Bereaved coronavirus families call for public inquiry into government's handling of Covid-19 pandemic

The group is made up of more than 450 relatives of those who have died because of the virus. Credit: Family stills
  • By ITV News Reporter Fred Dimbleby

A group of bereaved relatives have written to the government to call for an immediate public inquiry into the handling of the coronavirus pandemic.

Covid-19 Bereaved Families for Justice UK is made up of more than 450 relatives of those who have died because of the virus.

They say that “it has become tragically clear that fatal mistakes have been made by the government in its handling of the pandemic".

The letter, addressed to Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Health Secretary Matt Hancock, comes after former scientific advisor to the government, Professor Neil Ferguson, said on Wednesday that locking down a week earlier would have reduced deaths by half in the UK.

The number of deaths in the UK from the virus passed 40,000 earlier this month.

The families are calling for the inquiry after they lost relatives to the virus Credit: Family stills

The group’s petition to the government focuses on "legitimate public concern" over a number of issues including the timing of the lockdown, the provision of PPE to the NHS and care home sector, and the impact of the virus on ethnic minority communities.

The letter also refers to criticism of the government from the public, scientists and other authorities.

The group say that the inquiry needs to be immediate to learn from mistakes in preparation for a potential second wave.

The group is made up over around 450 bereaved relatives Credit: Family stills

They say in the letter: “The government is going to have to make many decisions in the coming months.

“The current system for enabling those decisions, based on weak and unreliable data, coupled with the confusion among the public when those decisions are communicated, is fraught with danger.”

The request for an inquiry also draws on some of the stories of those who have died.

They raise issues about the transfer of patients from hospitals to care homes before widespread testing began, exposure to the virus in hospital, and concerns about the protection of key workers.

The group say the inquiry needs to happen immediately in case of a second wave Credit: Family stills

The group was founded by Matt Fowler and Jo Goodman, both of whom lost relatives to the virus.

Jo's dad Stuart developed the virus after going to hospital for chemotherapy treatment in late March.

He died on April 2.

A week later, a letter arrived at his house advising him to shield from the virus.

Matt Fowler’s dad, Ian, died aged 56 after he was taken into hospital on the day lockdown was announced with coronavirus symptoms.

Mr Fowler described his dad as “the life and soul of literally every party, even the ones that he wasn’t invited to.

"He lived life loud.

“It’s like having the linchpin of your whole life taken away because it didn’t matter what you were doing, or who you were, or where you were.

"He was always a big part of it.

“We always joked that we couldn’t take him anywhere because he knew everybody.”

Matt Fowler said his dad was the Credit: Matt Fowler

Mr Fowler said that despite social distancing measures forcing the family to change their funeral plans, over 300 people lined the streets to say goodbye to his father.

Ian developed Covid-19 symptoms before the lockdown began.

He believes "lockdown came far too late" and if it had been brought in earlier it would have "saved his life".

Liverpool law firm Broudie Jackson Canter are helping the group with their call for an inquiry.

Elkan Abrahamson, the Head of Major Inquiries at the firm, said: “A public inquiry is inevitable and essential.

"I support the group’s call for an immediate limited phase to that inquiry to prevent further deaths.”

A government spokesperson said: "At some point in the future there will be an opportunity for us to look back, to reflect and to learn some profound lessons.

"But at the moment, the most important thing to do is to focus on responding to the current situation."