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Under Scrutiny: Vaughan Gething Faces Allegations of Misleading COVID Inquiry Amid Text Deletion Claims

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Vaughan Gething, the First Minister of Wales, remains 'completely unfazed' following allegations that he provided misleading information to the COVID Inquiry. The head of the opposition in the Senedd has reached out to Baroness Hallett, the chair of the inquiry. The inquiry team is currently evaluating the possibility of requesting additional testimony from Mr. Gething.

Welsh journalist @TomosGruffydd

Tuesday, May 7, 2024, at 4

Wales's First Minister Vaughan Gething has expressed his complete calmness following allegations that he provided misleading information to the UK COVID Inquiry.

Nation.Cymru revealed on Tuesday that Mr. Gething sent a text message stating, "I'm deleting the messages in this group."

"The message noted that they can be obtained through a Freedom of Information request, and expressed confidence that the decision made was the correct one."

The news organization in Wales stated that the communication was shared in a governmental group chat on Monday, August 17, 2020.

"Today's published message came from me and lacks the context of the conversation," Mr. Gething stated during the First Minister's questions.

"I have requested that the complete screenshot be provided to the investigation to ensure the context is fully understood."

Andrew RT Davies, head of the Welsh Conservative group, has sent a letter to the chair of the inquiry, Baroness Hallett.

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In response to Mr Davies' inquiry regarding the communication, Mr Gething explained that it was an aspect of "a dialogue among ministers pertaining to a Labour group gathering in August 2020."

"He explained that it's not about the decisions that were made, but rather about how we explained our actions."

Mr. Gething expressed that he was completely at ease regarding the screenshot.

"He expressed his ease at the prospect of being questioned, stating, 'I will have no problem at all appearing before them and engaging in the discussion.'"

As we approach the four-year mark since August 2020, I continue to feel the impact of the decisions we were compelled to make and the intense stress we faced at that time.

"I remain fully open and truthful with the investigation regarding my actions and motivations, as well as the decisions I contributed to in our efforts to protect the nation."

'Failed to have a backup plan'

During his testimony at the COVID Inquiry in March, Mr. Gething revealed that throughout the pandemic, he used two phones provided by the Welsh government and two others supplied by the Senedd.

He handed back his initial Senedd phone in March 2022, although he mentioned not remembering using it since the prior July.

Mr. Gething stated that the information from his initial Senedd phone was moved to his subsequent one.

In June 2022, he handed over his backup phone to the Senedd for servicing, during which it was restored to its original settings.

In his written submission to the investigation, Mr. Gething stated that the contents of the phone had been saved to the iCloud associated with his personal Apple ID.

"He stated that upon reviewing his iCloud, it lacks any storage of WhatsApp or text messages from before June 2022."

I've come to understand that my iCloud settings were not configured to back up text messages. I was unaware of this previously.

"Questions have been asked for me to the Senedd IT department, who confirmed that they do not possess any backups on their system from before June 2022."

"Moment of Discomfort"

However, Mr. Gething mentioned that if there were any messages remaining on his secondary Senedd phone, he has "handed them over to the legal team of the Welsh government for examination."

The counsel at the inquiry questioned Mr. Gething on whether he felt remorse for "failing to take measures to preserve the texts and WhatsApp messages on his phone."

"At that point, no, because I actually had another phone which contained all those messages," he explained.

"I truly wish you could access those messages, as it would allow you to compare them and confirm that their content aligns perfectly with the information in the records you currently possess.

"I acknowledge the awkwardness of the situation, and had I managed to furnish all the necessary documents, I believe the concerns that many have would not be as significant."

Learn more: Welsh families seek clarity from COVID investigation. Calls increase for investigation into Gething's £200k donation.

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A representative for the UK Covid-19 Inquiry stated, "This morning, the inquiry was made aware of these reports.

"The investigation is evaluating the data at hand and determining if additional testimony from Mr. Gething is required."

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