Boris Johnson faces growing clamor to bring forward the start of the coronavirus public inquiry after Dominic Cummings’ allegations sparked a “political pantomime” that disrespects victims of the pandemic, relatives have said.
The Covid-19 Bereaved Families for Justice group, which represents thousands of grieving people, has called for the urgent launch of the investigation, which is due to begin in spring 2022.
The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) joined the call, alongside Lord Kerslake, the former head of the civil service under David Cameron, Angela Rayner, the deputy leader of the Labor Party, and Ed Davey, the leader of the Liberal Democrats.
Johnson’s former chief adviser Cummings on Wednesday accused the government of being woefully unprepared for the pandemic during seven hours of evidence to MPs, and said Hancock had told repeated lies, resulting in tens of thousands preventable deaths.
Many bereaved found Cummings’ litany of claims traumatic and argued that this detailed evidence should be dealt with in a properly structured public inquiry.
“This political pantomime continues to show a lack of respect for our lost loved ones and does not bring us any closer to the answers we need to save lives,” said Matt Fowler, co-founder of Covid-19 Bereaved Families for Justice.
Their point of view was fueled by the response from Matt Hancock, the Secretary of Health, who told the House of Commons on Thursday that “allegations not based on honesty are not true”. Boris Johnson said some of the claims he heard were “completely unrelated to reality.”
Kerslake told the Guardian: “Either we’ll continue with this tit-for-tat briefing or we’ll get down to business. We owe it to the families of the bereaved. It depends on the Prime Minister. He must see the meaning of doing it early.
Cummings had also told MPs: “The idea that any kind of serious investigation and lessons learned don’t start until next year is completely awful. Tens of thousands of people have died without needing to die.
The bereaved coordinate with workers’ and health expert organizations to develop a list of issues for the investigation to consider. The government did not respond to his lawyer’s request to speak with officials responsible for setting up the investigation.
Nurses also intervened, saying “justice delayed is justice denied”. The RCN said Cummings’ testimony confirmed the need for “a full public inquiry, without delay, into the preparation and management of Covid-19”.
“This is the only way for the government, its agencies and its advisers to think and learn,” said Dave Dawes, President of the MRC Council. “The inquiry is to examine decisions made at the level of the British government and by the nations as well. “
Davey wrote to the Prime Minister on Thursday saying: ‘We need [the inquiry] now “. “The chaotic mess of complaints, counterclaims, anonymous WhatsApp briefings and cryptic Twitter feeds is not the way to establish the truth that the British people – and bereaved families in particular – deserve,” he said. -he declares.
This month, Johnson told Parliament that an investigation would begin in the spring of 2022, but said it would be wrong to “weigh down” science advisers and take “an enormous amount of time for officials” during the pandemic.
A government spokesperson said on Wednesday that would happen “as soon as possible” and on Thursday Robert Jenrick, Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, said next year was “the right one.” moment to examine them. things in a calm and thoughtful manner ”.
Labor is pushing for a faster investigation. Rayner said: “We need this public inquiry and we need it immediately and so that it is not delayed. We have to learn the lessons… and people have to be sure that we have learned these lessons. “
Safiah Ngah, who lost her 68-year-old father, Zahari Ngah, to Covid in February, said: “We can prevent deaths next winter if we take the time now to launch the public inquiry. “
She believes the delay in the lockdown before Christmas caused the death of her father, an NHS psychotherapist for 40 years. He was protecting but contracted Covid in early January. Despite being in good health, his father ended up in intensive care at University College Hospital in London, which he found terrifying.
“It was the peak of the second wave and people were dying around him and he listened to this every day,” his daughter said. “If there is an argument in favor of a more urgent investigation, it is to prevent this from happening to more people. It’s not just that he was only 68, it’s that his last three weeks must have been absolute hell.
“If we can prevent this from happening to more people, why don’t we do this?” she added. ” It does not mean anything. “
Rebecca Jones, daughter of Gareth Jones, a retired homeroom teacher who died with Covid on March 1, 2021, said Cummings’ testimony on “the government’s shameful handling of the pandemic only confirms that the public inquiry must start now ”.
“We believe the lockdown came too late and if it was sooner my dad would still be here,” she said. “There were a series of government decisions that led to this suffering. We don’t want other families to suffer from this, which is why we want a public inquiry as soon as possible.
“It is a tragedy what happened to us and so many families and vital lessons must be learned so that this does not happen again. With the uncertainty with the Indian variant, I don’t understand why as a government you wouldn’t do everything in your power to protect people.