Lorelei King  (PA)

Lorelei King (PA)

The widow of a man who shook hands with Matt Hancock “for a photo op” before he died from Covid-19 broke down in tears as the former health secretary arrived at the Covid Inquiry.

Standing outside Dorland House in London on Tuesday, Lorelei King held a sign with a photo of Mr Hancock standing with her late husband, above the words: “You shook my husband’s hand for your photo op.”

In her other hand she held a sign with a photo of her husband’s coffin, alongside the words: “This was my photo op after your ‘ring of protection’ around care homes.”

Vincent Marzello died of coronavirus in March 2020 at the age of 72. He was living in a care home at the time due to suffering early onset dementia.

Mrs King, 69, from London, described the facilities as “charnel houses” and called on Mr Hancock to “tell the truth” after he arrived to give evidence to the inquiry on Tuesday morning.

Six members of the group Covid Families for Justice waited outside for Mr Hancock’s arrival.

Speaking to media, Mrs King said: “We would visit by FaceTime. I noticed something was wrong – his breathing wasn’t quite right. At that time there wasn’t any testing available, and he died five days later.

“Care homes became charnel houses because there was no testing, there was insufficient PPE, but, most disastrously, it’s because they discharged people from hospitals without testing them.”

Lorelei King outside the inquiry on Tuesday (PA)

Lorelei King outside the inquiry on Tuesday (PA)

She called on Mr Hancock to “tell the truth” to the inquiry, adding: “The bereaved families deserve that much.”

A video taken outside the inquiry showed Mrs King being consoled by other bereaved family members when she broke down in tears after Mr Hancock’s arrival.

The former health secretary, who became one of the best-known politicians in the country while he worked during the coronavirus response before being forced to quit in June 2021, will give evidence to Lady Hallett’s inquiry throughout Tuesday morning.

A leak of more than 100,000 of Mr Hancock’s WhatsApp messages by journalist Isabel Oakeshott to the Daily Telegraph, many of which were published earlier this year, provided a glimpse into the inner workings of Government during the pandemic.

The MP denied the “distorted account” with a spokesman alleging the messages had been “spun to fit an anti-lockdown agenda”.

Breaved family members outside the inquiry on Tuesday (REUTERS)

Breaved family members outside the inquiry on Tuesday (REUTERS)

Mr Hancock, who will stand down at the next general election, has faced criticism in the past about Government policy on Covid testing and nursing homes.

His attendance comes after Chancellor Jeremy Hunt, another former health secretary, admitted that “groupthink” meant the UK was not prepared for a pandemic beyond planning for a flu outbreak.

On Monday, former deputy chief medical officer Dame Jenny Harries was quizzed on the capacity of the UK health system as well as the organisational reforms before coronavirus spread.

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