UK Covid: Hancock refuses to deny telling No 10 patients would be tested before discharge into care homes – as it happened

Health secretary dodges question about whether he told No 10 patients would be tested before hospital discharge after Cummings’ allegation. This live blog is now closed – please follow the global live blog for latest updates

6.33pm BST

Of course we committed, and I committed, to getting the policy in place but it took time to build the testing.

We didn’t start with a big testing system in the UK and then we built that testing system, and that’s why the 100,000 target was so important because it really accelerated the availability of testing because when you don’t have much testing we had to prioritise it according to clinical need.

My recollection of events is that I committed to delivering that testing for people going from hospital into care comes when we could do it. I then went away and built the testing capacity for all sorts of reasons and all sorts of uses, including this one, and then delivered on the commitment that I made.

The findings of this report suggest hospital associated seeding accounted for a small proportion of all care home outbreaks.

Policies on systematic testing prior to hospital discharge for patients discharged to care homes were introduced on 15 April 2020. This may have supported the decline seen in these types of outbreaks, contributing to an overall reduction in care home cases.

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PHE’s latest weekly variant cases data shows that cases of VOC-21APR-02 [the Indian variant] have risen by 3,535 to 6,959 since last week.

The most affected areas continue to be Bolton, Bedford and Blackburn with Darwen, which have seen 1,354, 366 and 361 confirmed cases, respectively. There are small numbers of cases of VOC-21APR-02 in most parts of the country. PHE have published a full breakdown of VOC-21APR-02 cases by lower-tier local authority.

Related: Covid live: Biden ‘likely’ to release full report on virus origins; Germany to offer jab to children aged 12 and over

6.07pm BST

These are from Newsnight’s Lewis Goodall on what Matt Hancock said at the press conference about one of the most damaging allegations Dominic Cummings made about him.

There is now a crucially important difference in the various accounts of events. Cummings says he and PM were given assurance that discharged patients would be tested before discharge to care. Hancock is saying he thinks he said they would be when testing capacity was built up.

If this was a miscommunication or misunderstanding it was a potentially catastrophic one- because if Cummings had understood it wouldn’t be possible question would have been well can we sensibly discharge? Either that or someone is lying.

This . Why on earth, if the testing capacity wasn’t yet in place, did @MattHancock sign off the discharge strategy?

Important question, to which I think we know the answer: because the fear of hospitals being overrun was so vivid (see Italy) that it trumped other fears

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And responsibility for the truly tragic error definitely goes far beyond Matt Hancock given NHS England was arguing for the approach that was taken and the same mistake was made in Scotland

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