Johnson in pledge over pandemic inquiry chair after meeting bereaved relatives

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Boris Johnson has promised to appoint someone to chair the public inquiry into the coronavirus pandemic by Christmas following a meeting with bereaved family members.

The Prime Minister also lent his support to the National Covid Memorial Wall, suggesting it could become a permanent national memorial to the tragedy.

He hosted a private meeting with representatives from the Covid-19 Bereaved Families for Justice UK on Tuesday afternoon.

Bereaved families at 10 Downing Street
The meeting took place at 10 Downing Street, 398 days after the Prime Minister first promised to hold one (James Manning/PA)

The event took place more than a year after the Prime Minister promised to meet those bereaved by the pandemic.

In a meeting which lasted just over an hour and took place outside at the request of the families, five people shared how their loved ones caught the virus and died.

They said Mr Johnson had told them that there is a “clear role for bereaved families in the inquiry” and they will have an input into who is appointed to chair the probe.

He also said the wall opposite the Houses of Parliament decorated with thousands of hearts is a “good candidate to be a permanent national memorial. I support it, it’s very moving”, according to the families.

Bereaved people at the Memorial Wall
Bereaved people at the memorial wall (James Manning/PA)

Following the meeting, the group said: “Although we wish this meeting had taken place a long time ago, we’re pleased that the Prime Minister has chosen to finally engage with us and that he explicitly acknowledged the importance of ensuring that bereaved families are at the heart of learning lessons from the pandemic.

“However, we are still disappointed by the lack of urgency the Prime Minister displayed as we see no reason why preparations for the inquiry cannot begin now, particularly as nearly 1,000 people are still losing their lives each week.”

They said Mr Johnson must now follow through on his commitment to appoint a chair and involve families, adding: “We hope that we can accept the Prime Minister’s commitments in good faith and, going forward, that there will be ongoing and meaningful dialogue with bereaved families.”

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