As part of the reporting on the Lockdown Files — over 100,000 WhatsApp messages sent between British public health officials and ministers that were leaked to The Telegraph — the outlet revealed the disturbing texts that "show how the government used scare tactics to force compliance and push through lockdowns."
In one December 13 exchange, Damon Poole, a media adviser to Hancock, told the health secretary that Tory members of parliament were "furious already about the prospect" of more stringent mandates, and suggested that they could "roll pitch with the new strain."
Hancock responded, “We frighten the pants off everyone with the new strain."
His adviser concurred, with Poole replying, "Yep that's what will get proper bahviour [sic] change."
"When do we deploy the new variant," Hancock then asked.
This conversation took place just two days after Hancock was made aware of the "alpha" variant of Covid, which led to the "effective cancellation of Christmas on Dec 19," according to the publication.
In another suspicious message from Cabinet Secretary Simon Case, he said that "the fear/ guilt factor" was "vital" for "ramping up the messaging" when lockdown mandates had swept the nation in Jan 2021.
Just a month after Hancock suggested the launch of a new Covid variant to scare people into compliance, he and Case discussed mandating "more mask wearing" including "in all settings outside home."
"Basically, we need to get compliance up," Case said, before adding that certain policies such as a fishing ban "will be parodied galore if it looks like we have suddenly decided fishing is the first step towards tier 5!"
Hancock replied, "I honestly wouldn't move on any small things unless we move on a lot. The only big reamaining [sic] things are nurseries and workplaces."
"I agree - I think that is exactly right. Small stuff looks ridiculous. Ramping up messaging - the fear/guilt factor vital," said Case.
Back in June of 2020, as the UK was emerging from its first national lockdown wave, Hancock and Sir Patrick Vallance, the government's Chief Scientific Adviser, expressed their appeasement that a study suggesting that Covid was beginning to go in a "positive direction" had not been widely publicized, while a more "gloomy" survey gained more popularity in the media.
"If we want people to behave themselves maybe that's no bad thing," wrote Hancock of the conflicting reports.
Sir Patrick appeared to agree, with, "Suck up their miserable interpretation and over deliver."
The more hopeful study, the outlet reported, was the Real-time Assessment of Community Transmission (React) study from Imperial College London, which showed that the reproduction rate of Covid had declined. However, it was a study from Cambridge University in conjunction with the UK's public health agency which showed higher transmission rates in portions of the country, which was used to heighten the public's fears.
Four months later, in Oct 2020, Poole wrote in a WhatsApp group chat about his idea to stop publishing a Covid watchlist by area, so that everyone would feel fear across the country rather than specific regions.
"It helps the narrative that things are really bad if we don't publish," he said.
According to a recent poll from YouGov, 37 percent of British adults believe that the country's Covid lockdown policies were "not strict enough," while 34 percent said they were "about right" and only 19 percent saying they were "too strict."
However, senior citizens — who are in the age group most vulnerable to Covid — answered that the lockdowns were "too strict" more than young people did. According to the poll, a 51 percent chunk of respondents aged 18-24 answered that the policies weren't strict enough, with only 33 percent of those 65 and older in agreement.