Bereaved families ‘in tears of anger and pain’ following Cummings’ coronavirus testimony

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Bereaved families are “in tears of anger and pain” following evidence from Dominic Cummings about the government’s handling of the pandemic, a campaign group has said.

“Horrible, upsetting and bleak”

The prime minister’s former aide said ministers, officials, and advisers fell “disastrously short” of the standards that should be expected in a crisis. He said Boris Johnson was more concerned about the impact on the economy than the need to curb the spread of the virus and save lives.

Covid-19 Bereaved Families For Justice, set up in the wake of the pandemic, said 26 May was a “horrible, upsetting and bleak day for over 150,000 families across the country”.

In a statement on Twitter, the group said:

The evidence from Cummings is clear, that the government’s combination of grotesque chaos and uncaring flippancy is directly responsible for many of our loved ones not being with us today – and the refusal to have an urgent statutory inquiry risks others joining them.

That this information is being unveiled in a pantomime-style spat between Cummings and Johnson, littered with independence day, Jeff Goldblum and spiderman references, is utterly inappropriate and makes this even more appalling.

This spectacle is a million miles from that and has left many of the bereaved in tears of anger and pain today. The Government’s statutory inquiry now has to start immediately and include regular interim reporting.

The organisation has been calling on the government to release its internal “lessons learned” investigation into the handling of the pandemic. The campaign group said “serious questions” need to be asked of those in power, adding that “waiting until next year means the information will simply be leaked in an insensitive and hurtful manner – and even worse, lead to more unnecessary deaths”.

From the horse’s mouth

Cummings claimed that the government sent hospital patients with coronavirus (Covid-19) back to care homes and suggestions they were shielded are “complete nonsense”. He suggested Johnson was furious when he came back to work after recovering from coronavirus to find that untested patients had been discharged to care homes in England, thereby allowing the virus to spread.

He said health secretary Matt Hancock had told Johnson previously that they would be tested.

Cummings told MPs:

So that was one of the other things that I, that we, found shocking, that when we realised in April that this had happened, the Prime Minister said a less polite version of ‘what on earth are you telling me?’.

When he came back after being ill: ‘What on earth has happened with all these people in care homes? Hancock told us in the Cabinet Room that people were going to be tested before they went back to care homes, what the hell happened?’

Cummings said he and the PM had been told “categorically in March that people will be tested before they went back to care homes”. He added:

We only subsequently found out that hadn’t happened. Now all the Government rhetoric of ‘we put a shield around care homes’ and blah blah, was complete nonsense. Quite the opposite of putting a shield around them, we sent people with Covid back to the care homes.

Hancock

In April 2020, Hancock came under fire for allowing patients to be discharged to care homes without a coronavirus test. During media interviews, he insisted that from the beginning of the pandemic the government had tried to “throw a protective ring around our care homes”.

There have been 36,275 deaths involving coronavirus in care homes since the pandemic began, according to the latest figures from the UK’s statistics agencies.

Care

Nadra Ahmed, chairwoman of the National Care Association, said that Cummings’ remarks about care homes were met with “disappointment”. She told the PA news agency:

It is with great sadness that listening to Mr Cummings it emerges that our initial thoughts and the evidence that was around us was right – that there was no shield around care homes, there was no thought on the impact on the vulnerable people that we care for.

People were being discharged out of hospital into our services to save the NHS and put not only the people discharged, their lives, were put at risk, but the people who were in our services at risk.

My reaction is great disappointment that the sector was lied to from the outset – we were lied to about any plan, it is clear there was no plan; we were lied to about the protective shield when we know there was no protective shield and it is disappointing to note that the testing that we were promised never took place.

Criticism

Shadow social care minister Liz Kendall said:

Mr Cummings’ comments have revealed what we knew all along – that the Government’s ‘protective shield’ around care homes during this pandemic did not exist.

Over 30,000 care home residents have died of coronavirus during this pandemic – 25,000 elderly people were discharged from hospitals to care homes without any tests whatsoever, and frontline care workers were left without PPE.

The Government was much too slow to act to protect residents and staff. As we emerge from this pandemic ministers must put in place a plan to transform social care and ensure that care homes never again face a crisis of this scale.

Labour MP Barbara Keeley, a member of the committee questioning Cummings, tweeted:

The evidence from Dominic Cummings today was clear – at the start of this pandemic, residents in care homes were sacrificed in order to free up beds in hospitals.

@MattHancock must come explain why the promise that patients would be tested before discharge wasn’t kept.

Downing Street defended its handling of care homes as Cummings continued to give evidence. The prime minister’s official spokesperson said:

With regard to care homes, we’ve always been guided by the latest advice at that time and we’ve taken a number of steps to protect care home residents and those being discharged from hospitals into care homes.

Much, much more

Cummings said a lot more in his interview. At one point he was asked to confirm if he heard Johnson say he”would rather see the bodies pile high than order another lockdown”. Cummings answered that he did, and that out of the different versions of the quote the BBC one was correct.

People online had several comments about Cummings’ lengthy interview:

Some commented on Cummings revealing he had an almost exclusive relationship with BBC political editor Laura Kuenssberg:

Others noted that Keir Starmer may now struggle to criticise Johnson and the government given his support for them throughout 2020:

Others highlighted the media’s handling of the government in 2020:

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  • Show Comments
    1. Didn’t watch it.

      But note in your article that Cummings has once again protected BloJo.

      Looks like Handcock will be left out to dry for the entire Govts failings. After the scientists have been thoroughly blamed first.

      And then we can all watch BloJo’s farce marriage, to take our minds off just how far up the crimes actually go.

      1. From the article: ” At one point he (Cummings) was asked to confirm if he heard Johnson say he ”would rather see the bodies pile high than order another lockdown”. Cummings answered that he did, and that out of the different versions of the quote the BBC one was correct.”

        ..I did watch some of ‘it.’ (the televised testimony).
        The overall impression it left me with, and this article also, is that of an amoral and incompetent P.M. abdicating his duty to ensure his equally incompetent cabinet carried out a responsible pandemic strategy. i.e. a damning impression.

        However, judging by the few comments on this article to date, I’m also left with the impression that indifference to the manner of the handling of older people and the scale of their ensuing deaths seems, shamefully, not exclusive to our government.
        Judging by the relative silence and lack of protests over these deaths so far, it seems we have a generation now who very likely will be damned by their own current apathy, when they too have grown old. Unless they all have other plans of course.
        Just for the record, and, not that anyone cares, I don’t necessarily use the expression ‘damning’ in a metaphoric sense.
        I’m quite open to the concept that we might all be judged one day.

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