Campaigning daughter of Leeds Covid victim welcomes public inquiry into handling of pandemic

The daughter of a 60-year-old Leeds man who died after testing postive for Covid-19 has welcomed the Prime Minister's announcement that the The Government will set up an independent public inquiry into the handling of the pandemic.
Kathryn de PrudhoeKathryn de Prudhoe
Kathryn de Prudhoe

Boris Johnson has told MPs the inquiry will begin in spring 2022 and will place "the state's actions under the microscope".

Kathryn de Prudhoe of Oakwood, helped launch the Covid-19 Bereaved Families for Justice group last May and is a spokesperson for the group, which has more than 2,000 members.

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It has been calling for an independent and judge-led statutory public inquiry into the Government’s response to the pandemic.

Kathryn de Prudhoe (left), pictured with family including her father Tony Clay (back right)Kathryn de Prudhoe (left), pictured with family including her father Tony Clay (back right)
Kathryn de Prudhoe (left), pictured with family including her father Tony Clay (back right)

Mrs de Prudhoe, who works as a psychotherapist, said the inquiry will be the first step to getting answers for bereaved families.

Her dad Tony Clay - who was fit and healthy with no underlying health conditions - had flu-like symptoms for around two weeks before becoming confused and suffering a fall at his home in Bardsey on April 11 2020.

The retired civil engineer was taken to Leeds General Infirmary by ambulance and admitted to a Covid-19 intensive care ward after testing positive for coronavirus.

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Grandfather-of-two Mr Clay - who had suffered a suspected heart attack and had a bleed on the brain - died three days later.

Mrs de Prudhoe said: "I’m pleased to hear the PM announce a full statutory inquiry, it’s the first step to getting answers to the many unanswered questions about why my dad and so many others like him died.

"It’s vital that bereaved families are involved in selecting the chair and setting the terms of reference for the inquiry to ensure it delivers truth and justice for the dead and bereaved.

"I would ideally like to see it happen sooner than Spring 2022 - holding a rapid review over the coming months could potentially help us be better prepared to face whatever unfolds next Winter.

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"Nothing can bring our loved ones back but knowing exactly where things went wrong can provide valuable lessons that could save lives in the future."

The inquiry will be able to take oral evidence under oath, he said, adding that the state has an obligation "to learn every lesson for the future".

It comes as a damning report from the Independent Panel for Pandemic Preparedness and Response, commissioned by the World Health Organisation (WHO), said a quicker international response could have stopped the 2019 Covid-19 outbreak in China becoming a global catastrophe.

Speaking in the Commons, Mr Johnson said: "Amid such tragedy the state has an obligation to examine its actions as rigorously and as candidly as possible, and to learn every lesson for the future - which is why I've always said when the time is right there should be a full and independent inquiry.

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"So, I can confirm that the Government will establish an independent public inquiry on a statutory basis, with full powers under the Inquiries Act 2005 - including the ability to compel the production of all relevant materials and take oral evidence in public under oath."

He said devolved administrations would be consulted before the final scope of the inquiry was published.

Mr Johnson said the inquiry must be able to look at the events of the last year "in the cold light of day" and identify the key issues that will make a difference for the future.

"Free to scrutinise every document, to hear from all the key players and analyse and learn from the breadth of our response," he said.

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"That's the right way, I think, to get the answers that the people of this country deserve and to ensure that our United Kingdom is better prepared for any future pandemic."

He added: "I feel personally very, very strongly that this country has been through a trauma like no other, it is absolutely vital for the sake of the bereaved, for the sake of our country, that we should understand exactly what happened, we should learn the lessons, we have been learning lessons throughout, but we need to have a very clear understanding of what took place over the last 14 months.

"I think we owe it to the country to have as much transparency as we possibly can and we owe it to the country to produce answers in a reasonable timescale."

The Royal College of Nursing's acting general secretary, Pat Cullen, said "a year is too long to wait".

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She added: "In the inquiry, we expect the nursing voice, in all four countries, integral to the response to the pandemic, to be represented at all levels."

A commission on Covid commemoration is also to be established to help remember those who lost their lives during the pandemic.

Mr Johnson told MPs: "There is a solemn duty on our whole United Kingdom to come together and to cherish the memories of those who have been lost.

"Like many across this Chamber, I was deeply moved when I visited the Covid Memorial Wall opposite Parliament.

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"I wholeheartedly support the plan for a memorial in St Paul's Cathedral, which will provide a fitting place of reflection in the heart of our capital.

"I also know that communities across the whole country will want to find ways of commemorating what we have all been through, so the Government will support their efforts by establishing a UK commission on Covid commemoration."

The WHO-commissioned study from the Independent Panel for Pandemic Preparedness and Response says the current global system was not adequate to protect people from Covid-19.

It said it took too long from a cluster of cases of pneumonia of unknown origin in mid-late December 2019 to a public health emergency of international concern being declared.

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The panel also said February 2020 was a lost month when many more countries could have taken steps to contain the spread of Covid and "forestall the global health, social, and economic catastrophe" that continues.

Panel co-chairwoman and former president of Liberia, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, said: "Our message is simple and clear: the current system failed to protect us from the Covid-19 pandemic.

"And if we do not act to change it now, it will not protect us from the next pandemic threat, which could happen at any time."