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Lobby Akinnola’s stomach churned when he watched Dominic Cummings give evidence to parliament on Wednesday. Last April his father, Olufemi, a 60-year-old care worker from Leamington Spa, died from Covid having had to improvise his own PPE while working in the community.
Hearing Cummings talk about that time was “a trauma” and “hard to watch”. Among the claims made by the prime minister’s former adviser was that even as the pandemic took hold in Britain health officials still planned to take months shipping in PPE.
And while some of what the prime minister’s former adviser said felt like a “vindication” it also sparked “anger … that they made so many poor choices and moved so slowly”.
“I had a visceral reaction,” Akinnola said. “My stomach was churning. Hearing they didn’t have a plan and that people were on holiday skiing when things were picking up. It did not have to be like this.”
Akinnola was one of the hundreds of thousands of bereaved closely following Cummings’ appearance and many welcomed his opening apology.
But the picture he painted of non-existent planning, attempts to treat the virus like chicken pox or swine flu and key players on skiing holidays as the pandemic spread was also “upsetting and bleak”, said the Covid-19 Bereaved Families for Justice Group.
“The government’s combination of grotesque chaos and uncaring flippancy is directly responsible for many of our loved ones not being with us today,” said Matt Fowler, co-founder of the group.
Fowler described the hearing as “a pantomime-style spat between Cummings and Johnson” littered with “utterly inappropriate” references to Hollywood films like Independence Day and Spider-Man, which has left many of the bereaved in “tears of anger and pain”.
Watching in Widnes was Karren Fraser-Knight whose twin sister, Paula, died from coronavirus on 3 April 2020.
She was “shocked” by Cummings’ claim that on 13 March 2020 senior civil servant Helen McNamara warned: “There is no plan. We’re in huge trouble,” and said: “I think this country is heading for a disaster I think we’re going to kill thousands of people.”
Fraser-Knight was focused on claims the health secretary, Matt Hancock, tried to blame the NHS for PPE shortages and that Cummings wanted him sacked for lying about issues including about whether Covid sufferers received the treatment they needed.
“Paula died and thousands of others died because they didn’t know what the treatments were,” she said. “In her hospital, they were calling Italy for advice . . .[Hancock] needs to be held accountable.”
Rivka Gottlieb, whose father Michael, 73, died with Covid in April 2020 said it was “shocking and terrifying” to hear the decision-making processes as laid out by Cummings.
“I suspected incompetence, but I didn’t realise how bad and how deep it was,” she said. “It was a catalogue of mistakes, incompetence and chaos. It’s devastating to hear how those decisions were made and how wrong they were.”
She said Cummings’ claim that lockdown was delayed because there was no plan for it was “utterly appalling”. The suggestion that the cabinet secretary said on 12 March: “We need people to get this disease” like “the old chicken pox parties” was “beyond belief”.
“I appreciated [Cummings’] contrition, but at the same time I don’t appreciate this playground spat that is being bandied around in public when what we should have is a proper public inquiry much earlier. It feels very disrespectful to the people who died.”
Source: The Guardian
Keyword: ‘Upsetting and bleak’: Covid bereaved react to Cummings evidence | Dominic Cummings