Thursday, June 17

Boris Johnson under fire for delaying public Covid investigation until 2022 | Coronavirus


Boris Johnson has been criticized by experts and grieving families for delaying until spring 2022 the just-announced public inquiry into the government’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic.

Work will now begin to name a chair and other potential panelists, and to develop terms of reference, with some hope that the investigation will be led by a judge. The investigation is likely to begin within a year, Johnson told the Commons.

Experts said it could take three to six months to establish, so it could be up and running long before spring 2022 if desired. Lord Falconer de Labor, who passed the Investigations Act as chancellor, said the government would be confident that the Covid investigation would not be concluded before the next general election, scheduled for 2023.

After the UK had one of the worst Covid death numbers in the world, surpassing 150,000, experts and MPs pushed for an investigation to investigate whether ministers followed scientific advice on shutdowns and other decisions; the level of support provided to disadvantaged groups and frontline workers; contracts for personal protective equipment awarded to those with ties to the government; and the £ 37 billion NHS test-and-trace program run by conservative peer Dido Harding.

You are also likely to explore “prolonged Covid,” in which people suffer apparent aftermath of the disease for weeks or months, including severe fatigue.

Johnson noted that the investigation is unlikely to begin before next spring due to the high probability that Covid cases will increase again in the winter. “We must not inadvertently divert or distract the people we depend on in the heat of our fight against this disease,” he said.

“I think the house will agree that it would be wrong to devote the time of the people who take care of us, who are saving lives, to an investigation before we can be absolutely, much more, sure than we are now that the pandemic is behind us. “

The prime minister said it would be fully independent and would have “the ability to compel the production of all relevant materials and take oral tests in public, under oath.”

A senior World Health Organization (WHO) official criticized the delay, saying that the coronavirus was still “roaring fiercely” in the world, so “if there are lessons to be learned, they should be learned quickly and applied now.” David Nabarro, a special Covid envoy, told the BBC that the start date for the investigation was a bit “distant” and that “people should be doing studies now.”

The start date was called “simply too late” by Covid-19 Bereaved Families for Justice, who said that “lives are at stake with health experts and scientists warning of a third wave later this year.” They added: “A quick review in the summer of 2020 could have saved our loved ones who died in the second wave in winter.”

Professor Sir Lawrence Freedman, who was involved in Chilcot’s research on the Iraq war, said that if the government “felt reasonably certain” by next October that a third wave would not materialize, then it should start “setting things up. moving “quickly. He added that the investigation could also do a lot of groundwork before calling witnesses so that he would be in a better state to formally begin taking evidence next spring.

Falconer, now the shadow attorney general, said Johnson had made up a “totally false excuse” for delaying the start date and that the investigation should “get under way now.” He said that “to be realistic, we are not going to see a report for two years” and that the ministers will be “sure that it will not come out until after the next elections.”

“They need to produce the terms of reference and the opening date as quickly as possible,” he told The Guardian, adding that the investigative panel “would be as aware as anyone” not to want witnesses to be distracted and still need to help. deal with the pandemic. “I would trust the investigation much more than I would trust the government to strike that balance,” he added.

Ben Howlett, a former Conservative MP who now chairs the Public Policy Projects health think tank, said he was “crazy” that the investigation didn’t start until next spring. “I’m surprised at the moment,” he said. “It is clear that there is a great deal of evidence showing that the lessons were not learned after the first wave, in time for the second. That period between both waves shows that the same mistakes were repeated, unfortunately causing loss of life as a result.

“We are in a period of almost zero cases of Covid in some parts of the country. As soon as the country is operational again and is open from mid-June, the investigation should begin during the summer. So I have no idea why spring will start next year. “

Stephen Dorrell, a former Conservative health secretary who switched to the Liberal Democrats, said Johnson’s announcement was “a commitment by the government not to allow the lessons of its handling from earlier stages to be applied during the later stages of the pandemic. ”.

He said an investigation was already pending, adding: “It is not about writing the history of what happened, it is about learning lessons about what may happen in the future.

“Next winter there will be questions about the variants: what is the correct political response in terms of travel restrictions, what quarantine arrangements work more than others? These are the kinds of questions an investigation could very well be looking at now, before next winter. “

Layla Moran, a Democratic MP who chairs the all-party parliamentary group on Covid, said there was “no time to waste” adding that delaying the investigation “would only prolong the pain that grieving families feel and means the vital lessons they will not be learned. “

Johnson was also pressured in parliament to confirm that the investigation would investigate long-term Covid cases and the treatment available to patients who have it, and said that while it would be up to the president of the investigation, he doubted this would be excluded.


www.theguardian.com

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