UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson deliberately cut Secretary of State for Health and Social Care Matt Hancock out of No 10 meetings in 2020 over the coronavirus fallout pertaining to the country's care homes, the Daily Mail has quoted an unnamed source as saying.
The source argued that Johnson was especially concerned about the situation when hospital patients were sent to care homes without first being tested for COVID-19 in the early weeks of the pandemic last year.
The insider claimed that the pair's relationship became "really bad" amid the soaring coronavirus death toll at the time, with Hancock excluded from some meetings with government advisers, including National Health Service (NHS) chief Sir Simon Stevens and chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty.
The source asserted that all this "got to the point where the PM [Johnson] had to check every claim he [Hancock] made to check it was accurate" and that "there were situations when he was cut out of meetings so the PM could get a proper account of what was happening".
"Sometimes when he would turn up anyway, he would just rock up and the PM would do this eye roll. When the care home stuff got really bad, the PM totally lost faith in Matt, but said he could not fire him because of how it would look to sack a health secretary in the middle of a pandemic. There were certainly conversations had about firing him, multiple conversations", the insider added.
They described Hancock as "the sort of person to say day is night", a man who "would not answer straight questions and would be evasive". According to the source, "it is like nailing jelly to a wall".
A source close to Hancock has, meanwhile, insisted it was "emphatically untrue" that the secretary of state for health and social care had been cut out of No 10 briefings last year. Downing Street has not commented on the matter yet.
The remarks came after Johnson's former senior adviser Dominic Cummings testified before MPs on Wednesday as part of a probe by parliamentary committees into the UK government's handling of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The UK prime minister's ex-aide also launched an attack on Hancock, insisting that the secretary of state for health and social care "should have been fired for lying to everybody on multiple occasions". Cummings slammed Hancock's actions during the coronavirus crisis as "criminal" and "disgraceful".
The health secretary responded by claiming that "these unsubstantiated allegations around [his] honesty are not true" and that he has been "straight with people in public and in private throughout".