A group of 1,000 people whose relatives have died due to Covid 19 have strongly criticised Boris Johnson and Matt Hancock for failing to meet them or respond to their letter and formal petition for an immediate public inquiry, sent on 11 June.
The group, Covid-19 Bereaved Families for Justice, advised by Pete Weatherby QC, who acted for 22 families at the 2014-16 inquests into the Hillsborough disaster, argued that the government is under a legal duty to hold a public inquiry, principally because most people’s deaths from the virus will not be fully investigated at inquests.
On Monday, the group received a two-line acknowledgement from a Downing Street correspondence officer, which stated: “Your correspondence is receiving attention.”
Jo Goodman, who co-founded the group after her father Stuart, 72, died from the virus on 2 April, said:
“We are deeply disappointed that the government has not accepted our invitation to meet. It has not even had the courtesy to respond to our petition. Once again, grieving families feel forgotten, with the government refusing to accept any degree of responsibility for mistakes that have been made in its response to the pandemic. The government offers condolences to those who have been bereaved, but while it is unwilling to engage with us, it is very difficult to accept its sympathy.”
In their petition, the families argued that there is “a compelling need” for an immediate public inquiry, to learn lessons from the government’s handling of the crisis, and to urgently consider the best measures to improve its response and save more people from dying. Stating that there has been “criticism of the government’s handling of the crisis from all quarters,” the group also argued that when a full public inquiry is held, it must consider key issues including:
- The timing of the UK lockdown on 23 March, which was later than almost all European countries.
- • The state of the government stockpile of personal protective equipment and testing capacity.
- • The response to warnings in the 2017 Exercise Cygnus report that the UK was not adequately prepared for a pandemic.
- • The disproportionately high number of black and minority ethnic people who have died from Covid-19.
- • The transfer of patients from hospitals to care homes.
“The UK has recorded one of the highest Covid-19 death tolls in the world, and yet we have seen very little recognition of the fact that this is a country in mourning,” Goodman said. “As reports came in from Italy, the country was rightly horrified by what it saw, but as similar harrowing scenes have played out in our own country, those of us who have been bereaved feel that our loss has simply been swept under the carpet.”