Coronavirus crisis: Rishi Sunak ‘at war’ with Matt Hancock over lockdown exit

Mr Sunak has argued that unless a clear path is mapped out now for a hasty return to normal activity, then the country could face devastating economic damage. Critics of Mr Hancock argue he’s underplaying the long-term economic destruction caused by the lockdown.

However speaking to the Daily Mail an ally of the Health Secretary hit back commenting: “He is just doing his job, which is to protect the NHS.”

According to the Mail ‘recovery teams’ have been put in place across Whitehall to help Britain rebuild after the pandemic, but are not expected to start work until July.

The precise decision on the extension of the coronavirus lockdown rules cannot be made until Good Friday as this is the earliest point the lockdown’s effects will register on the infection figures.

More than 700 deaths were recorded yesterday meaning many expect an extension of at least another three weeks.

There are concerns some people are defying lockdown rules by socialising at each other’s houses.

The daily Covid-19 committee, who are regulating the Government’s response to the epidemic, are attempting to balance the issues of protecting people’s lives and preserving the economy.

The Chancellor is fighting to prop up the economy amidst a surge in pay cuts and benefit claimants rises.

Conservative journalists Peter Hitchens and Toby Young warned about the ‘hidden death toll’ of the lockdown which includes the rise of ‘excess morbidity’ – due to mental illness, unemployment or missing hospital appointments for critical conditions such as cancer.

Toby Young wrote: “It is an incredibly delicate issue. No one wants to be seen to be doing a crude calculus of pounds-for-lives, or debating whether a 90-year-old’s life is ‘worth’ saving.

“And for the most part everyone is being very grown up about it. But we cannot come out of this having destroyed the economy for the best part of a generation.

“Hancock is desperate not to have an overloaded NHS, with patients gasping on ventilators in an army field hospital, on his CV.”

He continued: “But the damage to society of a severe lockdown could have even more far-reaching consequences.”

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A Government source told the Mail: “There is obviously frustration at the centre that a lot of prep could have been done months ago on widespread testing and protective equipment for health workers, but instead of working out how to get out of the lockdown we are playing catch-up.

“We just need a bit of certainty from Health that they know where they are going and how we get out of this.”

There are also reports of tensions between Mr Hancock and Michael Gove, the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster.

Two weeks ago, Mr Gove was reportedly “vying” with the Health Secretary to head the response against the pandemic.

Speaking to the Daily Mail a source said: “Both Michael and Matt seem to be listening for the first cough from Boris and wondering which … will step up when he is self-isolating.”

However as Matt Hancock and the Prime Minister simultaneously went into self-isolation, Mr Gove was left to lead the Government’s response.

Another source told the Daily Mail that Mr Hancock lacked “grip behind the scenes, but then touring TV studios and hosting careerist macho press conferences to look like he is running the show”.

Speaking to the Mail, a Treasury source added: “The Chancellor has made robust representations on the importance of finding a path out of the lockdown soon and what that path looks like.

“It is fair to say we need to be considering all ways of protecting lives and wellbeing, not just the loss of life from the virus, but the wider implications of a major downturn as well.”

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