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FAMILIES of Covid-19 victims warned that the “devil will be in the detail” of an independent public inquiry into the handling of the pandemic announced by the Prime Minister today.
Boris Johnson told MPs that the inquiry will begin in spring next year and will place “the state’s actions under the microscope,” but campaigners criticised the delay.
Bereaved Families for Justice group co-founder Jo Goodman, who lost her father Stuart, said it was a “huge relief” that the PM had heard their calls.
She said: “Any inquiry must involve bereaved families from the start. Whilst we welcome the Prime Minister’s assurances that bereaved families will be consulted on this, the devil will be in the detail.”
Ms Goodman said that spring 2022 is too late, adding: “It sounds like common sense when the Prime Minister says that an inquiry can wait until the pandemic is over, but lives are at stake with health experts and scientists warning of a third wave later this year.
“A rapid review in summer 2020 could have saved our loved ones who died in the second wave in winter.”
Royal College of Nursing acting general secretary Pat Cullen agreed that the wait is too long and said that nurses’ voice must be represented in the inquiry.
Dr John Puntis of Keep Our NHS Public, which led a People's Covid Inquiry in the absence of an official probe, said: “With 150,000 bodies piled high, it is absolutely necessary that lessons are learnt and, where errors have been made, that those responsible are held to account.
“Starting to set up in a year’s time, collecting evidence and producing a report means conclusions will not be available until after the next election.
“It is clear that lessons related to test and trace, isolation, quality of face masks and aerosol spread of virus resulting in workplace transmission have not yet been learnt. There is therefore no time to lose if further unnecessary deaths are to be prevented.”
Downing Street indicated that Mr Johnson would be willing to give evidence under oath if asked to do so, with the PM’s official spokesman saying that he “will conform to what is required for the inquiry.”
No 10 also defended the timescale, stating that “these sorts of inquiries do require a great deal of government time with officials who are currently working on our Covid response.”
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