Ministers joked about ‘locking up’ travellers to UK during Covid pandemic

Matt Hancock  (PA)
Matt Hancock (PA)

Ministers and senior officials joked about locking up travellers arriving in the UK in quarantine hotels during the Covid pandemic, according to the latest tranche of Matt Hancock’s leaked messages published by the Daily Telegraph.

In one exchange with Cabinet Secretary Simon Case in February 2021, the then health secretary said they were “giving big families all the big suites and putting pop stars in the box rooms”.

Mr Case replied: “I just want to see some of the faces of people coming out of first class into a premier inn shoe box.”

A few days later, Mr Case asked how many people had been “locked up” in hotels the previous day.

Mr Hancock responded: “None. But 149 chose to enter the country and are now in Quarantine Hotels due to their own free will!” to which Mr Case replied: “Hilarious.”

The messages also suggested Mr Hancock wanted to “get heavy with the police” over the enforcement of lockdown regulations. After one meeting with Boris Johnson, he informed Mr Case: “The plod got their marching orders.”

Mr Hancock has described the leak of tens of thousands of messages by journalist Isabel Oakeshott as a “massive betrayal” used to produce “a partial, biased account to suit an anti-lockdown agenda”.