The UK Government and Wales and Northern Ireland administrations must “show some leadership” and ensure that statutory coronavirus inquiries start before the year is out, campaigners have said.
The Covid-19 Bereaved Families For Justice group is calling on the devolved nations to follow Scotland’s example, after First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said an independent inquiry would begin by the end of 2021.
Lobby Akinnola, a member of the campaign group, said those who had lost loved ones in Wales and Northern Ireland would be wondering why no inquiry had been announced for their countries.
And he said that the UK-wide inquiry, which Boris Johnson has said will start next spring, must commence before the end of this year.
Mr Akinnola’s father, Olufemi Akinnola, died with coronavirus in April 2020, aged 60.
The 30-year-old from Norwood, south-east London, said: “Today’s announcement will rightly leave bereaved families across the rest of the United Kingdom wondering why this has been announced for Scotland but not in the other devolved regions.
“It’s not just the Prime Minister kicking the UK-wide inquiry continually into the long grass, but the Welsh Assembly and Northern Irish Executive who are yet to even commit to holding a statutory inquiry into their own handling of the pandemic.
“This simply isn’t good enough and it’s time for the UK government, the Welsh Assembly and the Northern Irish Executive to show some leadership and rise to the occasion and ensure statutory inquiries commence before the end of the year within the devolved administrations and for the UK.”
The group has told the Government it should have core participant status in the forthcoming UK inquiry and that work must start immediately now restrictions have lifted.
But it said the Cabinet Office had not begun preparing the inquiry’s terms of reference when its lawyers met officials last month.
This has led bereaved families to fear the inquiry will be unlikely to begin in the spring.
The group also said the Cabinet Office had not set a date for when Mr Johnson would meet them. They were previously told a meeting would take place in September.
A Government spokesperson said: “Throughout the pandemic we have been guided by data and scientific advice and have acted quickly and decisively to save lives and livelihoods.
“Every death from this virus is a tragedy and our sympathies are with everyone who has lost loved ones.
“As the Prime Minister said, we have committed to holding a full public inquiry which will start in the spring.”