UK

Bereaved families say Sunak’s evidence to Covid inquiry was ‘pathetic’

Members of Covid Bereaved Families, holding photographs of their relatives who died during the pandemic, outside Dorland House in London, where Prime Minister Rishi Sunak was giving evidence to the UK Covid-19 Inquiry (Jordan Pettitt/PA)
Members of Covid Bereaved Families, holding photographs of their relatives who died during the pandemic, outside Dorland House in London, where Prime Minister Rishi Sunak was giving evidence to the UK Covid-19 Inquiry (Jordan Pettitt/PA) Members of Covid Bereaved Families, holding photographs of their relatives who died during the pandemic, outside Dorland House in London, where Prime Minister Rishi Sunak was giving evidence to the UK Covid-19 Inquiry (Jordan Pettitt/PA)

Bereaved families have called the Prime Minister’s evidence to the Covid inquiry “pathetic” and criticised his inability to recall emails sent during the pandemic.

Some people hung images of their dead relatives around their necks and when Rishi Sunak left the inquiry room many stood and held up photographs of loved ones who died from the virus.

There were collective sighs when, repeatedly, Mr Sunak said he did not recall pieces of evidence during his time as chancellor, including an email from his private secretary that cited fears the government’s measures to open up the UK after lockdown were “at the riskier end of the spectrum”.

Covid-19 pandemic inquiry
Covid-19 pandemic inquiry Protesters outside the UK Covid-19 Inquiry at Dorland House in London, where Prime Minister Rishi Sunak was giving evidence (Jordan Pettitt/PA)

Speaking after the hearing, Jean Adamson, who lost her father Aldrich Adamson to Covid-19, said Sunak’s testimony was the weakest she had seen during the entire inquiry and criticised his refusal to provide his WhatsApp messages sent during the pandemic period.

Ms Adamson, who is a member of Covid Bereaved Families for Justice UK, said: “The fact that he’s refused to hand over his WhatsApp messages shows that he’s not interested to learn lessons and save lives, and that he takes us for idiots.

“This morning his testimony has been so far the most pathetic performance that I’ve seen from the very start of this inquiry.

“He ‘doesn’t recall’, he seems to have memory problems – ‘oh, I haven’t seen that email’.”

“He takes us for fools and continues to treat us with utter contempt. If another pandemic struck tomorrow the country would be left in the disastrous position of having a prime minister who the public doesn’t trust to respond well.”

Ms Adamson was joined by lead solicitor for the Scottish Covid Bereaved, Aamer Anwar, who said families who lost loved ones during the pandemic were “disappointed” by the Prime Minister’s evidence.

He said: “Rishi Sunak has finished giving his evidence today, and many of the Covid bereaved are left disappointed, he offered words of sorrow but offered no apology to the families.

“Rishi Sunak in his role as chancellor was Boris Johnson’s right-hand man, but his primary loyalty was clear – it was to the markets.

Covid-19 pandemic inquiry
Covid-19 pandemic inquiry Aamer Anwar (second right), lead solicitor for the Scottish Covid Bereaved group, speaks to the media outside Dorland House in London (Jordan Pettitt/PA)

“Rishi Sunak and Boris Johnson did not require the benefit of hindsight, the whole of Europe was watching in real time, a tsunami of the pandemic sweeping through Italy and the rest of Europe before hitting our shores.

“On the question of WhatsApps, the bereaved do not accept his explanation – the Covid bereaved find it inconceivable that any political leader anywhere in the United Kingdom cannot produce their WhatsApps for the key periods of the pandemic.

“The bereaved do not accept today’s excuses offered by the Prime Minister, that his WhatsApps are entirely unavailable.

“Rishi Sunak’s one-man mission to torpedo lockdown to gain a competitive advantage resulted in the false economy of sacrificing tens of thousands of lives to save the economy. Today the Covid bereaved do not accept his empty words of sorrow.”