Image shows a photograph of a COVID-19 cell
Image shows a photograph of a COVID-19 cell

The human cost of COVID-19 has been appalling.  My thoughts are with all those families in my constituency and across the country who have lost loved ones to this terrible virus.  Those families deserve answers to the decisions made by the Government and to the wider questions of preparedness and resilience.  I have long supported calls for a full public and independent inquiry, which I believe should begin as soon as possible.

Whilst I recognise that the pandemic has been a significant challenge for the Government, I do not believe that its severity was inevitable.  Ministers were too slow to lock down last year and, on too many occasions, the scientific advice has been ignored.

A cross-party parliamentary report published in October concluded that the Government’s initial response to the pandemic was “one of the most important public health failures the United Kingdom has ever experienced”.  It found that a “deliberate policy” to take a slow and gradualist approach to COVID-19 early on led to a higher initial death toll., and a longstanding failure to prioritise social care led to many thousands of avoidable deaths.

Grieving families will understandably question whether their loved ones died needlessly.  Lessons must be learned to ensure such mistakes never happen again.  Whilst the Government has committed to establishing a full public inquiry, this is not expected to begin until spring next year.  I do not believe this is good enough.

Ministers say that they are following the science, yet in my view this rhetoric does not hold up to scrutiny.  There are things that the Government could be doing now but aren’t, which is why I support an immediate public inquiry, to learn lessons so mistakes are not repeated.

As we head into winter, COVID-19 cases remain high, many people are unvaccinated, and the NHS is working hard to recover.  We must continue efforts to break transmission chains and shut down opportunities for the virus to replicate.  We must get ahead of the virus by strengthening the vaccination programme, ensuring proper sick pay and isolation support, reversing cuts to public health, and investing in better ventilation systems for businesses, public spaces and schools.

I can assure you that I will continue to support calls for a public inquiry to begin as soon as possible.

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