Matt Hancock did not withhold key COVID data ahead of the decision to postpone the easing of restrictions in England, the justice secretary has told Sky News.
Robert Buckland defended the health secretary and said he has the “full support” of the government, denying reports that Mr Hancock held back data on the effectiveness of vaccines on the Indian variant.
Mr Buckland said there is “no question” PM Boris Johnson was not told about the data.
“Sadly I am afraid that that report is wrong,” Mr Buckland told Sky’s Trevor Phillips On Sunday.
“The data was provided to the prime minister and other members of that Cabinet committee in the most up to date way before the decision was made on Monday.
“And those taking part in the meeting had all the relevant data in the most up to date way before the decision was made.
“There is no question of the prime minister not being sighted on important data – it was provided to him and other members of that committee in the normal way as people would expect.”
His comment came as Dr Susan Hopkins, Public Health England’s chief COVID adviser, said 70% of UK adults should be able to receive their second COVID vaccination before England’s new date for ending restrictions – 19 July.
“What I would like to see is that everyone over the age of 40 has had the opportunity to get double-vaccinated and as many people over the age of 30 have the opportunity to get two doses of vaccination as well,” she told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show.
“We know that two doses of vaccination really protects against hospital admission, about 94% overall and 92% for AstraZeneca and 96% for Pfizer.
“Overall as many people getting two doses of vaccination would be really good.”
She added: “We should be able to hit the 70% figure having two doses before July 19.”
England had been due to end all COVID restrictions on 21 June, but the PM announced a four-week delay to the government’s roadmap out of lockdown on Monday following an increase in Delta variant cases.
Two days later, Dominic Cummings published images of messages he shared with Boris Johnson which appeared to show the PM calling Mr Hancock “totally f****** hopeless”.
When asked if the health secretary is “hopeless”, Mr Buckland told Sky’s Trevor Phillips on Sunday that Mr Hancock continues to fulfil his role “energetically” during the pandemic.
“To bandy around words like that I think does nobody any service at all. He’s been a most useful and dynamic health secretary who enjoys our full support,” he…