Health Secretary Sajid Javid has said he is “sorry” for the losses and suffering which have occurred during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Following a highly critical report by MPs into the Government’s response to the outbreak, Mr Javid – who took up the post in June – said it is important that lessons are learned.
His comments came after Cabinet colleague Stephen Barclay repeatedly refused to apologise for Government failings during the crisis.
Mr Javid said “of course” he is sorry for the suffering people have endured as a result of the pandemic.
But he said he is “not in a position yet” to say exactly what decisions could have been improved.
Asked on BBC Breakfast if he is sorry for the “failures” that occurred, the Health Secretary said: “Yes, of course I’m sorry.
“Obviously I am new in the role, but on behalf of the Government I am sorry for, during the pandemic, anyone that suffered, especially anyone that lost a loved one, a mother, a dad, a brother, a sister, a friend. Of course I am sorry for that.
“Also, all those people that may not have lost someone but they are still suffering – there are many people sadly suffering from long Covid, we still don’t know the impact of that. Of course I am.
“There will be lessons to learn from this pandemic for this Government, for governments across the world, there will be lessons. It is important that is done.
“There is going to be a public inquiry and I think that is the best place to learn these lessons.”
Asked what mistakes he was apologising for, Mr Javid told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “I don’t know all the lessons that we are going to have to learn about this. I don’t think anyone does at this point.
“I think the best place to determine those will be the independent public inquiry.”
Pressed again on what the Government got wrong, he said: “What I am saying sorry for is the loss that people have suffered and how they have been affected.
“I don’t think I’m in a position yet to go back and look at every decision that was made and how we can learn from that.”
Bereaved families deserve better than this. They must be given a voice in the public inquiry and it must begin now. 2/2
— Ed Davey MP 🔶🇪🇺 (@EdwardJDavey) October 14, 2021
Liberal Democrat leader Sir Ed Davey said it was “simply astonishing” that Mr Javid “has apologised but can’t say what for”.
“How about saying sorry to the NHS staff left wearing bin bags as PPE, or those who lost relatives in care homes because of a lack of testing,” he said.
“Bereaved families deserve better than this. They must be given a voice in the public inquiry and it must begin now.”
On Wednesday, Cabinet Office minister Mr Barclay repeatedly refused to apologise for the Government’s actions.
He said: “It was an unprecedented pandemic, we were learning about it as we went through, and of course, with hindsight, there’s things we know about it now that we didn’t know at the time.”