TOWhen Dominic Cummings began speaking at the Commons health select committee and science and technology committee joint investigation into the management of Covid-19 on Wednesday, sitting relaxed with his white shirt unbuttoned, he was intrigued. But he couldn’t have anticipated how agonizing the next seven hours would be.
I lost my father in the first wave of the pandemic in April 2020. He fell ill shortly after the first shutdown was announced. He started with a fever, then he coughed, and then he was taken to the hospital.
We waited five hours for the ambulance to arrive. I called 999 three times, each time updating them on my father’s state of disrepair. I sat next to him to teach him to breathe. Normally she would have ignored me, but I saw the desperation in her eyes. Dad let me brush his hair while he slowly breathed in what little oxygen was left in his body.
Finally the ambulance arrived, but was it too late? Should I have called the ambulance earlier? Was the hospital okay to put him on a ventilator so soon? My dad contracted the virus because our government did not close the borders and closed before?
These are just a few of the questions that haunt families like mine every day. And listening to Cummings’ testimony, it became clear that our worst fears were true: my father’s death could have been preventable.
I can’t begin to explain how painful it was to hear claims that, while the virus that would kill my father was spreading across the country, Boris Johnson called it “kung flu” and suggested that he inject himself live on television; hearing that since many of those who would die would contract the virus, the government was discussing “chicken pox parties”, asking “who needs to die” and was determined that the British public would “never accept lockdowns”; to hear that even by March 13, 2020, when my father likely contracted the virus, the government was in utter disarray, with top public officials apparently claiming: “No plan, we are in big trouble. “
There is nothing the government or Cummings can do to bring back my dad, or any of our loved ones. But the least they can do is treat the afflicted with respect and dignity. Wednesday’s show, complete with snippets posted to Twitter beforehand to “build buzz,” was just the opposite.
My family feels the pain of losing my dad every day, and we deserve better than having our trauma treated like political football. This is one of the reasons we need an urgent public investigation: it is now clear that the truth is going to come out one way or another, the question is whether it is done with respect or in pantomime demonstrations like the one we witnessed on Wednesday.
After the death of my father, I joined Covid-19 Bereaved Families for Justice, to support and be supported by other people who have had the same experience. The organization has more than 4,000 members, just some of the relatives of the 152,000 who have died from Covid-19. As fall approached, it was horrible to see more and more families coming together with stories almost identical to ours.
It was not surprising, but very disturbing to hear Cummings’ claims that, as cases increased in the fall, Johnson was as frivolous, nonchalant, and arrogant as ever, even talking about “letting the bodies pile up.”
Families grieving for justice spent last summer campaigning for a quick review so key lessons could be learned before any loss of life in the winter. But the government ignored us, refusing to even meet with us on seven different occasions. As of January, the UK had recorded more than 100,000 deaths.
The best way to ensure that lessons are learned and that no more families are left to experience the pain and pain that mine has is for the investigation to begin immediately and include a rapid review phase. This was used in the Hillsborough and Grenfell investigations and would mean that an interim report would be produced before the end of the year, with key lessons to avoid further loss of life.
The government says that it is too busy for this, but this does not add up when it also says that it has carried out your own review, which will not publish. It seems like he just wants to avoid scrutiny. Why not make the results of your review public? How can you say that this is the best way to protect lives? And how can anything else be your priority?
Since Wednesday, Johnson has responded to calls for an urgent investigation and is sticking to 2022 as the date he will move forward. But we need an investigation now: Families like mine deserve to know what went wrong and not depend on disgruntled former employees to speak up. We all deserve a government that does everything it can to learn lessons and prevent further loss of life. We deserve a consultation.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism