monday.
Reid asked why aren’t people in all care homes being tested with a national rollout of the scheme.
Hancock replied: “That’s what we’re going to do and I hope to have that done by Christmas.
“The reason we are doing this carefully is because we have to protect people in care homes as well.
“So we’re doing the pilot to understand what the rules should be around the use of testing, how we can do it safely and then we will roll it out over the next few weeks.”
Watch: Can you catch coronavirus twice?
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