The painfully slow and costly Covid-19 public inquiry cross-examined Matt Hancock yesterday. Here was a chance to question the man who took many of the big decisions during the pandemic. Perhaps the inquiry would thrash out some of the burning questions about lockdowns and whether – in hindsight – the social and economic costs were all worth it. Guess what happened…
A good chunk of time was instead spent navel-gazing about whether Covid was made worse by… Brexit. Responding to the idea that the lack of pandemic preparedness was the fault of no-deal Brexit preparations, Hancock issued this punchy rejoinder:
“The work done for a no-deal Brexit on supply chains was the difference between running out of medicines in the peak of the pandemic and not running out. We came extremely close within hours of running out of medicines for intensive care during the pandemic… I think the only reason we didn’t run out is because of [that] work… which they did during 2019 in preparation for a no-deal Brexit, but became extremely useful in saving lives during the pandemic.”
He went on:
“At the point at which the pandemic struck, because of the no-deal Brexit work, we knew more about the pharmaceutical supply chain in the UK than at any time in history. We had relationships with the pharmaceutical suppliers and the data to know exactly who had what available and where and the extent of that information was the difference between running out and not running out of drugs in intensive care in the pandemic.”
Guido suspects that’s not what an audience of largely Remain-supporting lawyers and public health big wigs wanted to hear. Do Remainers think we beat Covid #DespiteBrexit?