Boris Johnson has been criticised for refusing to meet Covid-19 Bereaved Families for Justice UK, a group made up of 1,600 families bereaved by coronavirus. His claim that the group is in litigation against the government was dismissed by members who said they had yet to start legal action.
Here, five people who have lost loved ones to the virus explain why they want to meet Johnson – and what they would say.
Daughter of Sylvia Griffiths, 76, who died in a care home in Sunderland on 16 April
“We want to meet Boris Johnson so we can tell him about our experiences of where we felt things went wrong. I would first ask why why he hadn’t met with us previously so we could have looked at having a rapid review, so that the government could have learned from the mistakes. Why do you keep ignoring us?
“And now he has just been in the House of Commons saying that he won’t meet us because we’re taking them through litigation. Well, if you meet with us, it doesn’t need to go to court. We wrote to Boris back in early June asking him to meet us with our concerns.
“We don’t want to go through that process, we’re bereaved families. The last thing I want to be doing is standing talking to the media, because I want to grieve for my mom, and I don’t want other people to have to go through this at a later date as well.
“And especially in my mom’s case in a care home, I thought she was safe when she was in there, I thought she would be protected.
“The first time I saw my mom after she fell ill was when I saw her in the coffin going to the crematorium. I couldn’t visit her when she was ill … In April my mother died and it keeps rehashing again and again. It was so hard to grieve during lockdown and I would hate for anyone to go through this.”
Daughter of Ranjith Chandrapala, 64, who drove the No 92 bus route in Ealing, London, and who died on 3 May
“We think it’s important that he listens to us and hears the experiences of families like us who’ve been bereaved of people who died of Covid-19. We can give great insight into how our loved ones died and shed light on systematic policy failings. In my case, Dad died on the frontline. He was a bus driver, and the government said that transport was an essential role, so Dad kept working and driving his London bus and it turned out that Dad’s working condition was not safe and he died on 3 May.
“If there is a second spike, we need to know other bus drivers will be kept safe. How are they going to learn the mistakes of the pandemic if they don’t tap into the wealth of information that we have as family members. We also want Boris Johnson to agree to a public inquiry and want to know why the assurance scheme hasn’t been extended to transport workers. Dad was on the frontline transporting NHS workers and patients to Ealing hospital on his bus route.
“It’s been devastating. We’ve not had any support from the government as bereaved families. We’ve received knockbacks and this is a time for us to be grieving, but instead of grieving we are having to hold the government to account.
“The day Dad died was the worst day of my life. I was desperate when he was in the ICU and on a ventilator. I don’t think people realise how agonising it is not knowing if your dad is going to survive.”
Daughter of Larry Foster, 65, from Romford, Essex, who died on 1 April
My dad called for an ambulance a week before his passing, asking for help, and although the paramedics came, they did not take him to hospital as he should have been. The paramedics thought it was a chest infection. His symptoms worsened over the next week and the paramedics were called again. This time my dad was taken straight to the ICU and was put on a ventilator. I received a call from a nurse two days later to tell me my dad had died.
“I would like to ask Boris Johnson why paramedics were instructed to tell people that if they showed signs of the virus, to stay home? I feel my dad could have been saved if he was treated at a hospital and not left to die at home.
“I would like to tell my story to him so that he can learn not to make the same mistake again if we have a similar situation happening and to make sure there are things in place for people who call an ambulance and actually get taken in to be treated.
“I also believe that both my dad and mum (who also had Covid 19 but luckily survived) would not have been subject to the virus had lockdown happened sooner. They were both out celebrating my dad’s birthday a week before lockdown, and a lot of heartache could have been saved for our family had precautions been put in place with immediate effect.
“I want Boris to know that there are real families behind the numbers.”
Daughter of Caroline Walters, 64, from Meriden, Solihull, who died on 7 April
“I think it’s so wrong that Boris Johnson, as the prime minister of the UK, cannot meet up with the bereaved. In the letter (to our group), he’s compared him experiencing Covid-19 to what we’ve experienced, but there’s no comparison. It’s just frustrating because I can’t believe he has gone back on his word.
“Each number that they keep referring to is a loved one, and they’ve all got different stories to tell. The group have pushed and pushed for months now and they all want the same thing. They want questions answered and they want to prevent what’s coming – the second wave. It was Professor [Neil] Ferguson who said that had the lockdown come sooner, 20,000 deaths would have been prevented. Obviously, I’m going to question whether that could have been my mum.
“I would tell him that when my mum died, I couldn’t go and say goodbye. I couldn’t even see her at the chapel of rest because of coronavirus. The next time I’d seen her was at the coffin in the crematorium. I couldn’t hug my aunt, my brother, you’re just on your own. I want him to meet up with us and show empathy to all of the relatives.”
Wife of Julie Taylor-Broadbent, 49, from Hull, who died in hospital on 8 May
“As soon as Julie passed away, I promised her that I would speak to the person who had the answers. And that is him, Boris Johnson, the head of the government. It’s his government, his policies that have led us to the situation where we are.
“I think his advice has been more economically driven than it has been about people. The way I see it is that to him Julie was worthless against the economy. He has put money and the economy before people. He and ministers have so much to answer for – the backtracking they’ve done, the advice they have given, and the promises they’ve made to us.
“I’m not one of these who say that all these people would be saved, I’m not saying Julie would be saved, but there is a possibility that she could have been. When she was in the hospital, I just dreaded the phone ringing. I got a call at 9 o’clock and was told to get to the hospital as soon as possible because Julie didn’t have long left. I went to the hospital and saw Julie. She couldn’t speak to me at the time, she was on the mask, but she could squeeze my hand. I spent about 40 minutes with her just telling her how much I loved her.
“It’s there with you constantly, it’s in your mind constantly, you picture it constantly. Was this something you missed? Did you do something wrong.
“We don’t just want sympathy, we want to know why our loved ones died.”
Source: The Guardian