Ministers considered culling pet cats at start of pandemic, says Lord Bethell

Ministers briefly considered ordering all domestic cats in Britain to be killed amid fears they could be spreading Covid, a former health minster has said.

Lord Bethell said the concern about pets underlined how little was known about the disease at the outbreak of the pandemic in 2020.

“What we shouldn’t forget is how little we understood about this disease,” he told Channel 4 News.

“There was a moment we were very unclear about whether domestic pets could transmit the disease.

“In fact, there was an idea at one moment that we might have to ask the public to exterminate all the cats in Britain.

“Can you imagine what would have happened if we had wanted to do that?

“And yet, for a moment there was a bit of evidence around that so that had to be investigated and closed down.”

Lord Bethell was Matt Hancock’s deputy in the Department of Health and Social from 2020 to 2021.

His comments came after The Daily Telegraph began publishing details of tens of thousands of leaked Whatsapp messages exchanged between Mr Hancock and other senior figures during the pandemic.