People’s Covid Inquiry: ‘The pandemic has uncovered a government unfit for purpose’

The inquiry has criticised the government's delay in taking action against the spread of Covid-19 and cuts to the NHS.

The People’s Covid Inquiry has declared the government “unfit for purpose” over their handling of the coronavirus pandemic.

In a report of their interim findings released on Wednesday, the inquiry discussed government failures in areas such as public health policy, NHS capacity and morale and the health of the economy.

They also reiterated the need to have a public inquiry into the government’s response to the pandemic immediately.

People’s Covid Inquiry lead Michael Mansfield QC said: “For four months we have been hearing from the bereaved and from leading world experts. We have got on with the job the Prime Minister has declined and which he has no real intention of carrying out. 

“The pandemic has uncovered a government unfit for purpose and at the same time a democratic deficiency in which there is no accountability, even when caught on camera, until shamed by public demand.”

Criticisms of the public health policy in the report included failure to heed public health principles and failure to trust the public.

The report also highlighted the government’s delay in taking the situation seriously caused by a failure in leadership and said the resulting timings of lockdowns and failure to put in place travel restrictions and quarantine contributed significantly to accelerating the spread of Covid.

It said: “There has been an inconsistent, ill-prepared, and miscommunicated policy of measures to counter the pandemic.

“The deaths of 150,000 people, most of whom died needlessly, have been the result of incompetence, and disrespect and arrogance prevented the government from meeting bereaved families.”

They recommend that established public health measures, supported by the WHO and known to be effective in lowering everyday risks, be urgently implemented in the UK.

These include an effective test and trace service with economic support for people in isolation and quarantine and strict border measures for infection-control purposes.

The panel is also calling for the UK to ensure distribution of vaccines across the globe by supporting the transfer of technology transfer and backing an intellectual property waiver.

The inquiry also heard how government cuts over the last decade to the NHS, primary care, social care, and public health, led to a crippled health and social care system that cannot handle the workload of normal times, let alone a pandemic. 

Staff morale is reportedly in decline with many exhausted staff leaving or waiting for the chance to do so. 

The inquiry has called for more funding to the NHS to restore and grow their capacity and improve morale among staff.

The People’s Covid Inquiry was called by campaign group Keep Our NHS Public to learn from the mistakes of the pandemic and apply them to the ongoing situation.

The panel consists of Professor Neena Modi, Dr Tolullah Oni, Dr Jacky Davis and Lorna Hackett, barrister and Counsel to the Inquiry.

Alexandra Warren is a freelance journalist.

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