Covid inquiry: Bereaved families demand government accountability

Lobby Akkinola has experienced a range of emotions since his father Femi’s death in April 2020 due to Covid-19. The 60-year-old key worker’s passing left Lobby searching for answers and questioning why his father was left vulnerable to the virus. This led him to join thousands of other bereaved families in demanding a public inquiry into the handling of the pandemic.

“We fought to get the government to set up the Covid inquiry and we did so because we know that to save lives in the future we need to learn lessons from mistakes in the handling of the pandemic,” Lobby said. He hopes the inquiry will hold the government accountable and provide recommendations to change how public health crises are managed in the future.

The COVID inquiry, chaired by retired judge Lady Heather Hallett, will be one of the most important public inquiries in history, with over 226,000 people having died from the virus in the UK alone. The inquiry will examine a wide range of topics, from health and social care to lockdowns, testing, and vaccine distribution.

Although the inquiry will feature testimonies from bereaved families, the Covid-19 Bereaved Families for Justice group, representing around 6,000 relatives, was disappointed when their request for in-person testimonies was denied due to logistical reasons. Instead, family members will be included through an online portal called Every Story Matters. Lobby hopes this decision will be reconsidered.

The inquiry is set to run until summer 2026 and will be divided into separate modules, each covering a specific area. The first module will focus on the country’s “resilience and preparedness,” while the second module, “core UK decision-making and political governance,” will examine choices made by then-Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s government.

Lady Hallett and her team of lawyers, led by Hugo Keith KC, will have the advantage of examining contemporaneous evidence and material presented to the inquiry. However, the inquiry’s early days have been overshadowed by the government’s attempt to block Lady Hallett from accessing WhatsApp messages and notes shared on Google Spaces by Boris Johnson and his decision-makers. The government is seeking a judicial review, arguing that not all the information is Covid-related.

Legal experts believe the government is unlikely to succeed in blocking access, which would be an important early victory for the inquiry and its chair. Transparency will be crucial in helping the inquiry achieve its ultimate objective of uncovering the truth and ensuring the country is better prepared for future pandemics.

World News

Jamie Cartwright

Jamie is a keen traveler, writer, and (English) teacher. A few years after finishing school in the East Mids, UK, he went traveling around South America and Asia. Several teaching and writing jobs, he found himself at The Thaiger where he mostly covers international news and events.

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