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Thursday, December 02, 2021

Government acused of misconduct over pandemic response

The UK Government may think that delayng its own inquiry into the handling of the covid panedemic until next spring will get it off the hook, but it seems that others are not prepared to wait, nor are they wiling to let Ministers forget how badly they have handled this crisis.

The Independent reports that the People’s Covid Inquiry, chaired by Michael Mansfield QC, accused the Government of “misconduct in public office” and gross negligence over the way it dealt with the virus.

They say that the inquiry, which heard evidence from February this year until the summer, concluded that there had been “serious governance failures” at Westminster that contributed to tens of thousands of avoidable deaths. It said the Government had failed to act to protect key populations at increased risk, and recommendations from previous pandemic planning exercises had been ignored.

The inquiry added that consideration should be given to bringing charges of misconduct in public office, given the available evidence of failures and the “serious consequences” for the public:

The Keep Our NHS Public campaign group organised the inquiry in the absence of a formal investigation.

The Government has said it has committed to holding a full public inquiry next spring as there are lessons to be learned.

Accusing the Government of “serious governance failures” in a report published on Wednesday, the People’s Covid Inquiry said: “These contributed to tens of thousands of avoidable deaths and suffering, and they amount to misconduct in public office.”

Its chairman, Michael Mansfield QC, said there had been “dismal failure in the face of manifestly obvious risks”.

He said the probe had identified a “theme of behaviour amounting to gross negligence by the Government, whether examined singularly or collectively”.

He continued: “There were lives lost and lives devastated, which was foreseeable and preventable.

“From lack of preparation and coherent policy, unconscionable delay, through to preferred and wasteful procurement, to ministers themselves breaking the rules, the misconduct is earth-shattering.”

The inquiry heard evidence from a range of witnesses and organisations, including academics, frontline workers and bereaved families.

Other findings include:

- The Government treated bereaved families with disrespect and ignored their questions

- It failed to address the seriousness of the pandemic before the March 2020 lockdown

- Deep social inequality contributed to a more vulnerable population

- Financial support for people needing to isolate was not sufficient to effectively reduce infection spread

- The Government’s delay in issuing advice to healthcare professionals, and advice to the public to rely on NHS 111, contributed to the coronavirus death toll

- There was, and is, a “misplaced over-reliance on vaccines alone”

- Government public health messages were often confused and contradictory

Mr Mansfield said there had been no accountability, and this could not be offset by the success of the vaccine rollout.

Jo Goodman, co-founder of Covid-19 Bereaved Families for Justice group, which contributed to the inquiry, said: “It’s vital that bereaved families are at the heart of the forthcoming inquiry, and listened to at every turn, and this report evidences exactly why.

“The loss of our loved ones should be used to learn lessons and save lives - something the Government should be entirely focused on and dedicated to.”

It will be interested to compaure thesw conclusions with the outcome of the government's official inquiry.
The Scottish government has committed itself to a separate public inquiry, and is currently deciding what form it should take. This must put pressure on our own Welsh government to follow suit.
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