Senior civil servants “wanted” people to get COVID like chickenpox to build herd immunity, according to messages read out during an inquiry into the government’s handling of the pandemic.
Sir Christopher Wormald remains the most senior civil servant in the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) – as he was in early 2020.
Messages he exchanged with Mark Sedwill – then the head of the Civil Service – were shown to the inquiry.
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These were sent on 12 March 2020.
Lord Sedwill said: “I don’t think PM & Co have internalised yet the distinction between minimising mortality and not trying to stop most people getting it.
“Indeed presumably like chickenpox we want people to get it and develop herd immunity before the next wave.
“We just want them not to get it all at once and preferably when it’s warn (sic) and dry etc.”
Sir Christopher responded: “Exactly right. We make the point every meeting, they don’t quite get it.”
A lot of time during the inquiry has been taken up on when the government change from planning to mitigate people getting the virus, to preventing the spread of the virus and locking down.
Read more: Hancock wanted to decide ‘who should live and die’ Johnson blames ‘bed blocking’ on need for first lockdown Key WhatsApp messages from the COVID inquiry
On 14 March, the then-health secretary, Matt Hancock, wrote in The Daily Telegraph: “We have a plan, based on the expertise of world-leading scientists. Herd immunity is not a part of it. That is a scientific concept, not a goal or a strategy.
“Our goal is to protect life from this virus, our strategy is to protect the most vulnerable and protect the NHS through contain, delay, research and mitigate.”
On 23 March, Boris Johnson enacted lockdown.
Dominic Cummings, who was a political appointee by Mr Johnson, repeatedly criticised the Civil Service while he gave evidence to the inquiry.
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COVID: No 10 in ‘complete chaos’
On the same day as the civil servants were talking, Mr Cummings complained in a WhatsApp message that Lord Sedwill had been “babbling about chickenpox”, adding “god f****** help us”.
Speaking to the inquiry on Tuesday, Mr Cummings said Lord Sedwill told Mr Johnson: “PM, you should go on TV and should explain that this is like the old days with chickenpox and people are going to have chickenpox parties. And the sooner a lot of people get this and get it over with the better sort of thing.”
In a post on social media, Mr Cummings responded to the messages published today.
He said: “The reason the [Lord Sedwill] suggested to the PM on 12/3 to tell the country to hold chickenpox parties – and me/Ben Warner said ‘you must stop saying this’ – is [Sir Christopher], *in charge of ‘the plan’*, was telling him this was the f****** plan!!!
“Holy s*** this is truly atrocious and explains so much.”
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Sir Christopher, who was pushed by inquiry lawyers to explain the messages, said that it was a reference to herd immunity but argued it was “reflecting the state of the scientific advice at that point”.
He said he had been “very, very loose in my reply” and that he had at the time been following the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies – Sage – advice.
Captain Sir Tom Moore’s daughter has admitted keeping £800,000 from the three books he wrote before he died – despite the prologue of one of them saying the money would go to the charity in his name.
Hannah Ingram-Moore has also told TalkTV her father had wanted the family to keep the profits from the books in Club Nook Ltd – a firm separate to the Captain Tom Foundation charity.
In extracts of the interview with Piers Morgan published in The Sun, Ms Ingram-Moore is reported to have said: “These were father’s books, and it was honestly such a joy for him to write them, but they were his books.
“He had an agent and they worked on that deal, and his wishes were that that money would sit in Club Nook, and in the end . . . ”
Morgan interjects with: “For you to keep?”
She replies: “Yes… specifically.”
Sir Tom, who died in February 2021, became a national figure after raising £38.9m for the NHS, including gift aid, by walking 100 laps of his garden before his 100th birthday at the height of the country’s first national COVID lockdown in April 2020.
Thousands of buyers of his three books, including the autobiography Tomorrow Will Be A Good Day, were reportedly unaware that the profits were going to the family.
Ms Ingram-Moore was joined by her husband Colin and their children Benji, 19, and Georgia, 14 during the interview – with the family insisting there was no suggestion anyone who bought the books thought the money was going to charity.
However, the prologue of the autobiography reads: “Astonishingly at my age, with the offer to write this memoir I have also been given the chance to raise even more money for the charitable foundation now established in my name.”
Ms Ingram-Moore was also asked by Morgan about when she was paid £18,000 for attending the Virgin Media O2 Captain Tom Foundation Connector Awards in 2021.
This was despite the fact she was already paid as the chief executive of the charity.
The money was paid to her family firm the Maytrix Group, with Ms Ingram-Moore keeping £16,000 and donating £2,000 to the Captain Tom Foundation.
Holding back tears, she told TalkTV: “I think it’s all very easy to look back and think I should have made different decisions, but I hadn’t planned on being the CEO.”
