Former British Health Secretary Matt Hancock suggested to an aide that they “frighten the pants off everyone”, messages published by the Sunday Telegraph show.
It appears the former health secretary discussed when to reveal the existence of the Kent variant of Covid, to ensure people comply with lockdown rules.
In another exchange, the head of the Civil Service, Simon Case, suggested the “fear/guilt factor” was vital to the government’s messaging.
More than 100,000 WhatsApp messages were leaked to the Telegraph by the journalist Isabel Oakeshott, who has been a vocal critic of lockdowns.
The former health secretary has repeatedly criticised the leaks, referring to the published messages as a “partial, biased account to suit an anti-lockdown agenda.”
In an exchange between Mr Hancock and an aide from 13th December 2020 – five days before the government scrapped plans to relax rules for many over Christmas – the former health secretary discusses when to “deploy” the announcement of the new variant.
They are talking about the possibility of the London Mayor Sadiq Khan resisting a possible lockdown for London.
The Department of Health adviser suggests: “Rather than doing too much forward signalling, we can roll pitch with the new strain.”
Mr Hancock says: “We frighten the pants of everyone with the new strain.”
The adviser responds: “Yep, that’s what will get proper behaviour change.”
The minister then asks: “When do we deploy the new variant.”
Mr Hancock announced the new variant the following day.
Read more via The Sunday Telegraph