British Lockdown Official Wanted To ‘Frighten The Pants’ Off Nation And Asked When To ‘Deploy The New Variant,’ Leaked Messages Show

British Health Minister Matt Hancock wanted to “frighten the pants” off the nation to scare residents into compliance with a sweeping COVID lockdown regime, according to more than 100,000 leaked messages among senior officials in the United Kingdom.

Former British Prime Minister Boris Johnson had vowed that citizens would be able to reunite with their loved ones during the Christmas season of 2020, leading to concerns among officials that the administration would receive backlash over continued lockdowns. Hancock, a fellow member of the Conservative Party, and Damon Poole, his media adviser, expressed frustration that complication with Brexit, the United Kingdom’s departure from the European Union, was “taking the top line” in the news and distracting from the danger of the virus.

The officials agreed to declare a new strain of COVID called Alpha or Kent, according to a report from The Telegraph. Isabel Oakeshott, a journalist who assisted Hancock with writing his memoir about the response to the pandemic, had leaked the communications to the outlet.

“Rather than doing too much forward signaling, we can roll pitch with the new strain,” Poole suggested on December 13, 2020. “We frighten the pants [off] everyone with the new strain,” Hancock replied, leading Poole to concur that the move “will get proper [behavior] change.”

Hancock then asked when they should “deploy the new variant.” Poole said that “we need to be more cautious” to avoid implicating schools in subsequent lockdowns.

As with many other nations, lockdowns and other public health mandates severely rocked the economy and societal well-being of the United Kingdom. Beyond a rapid collapse in gross domestic product that immediately followed the lockdowns in the spring of 2020, inflation in the United Kingdom remains persistently high at 8.8% year-over-year due to supply chain disruptions, according to data from the Office of National Statistics.

Johnson and other officials started to reverse mask mandates and lockdowns as late as the summer of 2021. Conservative members of Parliament had nevertheless already grown skeptical of the mandates and balked at a plan to implement regional tiered lockdowns in December 2020. Hancock and Allan Nixon, a parliamentary adviser for the British Department of Health, sought to whip votes in support of the tiered system, including the blockage of projects in the constituencies represented by noncompliant lawmakers.

One of those projects was a new center for children with learning disabilities in Bury, Greater Manchester, an area represented by Conservative lawmaker James Daly. Nixon suggested that whips could “call him up” and inform him that the initiative would be “off the table if he rebels.”


“These guys’ re-election hinges on us in a lot of instances, and we know what they want. We should seriously consider using it,” Nixon added. “Yes 100%,” Hancock replied.

Hancock also rejected counsel from British Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty in November 2020 to replace the mandatory two-week COVID quarantine policy for individuals who tested positive for COVID and their contacts with five days of testing because the move would “imply we’ve been getting it wrong.” Hancock complained on November 17, 2020, that the new policy would seem like a “massive loosening,” even though Whitty informed him that models suggested five days of testing would be “pretty well as good.”

Between the day the message was sent and August 16, 2021, when exemptions from self-isolation were unveiled, some eight million people were marked as contacts of positive cases and told to quarantine. More than 20 million people had been told to self-isolate before the policy was entirely dropped in February 2022.

More messages indicate that external consultants were paid as much as £1 million, or $1.2 million, each day for more than one year to support an ailing Test and Trace system from the National Health Service. Hancock special adviser Emma Dean had been “nagging” the National Health Service about the runaway expenditures since November 2020, although the agency only announced that the Test and Trace initiative would be run with “an absolute minimum” of outside consultants as late as July 2022.

Hancock contended last week that there was “absolutely no public interest case” for the leak of his messages by Oakeshott, according to a report from The Guardian. “I am also sorry for the impact on the very many people, political colleagues, civil servants and friends, who worked hard with me to get through the pandemic and save lives,” he continued.

“What a ridiculous defense,” Oakeshott responded. “For someone who’s as intelligent as Matt Hancock to issue a statement saying there is no public interest in these revelations is patently absurd. And he knows that very well.”

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