Bereaved families criticise government's response to Covid inquiry calls

Prime Minister Boris Johnson

Prime minister Boris Johnson has denied saying “bodies piled high in their thousands” than order a third lockdown. - Credit: PA

Bereaved Norfolk families have hit out at an alleged remark by Boris Johnson and the government's response to calls for an urgent inquiry into the handling of the pandemic.

A group of families who have lost loved ones to Covid-19 say they are "really disappointed" after the government said it has “no capacity” at present to launch a public inquiry.

In a letter sent to thousands of affected families, Downing Street said "an inquiry now is not appropriate".

It comes amid claims that Mr Johnson said he would rather see “bodies piled high in their thousands” than order a third lockdown, an accusation which the Prime Minister has branded as "total rubbish" and which No 10 denied.

Last Friday marked the first anniversary of the passing of the father-in-law of Susan Gothard, from Hingham, near Wymondham.

Susan Gothard playing the bagpipes every Thursday in memory of her father-in-law, Brian Gothard, at her home in Hingham.

Susan Gothard playing the bagpipes every Thursday in memory of her father-in-law, Brian Gothard, at her home in Hingham. - Credit: Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

In his memory she has played the bagpipes every Thursday and performed on Friday to mark the anniversary of the death of Brian Gothard, from Wymondham, who died at the age of 86


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Responding to the PM’s alleged comment, the former headteacher said: "If he did say that it's unbelievable and deplorable.

"Everyone who has lost someone is going to be upset and angry. I cannot understand why he would make such a comment.

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"It definitely needs to be looked into if it was said or is it some political game people are playing.”

Brian Gothard, from Wymondham, who died aged 86 on April 23, 2020, from coronavirus.

Brian Gothard, from Wymondham, who died aged 86 on April 23, 2020, from coronavirus. - Credit: Debbie Gothard

She said she had put faith in Mr Johnson and his government in what she felt had been the most difficult period since war time - but even if such comments were made even in jest it was not funny.

"If this is true, he has to go. You cannot have someone like that running the country even if it was said in jest. It's not funny."

The Covid-19 Bereaved Families for Justice UK group has been lobbying Boris Johnson since last summer to meet them and to launch an urgent independent investigation.

They have been told that the Government is “focused entirely” on responding to the pandemic, in particular on the vaccination rollout and preparations for a third wave.

Stuart Goodman who died with Covid aged 72.

Stuart Goodman who died with Covid aged 72. - Credit: Submitted

The letter, sent on April 1, says the Government’s response is at a “critical phase” and all efforts are focused on this “monumental challenge”.

It adds that the Prime Minister “has already made clear that there will be an independent inquiry at the appropriate time, which is not now”.

Jo Goodman with her father Stuart who died with Covid last April.

Jo Goodman with her father Stuart who died with Covid last April. - Credit: Submitted

Norwich campaigner Jo Goodman, co-founder of the group, whose father Stuart Goodman, a well known photographer, died aged 72, said the lack of urgent inquiry was "really, really disappointing".

She added: “How long will grieving families be left without answers, without assurance that the mistakes that led to our loved ones’ deaths are not repeated?

Jo Goodman talking to The Archbishop of Canterbury at the National Covid Memorial Wall in London.

Jo Goodman talking to The Archbishop of Canterbury at the National Covid Memorial Wall in London. - Credit: PA

“We are still living through the pandemic – procrastination is not only an insult to the bereaved, it also prevents the Government from protecting future lives to the best of their ability.”
 

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