THE SNP are calling on the UK Government to bring forward its public inquiry into the handling of the Covid pandemic.

It follows the release of a devastating report by two committees of MPs which condemned the early stages of the pandemic as “one of the most important public health failures the United Kingdom has ever experienced”.

Carol Monaghan – who sat on one of the committees – is urging the Tory government to accelerate its much-promised public inquiry to run alongside the Scottish Government’s judge-led inquiry later this year.

Plans for a full public inquiry in Scotland are already in motion, with the inquiry expected to start by the end of the year. Monaghan said: “The UK Government must now bring its Covid inquiry forward so it is on the same timescale as the inquiry already announced by the Scottish Government.

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“The difficulty for Boris Johnson is that he repeatedly ignored the warnings and took decisions that flew in the face of the evidence – encouraging people to shake hands, refusing to support mask-wearing, pressuring workers to go back to the office prematurely, failing to introduce border controls and being too slow to introduce Covid restrictions.”

With around 150,000 people dead from the virus across the UK, the two committees’ joint report did not speculate on the number of excess deaths caused by governmental failures. It did contain blistering criticism of Boris Johnson’s government – significant because the Science and Technology Committee and the Health and Social Care Committee are both chaired by Tory MPs – though it emphasised that all four governments in the UK shared the responsibility for failures.

They were particularly critical of the Prime Minister’s decision not to lockdown earlier than March 23 last year, two months after the Sage committee of scientific advisers first discussed the crisis. Former adviser Dominic Cummings yesterday said the report showed Johnson is “a joke PM”.

The report states: “This slow and gradualist approach was not inadvertent, nor did it reflect bureaucratic delay or disagreement between ministers and their advisers. It was a deliberate policy – proposed by official scientific advisers and adopted by the governments of all of the nations of the UK.

“It is now clear that this was the wrong policy, and that it led to a higher initial death toll than would have resulted from a more emphatic early policy. In a pandemic spreading rapidly and exponentially, every week counted.”

One of the committee chairs, Greg Clark MP, said there was “fatalism” on the part of the Government and its advisers. The other, Jeremy Hunt MP, said he too had been guilty of the “groupthink” that the pandemic would be flu instead of coronavirus.

The report also lambasts the NHS Test and Trace programme for its “slow, uncertain and often chaotic performance” which “ultimately failed in its stated objective to prevent future lockdowns” and “severely hampered the UK’s response to

the pandemic”. The report adds that “many thousands” of care home deaths could have been avoided and that black and minority-ethnic workers in the NHS suffered disproportionately. The report noted poignantly: “ ... it is telling that the first 10 NHS staff to die from Covid-19 were from black, Asian and minority-ethnic backgrounds.”

The report continues: “It is unacceptable that staff from black, Asian and minority-ethnic communities did not have equal levels of access to appropriate and useable personal protective equipment as their white colleagues during the pandemic. The Government must learn from the initial shortage of appropriate PPE for these staff and set out a strategy to secure a supply chain of PPE that works for all staff in the NHS and

care sectors.”

There was praise for the UK Government in how it handled the vaccine development programme, described as “one of the most successful and effective initiatives in the history of UK science and public administration”.

Campaign group Covid-19 Bereaved Families for Justice responded by saying that success did not “redeem” government failures.

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Conveniently forgetting that the Scottish Parliament already has a committee looking into the pandemic, Scottish Labour yesterday issued a call for a Holyrood inquiry similar to the MPs investigation.

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “While this report is primarily concerned with the actions of the UK Government, we will consider its findings carefully as we continue to respond to the impact of the pandemic in Scotland.

“Since the early stages of our pandemic response we have been committed to a public inquiry into the handling of the pandemic in Scotland.

“Public feedback has been gathered which will inform the terms of reference to be agreed between Ministers and the chair, once they have been appointed, ahead of the inquiry’s establishment later this year.”