The family also spoke of their “regret” over the spa and pool complex at their £1.2million home.
Ms Ingram-Moore reportedly told planners they wanted an office for the charity set up in Sir Tom’s name but built the complex instead.
Plans for the site said it would be used partly “in connection with The Captain Tom Foundation and its charitable objectives”.
However, a subsequent retrospective application a year ago for a larger building containing a spa pool was refused by the planning authority.
The Captain Tom Foundation stopped taking donations when the planning dispute came to light.
Ms Ingram-Moore said: “We have to accept that we made a decision, and it was probably the wrong one.”
In the interview, which airs at 8pm on Thursday night, Morgan also asked Ms Ingram-Moore about the annual salary of £85,000 pro-rata on a rolling three month basis that she received to head the foundation.
She replied: “Yes, and look, absolutely in hindsight, the two things should have been separated, but that’s not how it landed, and it was done with love and with trying to ensure that the community and the Captain Tom Foundation benefited, and yes I got paid.”
The Maytrix Group is also reported to have accepted up to £100,000 in furlough money and £47,500 in COVID loans despite making huge profits in the pandemic.
Police are appealing for help to find a 23-year-old man in connection to a serious assault in west London.
Sam Gray is wanted for questioning after two people were allegedly assaulted in Uxbridge.
Metropolitan Police officers said they were called to an address on Arklay Close at around 10.40pm on Friday.
They said officers found a 19-year-old man with multiple stab wounds who was taken to hospital with “non life-changing injuries” while a 24-year-old woman sustained minor injuries but did not require hospital treatment.
Police said the suspect Sam Gray is known to the two people but he left the scene before officers arrived.
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A statement from the Met Police said: “It is believed Gray made off in a Peugeot with the registration KT13 KNW and detectives believe he may now have left the London area.
“He has links to Eastleigh in Hampshire and it is believed he may have returned to that area.”
Members of the public with any information on Mr Gray’s whereabouts are urged not to approach him but to contact police immediately.
Tributes have been paid to a woman killed in a house fire as police hunt her ex-husband in connection with her murder.
Staffordshire Police have appealed directly to Georgian Constantin to give himself up following the death of his former wife Valentina Cozma in a blaze at her home on Campbell Road, Stoke-on-Trent, last Thursday.
Constantin, 42, is thought to have links to the Southampton area and has been spotted in London since the incident.
Police say they are keeping an open mind as to his whereabouts and have not ruled out the prospect of Constantin travelling abroad.
Members of the public who spot Constantin, who has been in the UK since 2017, are being urged to dial 999 rather than approach him.
Chief Superintendent Colin Mattinson, said: “My thoughts are with Valentina’s loved ones, and in particular her young son at this deeply traumatic time.
“I know the local community are in shock that someone within their community has died in such awful circumstances. We know she was a quiet woman who was well-liked among her neighbours, having lived in the area for some years.
“My plea is to anyone who has information, no matter how insignificant it may seem – to get in touch. You could hold information that is key to our investigation.
“I am also appealing to Constantin himself, or anyone who may be harbouring him, to get in touch. Running away is not the answer.
“Anyone found to be assisting an offender will be dealt with robustly as this is a serious crime.
“A teenage boy has lost his mother, we need to secure justice for him, Valentina, and her wider family. Please share our appeal and contact us if you know anything at all.”
Paying tribute to Ms Cozma, her sister said: “Vali was the person I could talk to about anything.
“She offered me support whenever I needed it. She always tried to keep the family together.
“Being an older sister, she made sure we didn’t lack anything, even if she didn’t have a thing. She went through a lot of hard times, yet she never gave up.
“I am appealing for help from anyone who has details that could help in solving this case.”
Tony Blair wanted Vladimir Putin to have a seat at the international “top table” during his time as prime minister, according to newly released official files.
The Labour PM from 1997 to 2007 believed the Russian president was at heart a “Russian patriot” and it was important to encourage him to adopt Western values, the papers released to the National Archives show.
However, officials voiced their fears he represented a return to Cold War attitudes and questioned whether he could be trusted.
In 2001, about a year after KGB lieutenant officer Mr Putin became president, an internal No 10 briefing note entitled “Putin’s progress” raised the concerns, including a resurgence in Russian espionage activities.
“Despite the warmth of Putin’s rhetoric about the close links between Russia and the UK, the Russian intelligence effort against British targets remains at a high level,” it said.
“The Russian intelligence presence in the UK is at Cold War levels, and they continue to try to post active and hostile officers to work against British interests worldwide.”
The document gives a list of assurances from Mr Putin to Mr Blair during their meetings at international summits, which turned out to be false.
