Boris Johnson defends Matt Hancock's resignation delay

28 June 2021, 16:40

Boris Johnson responds to Hancock criticism

By Daisy Stephens

Boris Johnson has defended the delay to Matt Hancock's resignation as health secretary.

Speaking to broadcasters during a campaign visit to Johnstone's Paints Limited in Batley, the Prime Minister said that Mr Hancock's resignation and replacement happened at "about the right pace" during a pandemic.

"I read the story on Friday and we've got a new Health Secretary in post on Saturday and I think that's about the right pace to proceed in a pandemic," said Mr Johnson.

He went on: "I had a good conversation yesterday, a long meeting, with Sajid Javid, the new health secretary and we went over the data in great detail."

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The prime minister initially defended Mr Hancock, who was pictured kissing his aide - in a breach of Covid restrictions - in CCTV footage leaked to The Sun.

Mr Johnson said on Friday that he accepted the former health secretary's apology for breaking social distancing guidelines and that he considered the "matter closed".

But the following day Mr Hancock formally handed in his resignation to the prime minister, to be replaced by Sajid Javid hours later.

Since then, Mr Johnson has fallen under fire for not sacking Mr Hancock.

Boris Johnson: July 19 will be a "terminus date"

As well as the saga with Mr Hancock, Mr Johnson also used the campaign trail to discuss plans for so-called 'freedom day' - the day all legal restrictions are due to lift, currently scheduled for 19 July.

He said the Government was working towards a "return to pretty much life before Covid" on July 19, when restrictions in England are due to be further lifted.

"There is positive science, so it's absolutely true that, as I was saying just now, deaths are low and hospitalisations remain low, although they have been rising a little bit," said Mr Johnson.

"We are seeing an increase in cases, and quite a big increase in cases.

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"What is clear is that we have interrupted the link between infection and serious illness and death, and that is very, very important.

"So that shows that the vaccination programme has been working and I'm very, very encouraged by that.

"What I think we should do now is continue to take a cautious but irreversible approach and use the next three-and-a-half weeks or so to make sure that we get another five million vaccinations into people's arms, build up even higher that wall of protection, and then go forward on July 19 as a terminus date when I think that we will be able, really, to return to pretty much life before Covid.

"That's what we're working towards."