Matt Hancock’s actions in breaching coronavirus rules make it more difficult for the public to have confidence in those in power, London’s mayor has warned, as he urged people to get vaccinated.
Sadiq Khan said he is concerned the fallout could lead to a similar “sense of unhappiness” in the wake of the Dominic Cummings disclosures last year.
Mr Khan said the Health Secretary’s actions raise “serious concerns” and must be investigated rather than “brushed under the carpet”.
Mr Hancock apologised on Friday after images emerged of him kissing a close aide, who he appointed in his office at the Department of Health and Social Care.
A Downing Street spokesman said Prime Minister Boris Johnson had accepted Mr Hancock’s apology and “considers the matter closed”.
Mr Khan was speaking after a London vaccine summit held in a bid to boost jab uptake in the capital, which lags behind the rest of England.
Of Mr Hancock’s actions, Mr Khan told the PA news agency: “It does raise serious concerns and I think it’s important for the Prime Minister and others to look into these very serious concerns and not brush them under the carpet.”
Asked if it is now more difficult to ask people to follow the advice of senior politicians when it comes to coronavirus, he said: “It’s been said back to me today that actually, you’re making all this effort to get more people receiving the jab – it makes it far more difficult for people to have confidence in people in positions of power and influence when these sorts of allegations are being made.”
He added: “I remember last summer many, many people in London expressing their concerns about the double standards with Cummings.
“And my concern is that we could see over the next few days and weeks people reporting back to me and others that same sort of sense of unhappiness and lack of confidence because of the actions allegedly undertaken by Matt Hancock.
“That’s why it’s so important when concerns are raised for them to be investigated, not brushed under the carpet.
“We’ve got to give confidence to members of the public, that those of us in positions of power and influence take these responsibilities seriously.”
Also at the summit in east London was Vaccines Minister Nadhim Zahawi, who said he has “every confidence” in Mr Hancock.
Asked if he was disappointed in Mr Hancock’s behaviour, he said: “I’ve said everything I’m going to say on it. He’s apologised. He’s focusing on making sure that we get this (vaccine) sprint, this big sprint, up to the 19th of July.”
Health specialists and community representatives also attended the summit, and Mr Khan was accompanied by Mr Zahawi afterwards at a nearby vaccine centre in Westfield Stratford.
Efforts are being made to drive up the numbers of people getting a vaccine, with less than a month to go until the Government’s target date of July 19 for offering a first dose to all adults.
Data shows that an estimated 83.1% of over-50s in London had received both doses of vaccine by June 20.
But all other regions across the country are above 90%, according to the figures published by NHS England.
Analysis by the PA news agency shows that the top 19 local authority areas in England with the lowest proportion of fully vaccinated adults aged 50 and over are all in London.
Mr Khan warned the reopening next month could be at risk unless enough people are vaccinated.
He said: “Unless sufficient numbers of Londoners have the jab it makes it more likely that we won’t be able to fully reopen on July 19.
“I’m determined to have not only as many Londoners fully protected but for us to reopen on July 19.”
He described the summit as “really important” in bringing together all those who will be “crucial to us making sure even more Londoners receive the jab”.
He added: “The key message I’ve got to people across the city and the country is, you don’t need to have an NHS number, you don’t need to be registered with a GP. All you need is an arm to get a jab.”