COVID-19: Wait for public inquiry ‘hard to take’, says campaigner who lost father to virus

The fact that the independent public inquiry into the government’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic will not begin until spring next year is “hard to take”, a campaigner who lost her father to the virus has told Sky News.

Jo Goodman, co-founder of COVID-19 Bereaved Families for Justice UK, welcomed Boris Johnson’s announcement to MPs in the Commons on Wednesday.

But she criticised the proposed spring 2022 start date as “really disappointing” and said lessons need to be learnt now.

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“We don’t want to see more lives lost because we’re not learning lessons,” she said.

“We understand the full length of an inquiry will take probably a number of years. But we also believe it needs to happen.

“There’s no reason to delay kicking off an inquiry so that process can begin.

“We can’t see how anything can be more urgent when we have a roadmap for other restrictions being lifted.

“In just over a month we’re told that all restrictions will be lifted, but at the same time we’re told that the inquiry won’t be able to happen until next year.

“It’s quite hard to take for families that have spent a full year calling for this inquiry to happen, with a focus on saving lives so that other people don’t have to go through this.

“It’s a really, really horrendous way to lose someone when you know that it could have been preventable.

“For people who are losing people now or who lose people in the future, knowing that the opportunities to learn those lessons haven’t been taken until after the fact, it’s very hard to take.”

Addressing the Commons, the prime minister said the inquiry will be able to take oral evidence under oath and put “the state’s actions under the microscope”.

The PM said that “amid such tragedy the state has an obligation to examine its actions as rigorously and as candidly as possible” and “learn every lesson for the future”.

Given the potential threat of new COVID variants and the possibility of a winter surge, Mr Johnson said he expected the “right moment” for the inquiry to begin is spring 2022.

“This inquiry must be able to look at the events of the last year in the cold light of day and identify the key issues that will make a difference for the future,” he said.

“Free to scrutinise every document to hear from all the key players and analyse and learn from the breadth of our response.

“That’s the right way, I think, to get the answers that the people of this country deserve and to ensure that our United Kingdom is better prepared for any future pandemic.”

Downing Street has declined to say whether the inquiry will report back before the next general election, which is due in 2024.

Number 10 has also said Mr Johnson will be willing to give evidence under oath if asked.

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