Key participants in the Covid inquiry have been briefed about the cabinet secretary’s health, given the ongoing postponement of his evidence session.
It was announced a month ago that Simon Case, the most senior official in the civil service, would be taking time off work because of what was described as a “private medical matter”.
It was suggested then that he would return to work within a few weeks.
However, it now appears there could be a further delay to him giving evidence.
In a letter from the solicitor to the inquiry to what are known as its core participants, “private medical information” relating to Mr Case has been shared “in order to update them on his ability to give evidence during the Module 2 hearing and seek any representations which they wished to make”.
This appears to imply a further delay in Mr Case’s capacity to give face-to-face evidence.
Core participants in the inquiry include government departments, charities and groups representing bereaved families.
Those who have been sent the letter are banned from sharing any information within it and “this order remains in force for the duration of the inquiry and at all times thereafter”.
Recipients are told that “the High Court and the Court of Session have the power to imprison or fine for any breach of this order”.
The existence of the letter, which was sent on Monday, has been made public on the Covid Inquiry’s website.
The Cabinet Office has not commented on the letter.
Although he has not yet given evidence in person, Mr Case has already come up in the inquiry through published WhatsApp messages.
For example, in messages from September 2020, the inquiry heard Mr Case told colleagues Mr Johnson “cannot lead” and “changes strategic direction every day”.
The inquiry, which is examining the government’s handling of the pandemic, is currently on its second module, looking at UK decision-making and political governance.
On Monday the government’s former chief scientific adviser, Sir Patrick Vallance, gave evidence, with England’s chief medical officer Prof Sir Chris Whitty due to appear later.