Cummings’ revelations show why we need a public inquiry sooner rather than later, Independent SAGE expert says

'The key question of why the U.K. has one of the highest death rates in the world from Covid-19 can only be answered during a public inquiry'

Dominic Cummings’ bombshell revelations about the government’s handling of the Covid-19 pandemic show why we need a public inquiry into the matter as soon as possible, a member of Independent SAGE has said.

Professor Stephen Reicher, who is a member of the group of scientists who provide independent advice to the government on the Covid-19 crisis, said that although the appearance of Boris Johnson’s former top adviser before the Commons Health and Social Care and Science and Technology committees was useful in confirming what we already know, primarily that the government had no real plan to deal with the pandemic, questions still remained unanswered.

The key question of why the U.K. has one of the highest death rates in the world from Covid-19 can only be answered during a public inquiry where officials give testimony and evidence under oath, Professor Reicher said.

He told LFF: “The issue isn’t whether we got it wrong we got it disastrously wrong, we have the worst death rate in the world and the only question is why and getting to the bottom of that.”

During an extraordinary seven-hour attack on Boris Johnson, Cummings revealed that thousands of people had died needlessly as a result of the government’s mistakes and that Boris Johnson was ‘unfit’ for the job of prime minister. He also claimed that the prime minister had repeatedly delayed lockdowns and ignored scientific advice.

While giving evidence he also said that health secretary Matt Hancock should have been fired for lying, a claim denied by Hancock.

Cummings said: “Hancock told us in the Cabinet Room that people were going to be tested before they went back to care homes… We only subsequently found out that that hadn’t happened.”

Professor Reicher said we couldn’t know the specifics of who said what following Cummings’ claims, given that ‘they’ve all got form for lying’.

He said: “We are desperate to find out what went wrong and find out why people died needlessly so that they don’t need to die needlessly again.

“Instead of relying on Cummings, a bitter man dealing out his revenge, this should’ve been a public inquiry.

“We should have had a situation where you have people who are being cross examined under oath rather than being able to make all sorts of allegations under privilege and similarly when Hancock responds it will be in parliament under parliamentary privilege so we won’t be able to get to the truth.

“If anything, what Cummings shows is the immense appetite there is to find out what went wrong both from families who lost loved ones but also from the wider community, there’s a deep appetite to make sure that we don’t repeat those mistakes.”

Basit Mahmood is co-editor of Left Foot Forward

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