When Matt Hancock’s WhatsApp messages were leaked to the Telegraph, the journalists working on the project knew it was going to be big.
They spent two months in a hot, stuffy room, poring over exchanges between some of the most powerful people in the country as they sought to respond to Covid19.
Messages between the then Health Secretary and the Prime Minister, Cabinet Ministers and advisers were disclosed to the Telegraph by Isabel Oakeshott.
By piecing together the messages with documents from the time, this newspaper lifted the lid on conversations behind controversial decisions which affected all our lives.
From care homes to schools to testing, the Whatsapp chats revealed previously unknown exchanges behind key moments and raised questions about positions Mr Hancock had adopted publicly, including that he had thrown “a protective ring around care homes”.
The messages exposed how Matt Hancock rejected the Chief Medical Officer’s advice to test all residents going into English care homes for Covid and how children were often forgotten during decision making.
The WhatsApp exchanges also exposed how Matt Hancock mounted a “rearguard action” to close schools despite Sir Gavin Williamson battling “tooth and nail” to keep classrooms open.
Commenting on the disclosure, a spokesman for Mr Hancock said the reports were a “distorted account of the pandemic…pushed with partial leaks”.
The spokesman said that the then health secretary had “insisted on testing all those who came from hospitals”.
The Lockdown Files investigation shifted the dial, exposing the extent to which ministers were operating government by WhatsApp and prompting the Covid Inquiry to demand all ministerial chats as part of its evidence gathering.
Now, the Telegraph’s investigations team are going to look at the issues raised for the Lockdown Files podcast.
Follow the journalists as they uncover documents, interview key decision makers and speak to those affected by both Coronavirus and lockdown.