Britain’s Covid inquiry has become a political farce


British coronavirus inquiries People who have lost loved ones in the pandemic should be shut down. Instead, it turned into a political circus that could hurt Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak.

The investigation, which began taking evidence on Tuesday, has been under fire for weeks a series of quarrels between The current Prime Minister Sunak and Johnson, who resigned in disgrace last summer.

The first such spat was directly related to the investigation. Sunak and his government are legally challenging the right of investigative agencies to demand personal information from people directly involved in decision-making during the pandemic. This means any kind of private WhatsApp messages to private diary.

The government said it wanted to prevent this because it could set a precedent that irrelevant information could find its way into the public domain, which could adversely affect the way people communicate to make decisions during a crisis.

Johnson has weakened Sunak by handing over his own information directly to the investigation team.

Deborah Doyle, spokeswoman for Family Justice for Covid-19 Victims, said of the government’s legal action: “The Cabinet Office is spending hundreds of thousands of pounds of taxpayer money prosecuting its inability to obtain key evidence. The public investigation is absolutely nasty…the contempt they show for ordinary people is exactly the same disastrous as the pandemic first hit.”

Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak have led the UK through much of the pandemic.

A second, potentially more explosive spat distracted the inquiry, over a parliamentary committee looking into whether Johnson deliberately misled lawmakers during the pandemic when he said all existing rules were being followed.

It was the committee’s investigation into the infamous Partygate scandal which saw Johnson fined by police for breaching Covid rules. Sunak was also fined for the same incident.

Johnson initially told parliament that all rules were being respected at all times. Even if this is not the case, Johnson insists he did not deliberately mislead parliament. The committee disagreed, recommending this week that Johnson be suspended from parliament for 90 days and not allowed to return to the building, to which former MPs were entitled.

Johnson, who saw the report before it was published, resigned from parliament and went on to accuse the committee of being politically motivated. He still protests his innocence and called the committee “contemptuous”.

While Johnson has ostensibly resigned over the committee’s report, Johnson is expected to resign after Sunak rebuffed some of the people he wanted to promote to the U.K. House of Lords, the upper house of parliament. Allies of Sunak believe that Johnson is just trying to give the prime minister a headache. Johnson’s office denies this.

Of course, all this drama has brought little comfort to those who have lost loved ones to Covid 19.

“Families of the dead want the government to learn its lesson so it can save lives in the future. All these attempts at saving face are frankly appalling,” Jack Rogers, also of the Covid-19 Bereaved Families for Justice campaign, told CNN.

Both Johnson and Sunak denied they were trying to save face. But the investigation does have the potential to do great damage to both of them in the public eye.

Christina Pagel, of UCL’s Clinical Operations Research Unit, thinks the inquiry will likely focus unabashedly on what happened after the first wave of Covid-19 hit the UK.

“We’ve learned a lot about how the disease spreads since the summer of 2020, but governments haven’t been able to use the summer, or the time during the lockdown, to introduce better protective measures, such as cleaner air indoors or increased quarantine measures. support.”

The rules in the UK at the time were changed according to local infection rates. In this case, people can meet indoors in groups of six. Around this time, Sunak launched his Eating Out to Help scheme, which would subsidize eating out to boost the hospitality industry.

Leading scientists claim the plan, which has not been backed by experts, is expected to be the focus of an investigation into whether encouraging such mixing led to further spread of the virus.

Pagel also singled out the way procurement contracts were handed over to people who were later found to have ties to the Conservative Party. The government implemented a fast-track program to secure personal protective equipment, which has since come under scrutiny and led to allegations of cronyism.

“It’s one thing to act fast in a crisis; it’s another to give your friend a lot of money even though they don’t know what they’re doing. There are plenty of other very qualified people willing to provide PPE,” she says.

The government argued that at the time it was simply trying to avoid running out of PPE and doing everything possible to keep it safe.

CNN spoke to multiple people who have worked in government during the pandemic about their concerns about the investigation. Most worry about what the unvarnished transcript of conversations – cabinet ministers’ arguments and big shots’ outbursts – will look like in the public eye. Others worry that the true level of chaos inside Downing Street, especially at the start of the pandemic, will cause embarrassment for all involved, not just those in charge.

A senior administration official at the time described how the team deliberately kept their work away from Johnson, whom they said was often erratic and would hinder their work. This includes setting up workspaces in different buildings.

Ultimately, the investigation inevitably brought fresh scrutiny to the man who was leading the country at the time. And it’s likely that many of the results will be embarrassing. Of course, this somewhat diminishes the human tragedy at the center of this story.

Boris Johnson visits a hospital during the 2021 pandemic. The investigation could embarrass the former prime minister.

Lorelei King lost her husband early in the pandemic. She watched the investigation unfold with some concern.

“They refuse to call anyone bereaved to give direct testimony. We’ve presented 20 potential witnesses. It’s not about talking about our experiences, it’s about providing relevant evidence,” she told CNN.

“On the first day, the inquest played a film about the impact of the virus on the deceased’s loved ones. Baroness Hallett, who is leading the inquiry, said she learned something new from the film. That’s it, (new evidence) from Personal direct testimony.”

Kim told CNN that the nursing home where she lives with her husband, who has Alzheimer’s disease, agreed to end in-person visits before the government’s lockdown.

One day, she noticed her husband’s breathing was abnormal during a video call. “He died a few days later. I saw his body briefly, and then men in hazmat suits came and took him away.”

For King, the political drama that has recently dominated the conversation around Covid in the UK has made the grieving process that much harder.

“Every time there’s a story about parties, about people breaking the rules, about how they want to handle the investigation, the scab is ripped off. It’s certainly taken the focus away from the human cost. I think bereaved people There’s a special insight to people who don’t understand why we can’t move on or say, ‘Oh hell, it’s just a birthday cake,’ and I can only assume they haven’t lost anyone to Covid.”

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