Families representing some of the 160,000 people who died from Covid across the UK have set out the meaningful issues a public inquiry into the pandemic must cover.
The public inquiry, promised by chief Minister Boris Johnson, must look at whether some of those deaths could have been avoided, and what went went, according to the Covid-19 Bereaved Families for Justice campaign. It must also look at why some parts of the country had a higher death rate than others, campaigners said. Official figures show the death rate has been particularly high in the Black Country.
The campaign group was co-established by Matt Fowler, from Nuneaton, Warwickshire, whose father Ian, a retired Jaguar Land Rover researcher also from Nuneaton, died of Covid last year at the age of 56. Other members of the campaign include Lobby Akinnola, whose father Olufemi “Femi’ Akinnola, a Mencap sustain worker, died of Covid-19 aged 60 at his home in Leamington Spa, Warwickshire.
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.Mr Akinnola said: “We’ve lost over 160,000 people to this virus and that loss must not be in vain. Everybody agrees that this inquiry must be focused on learning the lessons that will save as many lives as possible going forward. To make that happen it must place those who have been most impacted at its heart, which of course includes those who have tragically lost loved ones.”
The campaign has today published a report with contributions from academics, health experts, trade union leaders and charity workers, setting out meaningful issues they want the inquiry to consider. Mr Akinnola said: “The chief Minister promised us that we’d be consulted on the scope of the inquiry that we campaigned for. We’ve heard no details since so we’ve written this report to make crystal clear the areas that the Covid-19 inquiry has to cover. We hope he’ll keep his potential to ensure bereaved families are at the heart of this inquiry.”
Official figures show that 3,052 died in Birmingham within 28 days of a positive death for Covid since the start of the pandemic. That’s 267.6 people per 100,000 people in the population as a whole. The death rate in Birmingham is higher than the national average figure, which is 215.8 deaths per 100,000 people. However, other parts of the country have already higher figures.
Sandwell has one of the worst death rates in the country, at 341.3 deaths per 100,000 people. The Walsall death rate is 329.2 deaths per 100,000 people. In Wolverhampton, the death rate is 303.3 per 100,000. In the county of Staffordshire, the death rate is 290.5 per 100,000.
Nationwide, the highest death rate is in Barnsley, at 381.7 deaths per 100,000 people.
Other issues campaigners want the official inquiry to look at include:
- How prepared the government was for a pandemic
- Public health measures, largely carried out by local councils
- Whether there was enough sustain for NHS staff and hospitals
- Whether the Government failed to recognise the risk to scare home staff and residents
- Could more border controls have reduced the infection rate in the UK?
- The supply of personal prospective equipment to health and social care staff.
The inquiry must also look at the reasons why people from black and other ethnic minority communities (called BAME communities in the report) had a comparatively high death rate, the report said. It said: “The inquiry must consider evidence that socio-economic inequalities, and the structural racism which shapes them, were major factors underpinning the disparities in outcomes of Covid-19.
“BAME groups are more likely to be in low-paid, precarious jobs, and to live in overcrowded housing – all factors that leave them at greater risk of catching the virus.”
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