Beleaguered Matt Hancock faces furious calls to be sacked after pictures emerged of him in a passionate embrace with one of his closest aides.
The married Health Secretary was spotted kissing Gina Coladangelo at the Department of Health headquarters in London, in CCTV images said to have been taken just after 3pm on May 6.
At the time, England’s law banned indoor social gatherings of people from different households – while guidance urged people to stay two metres apart and avoid “face to face contact”.
Mr Hancock has apologised and admitted he broke the guidance.
Mrs Coladangelo is a university friend of Mr Hancock, who was handed an unpaid advisor role then a £15,000-a-year job last year as a non-executive director at the Department of Health.
On Mrs Coladangelo’s job, a Department of Health and Social Care spokesman added: “This appointment was made in the usual way and followed correct procedure.”
But Labour said: “This matter is definitely not closed, despite the Government’s attempts to cover it up.
“Matt Hancock appears to have been caught breaking the laws he created while having a secret relationship with an aide.
“The Prime Minister recently described him as ‘useless’ – the fact that even now he still can’t sack him shows how spineless he is.”
It’s understood Mr Hancock believes no Covid laws were broken, because he and Mrs Coladangelo were in the Health Department for legitimate work purposes.
It is the most eye-catching, but only the latest scandal to hit the Health Secretary. Here are some of the other scandals and controversies he has presided over in the past year…
Branded ‘f***ing hopeless’ by the Prime Minister
The former No10 advisor posted the stream of WhatsApp messages earlier this month showing the PM venting in private at his Health Secretary, but not sacking him.
In one WhatsApp message, dated March 27 last year, Mr Cummings complains the government has been turning down ventilator offers because the “price has been marked up” – to which the PM replies: “It’s Hancock. He has been hopeless.”
Less than an hour later, Mr Cummings complains about Matt Hancock and the lack of testing for NHS staff to which the PM replies: “Totally f***ing hopeless”.
Hospital patients moved to care homes without a test
Covid-19 ripped through care homes last Spring after many elderly people were discharged from hospitals to free up beds.
It was not policy to test all incoming care home residents for Covid between mid-March and mid-April.
A Public Health England study later found 97 out of 5,882 care home outbreaks in England were “due to hospital associated seeding”, and were linked to 286 deaths.
Dominic Cummings branded Matt Hancock’s claim to have thrown a “protective ring” around care homes “complete nonsense”. The ex-aide accused Mr Hancock of lying, saying: “Hancock told us in the Cabinet room that people were going to be tested in care homes. What the hell happened?”
Mr Hancock has insisted he only promised care home entrants would get tests when those tests were up and running – not straight away. But that has left the question of why they were discharged anyway.
Claims he ‘lied 15 to 20 times’
Dominic Cummings accused the Health Secretary of “lying to everybody on multiple occasions”, and said he and the Cabinet Secretary had both urged Boris Johnson to sack Mr Hancock.
The former No10 aide told MPs: “I think that the Secretary of State for Health should have been fired for at least 15-20 things, including lying to everybody on multiple occasions in meeting after meeting in the cabinet room and publicly.”
Mr Cummings has not produced evidence to substantiate his claim of lying, despite saying he would.
Mr Hancock later insisted: “These unsubstantiated allegations around honesty are not true.
“I’ve been straight with people in public and in private throughout.”
Covid contract cronyism
Boris Johnson and Matt Hancock have been repeatedly accused of cronyism after a string of Tory-linked firms received lucrative Government contracts.
The spending watchdog found companies recommended by MPs, ministers and peers were put in a “priority lane” for contracts to produce personal protective equipment amid shortages of vital kit.
Over half of the £18bn spent on pandemic-related contracts was awarded without competitive tender, the National Audit Office said.
Mr Hancock faced questions after his former pub landlord won a testing contract. He was asked about the work and his communications with Alex Bourne at a Downing Street press conference, where he said: “I had absolutely nothing to do with that contract.”
Claiming PPE shortages didn’t lead to any deaths
Matt Hancock stood accused of “insulting” NHS staff after he denied a scarcity of protective gear “led to anyone dying” on the Covid frontline.
The Health Secretary admitted to MPs that PPE shortages came “pretty close” last year, but he claimed “at a national level”, there was “never a point” when the UK “ran out”.
But campaigners hit out at the claims, saying shortage which left some medics forced to rely on bin bags for protection meant “unnecessary deaths” at the height of the pandemic.
It came as NHS Providers revealed to the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Coronavirus that supplies were “dangerously low” at some points and a dearth of gowns and visors left frontline staff in fear.
An A&E worker, not named, told the APPG: “At the height of the pandemic our trust, based on PHE (Public Health England) guidelines, were making us swab suspected Covid-19 patients wearing only a surgical mask, gloves and plastic apron.”
Problems with NHS Test and Trace
Despite a budget running into the millions, there have been a string of failures with ‘NHS’ Test and Trace.
The contact tracing service was mostly outsourced to Serco and Sitel at the beginning, at an initial cost of £720million.
But at one point they were reaching jut 60% of contacts of people with coronavirus and telling them to self-isolate.
Councils’ local health teams have since got more involved and had greater success, despite dealing with supposedly harder-to-reach cases.
While million contacts of people with Covid-19 were reached and told to self-isolate, millions more were not. Contact rates improved after the rules were changed to include a whole household as “contacted” once one person in it had been spoken to.