PM promises families Covid inquiry chairman by Christmas

A Covid-19 inquiry chairman will be appointed by Christmas, Boris Johnson has promised bereaved families.

The Prime Minister made the pledge when he hosted a private meeting with representatives from the Covid-19 Bereaved Families for Justice UK on Tuesday afternoon.

However the event, which lasted for just over an hour, took place more than a year after he promised to meet those bereaved by the pandemic.

Five people were invited to the meeting where they shared how their loved ones caught the virus and died. They said Mr Johnson had told them that there was a "clear role for bereaved families in the inquiry" and they would have an input into who is appointed to chair the investigation.

Mr Johnson also suggested he would support making the National Covid Memorial Wall permanent.

 ‘I listened to their very sad stories of the loss they’ve suffered’

Speaking after the meeting, he said he was determined the families’ experiences would form a major part of a public inquiry into the pandemic.

Mr Johnson said: "It was a very emotional meeting, actually. And I listened to their very sad stories of the loss they’ve suffered in their own lives.

"And obviously, there’s very little I could say to mitigate their own suffering. But what I did say was that we were determined to make sure that the experience of the bereaved was something we took account of in the public inquiry.

"And I also said a bit about how we would set it up and that we would be making sure we had a chair of that inquiry nominated by the end of the year."

In a statement the group said that while they wished the meeting had taken place “a long time ago”, they were pleased the Prime Minister had “chosen to finally engage with us and that he explicitly acknowledged the importance of ensuring that bereaved families are at the heart of learning lessons from the pandemic”.

However, they added that they remained “disappointed by the lack of urgency the Prime Minister displayed as we see no reason why preparations for the inquiry cannot begin now, particularly as nearly 1,000 people are still losing their lives each week”.  

They called on Mr Johnson to follow through on his commitment to appoint a chair and involve families, adding: "We hope that we can accept the Prime Minister’s commitments in good faith and, going forward, that there will be ongoing and meaningful dialogue with bereaved families."

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