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UK Covid inquiry

Murtaza Jaffer
Press TV, London

In the UK, there is light at the end of the Covid tunnel. The vaccine roll out has been a success with plans to have the entire population immunized by the end of the year. While lockdown restrictions are slowly being lifted, calls for a public inquiry are getting louder. How will the Prime Minister react? 

The Covid death toll in the UK has now crossed 126,000 people, unimaginable a year ago as the country went into its first lockdown. 

Early on Prime minister Boris Johnson did suggest a herd immunity strategy, where the virus would be allowed to spread through the population. Where we take it on the chin. He also said many more families would lose loved ones. Still no one could have predicted the sheer scale of mortality. 

In fact the early messaging downplayed the seriousness of the virus. Johnson famously boasted shaking hands with Covid patients whilst missing urgent cobra meetings. Public events were allowed to continue, ministers and advisors breaking lockdown restrictions were given nothing more than a slap on the wrist.

Elderly patients with symptoms were sent back into care homes - a decision that led to thousands of deaths. Airports were left open with flights coming in from China and Italy, testing was delayed, policies like eat out to help out favored the economy over the threat of infections and the list goes on. Scandals over PPE and cronyism shone more light on the government’s priorities, all while infections ran rampant and people lost their loved ones. 

A year on and the Prime Minister has admitted he would have done things differently. Calls for accountability are getting louder. Many families are beginning legal action to force a public inquiry.

Campaigners have slammed the government’s response. An inquiry as soon as it's the right time to do so - when it isn’t a diversion for officials, for many this sounds like obfuscation - an attempt to kick the inquiry into the long grass, to delay it as long as possible.

Prof. Neil Ferguson, epidemiologist from Imperial College London who advised the government before the first lockdown, has called for an immediate inquiry. He warns that any delay will risk people’s concerns moving on.

A public inquiry will take place but for Johnson and the ruling conservative party, one eye will be on the 2024 election - timing any Covid investigation will have to fit the Party’s political priorities. Balancing that act will likely determine the next prime minister. 

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