Chris Whitty talks about asymptomatic Covid in resurfaced video
Last week, the high court ruled that the government’s decision to discharge hospital patients into care homes without testing them for Covid 19 was unlawful.
The ruling went against the government’s claim that it had thrown a “protective ring” around the vulnerable residents at the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic in spring 2020.
Following the ruling, Boris Johnson and former health secretary Matt Hancock both claimed that the government had a lack of “knowledge” about the asymptomatic transmission of the virus.
The prime minister told the House of Commons: “What we didn’t know in particular was that Covid could be transmitted asymptomatically.”
And Hancock told ITV News: “The judgement is very clear about what information was and wasn't passed on and, I've said before, that I wish that the knowledge about asymptotic transmission had been... I'd known it earlier because then we can have better outcomes.”
But, new evidence has come to light that appears to contradict their defence of what judges said was an “irrational” measure that failed to test hospitalised people before reintroducing them to vulnerable care home residents until 15 April.
Resurfaced footage of England’s Chief Medical Officer Professor Chris Whitty taken on 5 March 2020 shows him speaking specifically about asymptomatic transmission.
Chris Whitty was talking about asymptomatic infection on the 5/03/20 - "There's a large iceberg of people who have asymptomatic infection... "\n\nbut\n\nMatt Hancock says "We ministers were not told about the asymptomatic transmission" pic.twitter.com/fnOojrPlcF
Despite this, a spokesperson for Hancock said the former health minister was concerned about asymptomatic transmission before scientists released evidence about the matter and suggested those drafting policy bore responsibility for not keeping up with emerging science. They told indy100: "This clip confirms what Mr Hancock has repeatedly said, including on the 10th June 2021 at his select committee appearance, which is that he was worried about asymptomatic transmission for a long time, but as the court found, that didn't make its way into the official advice."
They also said the government started testing people who were moved to care homes before PHE published evidence proving the existence of asymptomatic transmission.
But in a Covid press conference on 25 March 2020, weeks before the government changed the rules to introduce compulsory testing before discharging care home residents, Johnson himself also commented on asymptomatic transmission.
During that time, around 25,000 untested hospital patients were discharged to care homes.
A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: "Throughout the pandemic, our aim has been to protect the public from the threat to life and health posed by Covid and we specifically sought to safeguard care home residents based on the best information at the time.
"This was a very difficult decision at the start of the pandemic, evidence on asymptomatic transmission was extremely uncertain and we had to act immediately to protect the NHS to prevent it from being overwhelmed."
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