They included backing for the West’s tough line on dealing with Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein and pledges that Moscow would stop supplying Iran’s nuclear programme.
The papers said Mr Putin had thanked Mr Blair for offering assistance after the sinking of the Russian submarine Kursk, with all 118 crew lost, but said Russian officials obstructed the offer while spreading false rumours it sunk due to colliding with a British submarine.
In a memorandum that is very relevant now, given Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Mr Putin also told Mr Blair he did not want to be considered to be “anti-NATO” but his defence minister then warned NATO any further enlargement would be “a major political error” requiring Moscow to take “appropriate steps”.
The note is part of a series of briefing notes for Mr Blair’s foreign policy adviser John Sawers ahead of meeting senior officials in the new George Bush administration before the prime minister’s first meeting with the new US president.
Mr Blair compared Mr Putin to French wartime president Charles de Gaulle during talks with then-vice-president Dick Cheney at Camp David.
“The prime minister described him as a Russian patriot, acutely aware that Russia had lost its respect in the world. To describe him as a Russian de Gaulle would be misleading, but he had a similar mindset,” the note of the meeting said.
“He (Mr Blair) understood that Putin had a low approval rating in the US. But he thought it was better to allow Putin a position on the top table and encourage Putin to reach for Western attitudes as well as the Western economic model.”
And despite tensions with the Russian president, the files show how diplomacy ruled, with a No 10 official informing Mr Blair on his trip to Moscow in 2001 that he had to give the president a set of newly released silver No 10 cufflinks for his birthday.
Mandela intervention ‘not helpful’
The files also reveal tensions between Mr Blair and Nelson Mandela, as well as with his cabinet, notably his chancellor Gordon Brown.
Files showed officials in No 10 feared former South African president Mr Mandela’s efforts to act as an intermediary between the Libyan leader Colonel Muammar Gaddafi over the Lockerbie bombing were “unlikely to be helpful”.
Mr Mandela, as president, helped broker the agreement that eventually led to two Libyan intelligence agents standing trial before a Scottish court for the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over the Scottish village of Lockerbie, killing 270.
But after his presidency ended and one of the accused was found guilty in 2001, Mr Mandela tried to intercede as Gaddafi pushed for international sanctions on Libya to be lifted.
Anna Wechsberg in the No 10 private office noted: “Mandela evidently sees himself acting as mediator between the prime minister and Gaddafi. This is unlikely to be helpful.”
Away days ‘pretty ghastly’
On friction with Mr Blair’s cabinet, notes reveal not one senior minister enjoyed the annual “away days” held at the PM’s country home of Chequers.
David Milliband, then a No 10 special adviser, complained that no company would run them in such a haphazard fashion.
“The tradition of a TB/GB (Tony Blair/Gordon Brown) introduction and then one disjointed comment from each cabinet member is pretty ghastly – and not very useful,” he said in a memo.
The files show Mr Blair’s chief of staff suggested Mr Brown led the 1998 gathering on the economy, writing: “You said you did not like this, but I don’t see how you can avoid it.”
Mr Blair replied: “No, we should start with a general political discussion which I should lead, then in (the) afternoon economy.”
Police have released a third image of a man they are searching for in connection with the abduction of a six-year-old girl, as parents are urged to be “extra vigilant”.
The child, who police previously said was seven, was allegedly taken by a man into a wooded area near a disused railway track in Droylsden, Greater Manchester, at around 4pm on Wednesday.
She was safely reunited with her family a short time later.
Tameside Police Detective Superintendent Richard Hunt said a man “obviously grabbed a child” and it is believed that he “sexually assaulted her”.
“A child was playing in this area and a chap who was hanging around has taken a child and thankfully within a few minutes we’ve got her back,” he added.
“Parents need to consider the circumstances of what I have mentioned, and I would suggest they need to be extra vigilant with their children whilst we progress this as quickly as possible.”
Officers believe the girl was taken in Warne Avenue before she was led down a path towards a football field and allegedly assaulted.
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“The offender appears to have been hanging around the area prior to the offence and afterwards he made his way through the paths and streets of the Snipe Estate, possibly in the direction of Openshaw,” Det Supt Hunt added.
Below are the three images of a man being looked for by police – it is not clear if he is the suspected perpetrator.
The first two images were released on Wednesday and were taken within 30 minutes of the abduction.
While the search for the man continues, a large police presence remains in the area.
He has been described as white, aged in his 20s, wearing dark trousers, a dark jacket, and dark shoes or trainers, possibly with a white rim around the sole.
Residents have been urged to check CCTV, dashcam video and doorbell footage for any clips that might assist the investigation.
A 35-year-old man – not the man pictured – was arrested on Wednesday, but has since been released.
Anyone with information should call police on 0161 856 9262.