Families bereaved by Covid insisted Boris Johnson must still face justice at the public inquiry into the pandemic as they voiced concern that his resignation would see him make a fortune from writing and speeches while they remained scarred by grief.
Johnson’s departure was greeted by relief by people who lost loved ones to the virus over the last two and half years, but the Covid-19 Bereaved Families for Justice group, which represents more than 4,000 affected families, said: “Johnson will always be the man that wanted to ‘let the bodies pile high’ while our loved ones desperately fought for their lives and that partied whilst we had to say goodbye to our loved ones over a screen.”
The prime minister was responsible for a delayed start to the statutory public inquiry into the UK’s handling of the pandemic, which was only formally opened last week despite his earlier pledge in parliament to start in spring 2022.
“The Covid inquiry has only just been given the go ahead – two and a half years late,” said Lindsay Jackson, who lost her mother Sylvia Jackson to Covid on 17 April 2020. “I want to see people held to account – including Johnson – for the callous disregard he showed to my mum and the other souls who lost their lives.”
“This is a man who has presided over the deaths of 200,000 people, broken the laws he made, lied repeatedly to us, trashed our international reputation and has brought politics and politicians into disrepute,” she said. “There’s very little more that he could have done wrong. But he’s just losing his job. He’ll lick his wounds, blame everyone else and then make his millions. That’s not justice.”
Leshie Chandrapala, who lost her father Ranjith Chandrapala, a London bus driver who worked without PPE, in May 2020, said she was disappointed that Johnson’s handling of the pandemic was not among the reasons for his departure.
“We need Boris Johnson to go immediately so that the business of serious government can resume, including the public inquiry into the pandemic,” she said. “He absolutely must not be allowed to stay until autumn as a caretaker PM.”
She added: “He got so many things wrong during the pandemic, so I absolutely want to see him held to account at the public inquiry. I am putting my faith in Baroness Hallett and her team to uncover the truth of Boris Johnson’s actions.”
The inquiry has started gathering evidence and is expected to be divided into several strands, many of which will examine decision-making in Downing Street. Hearings are not expected to begin until 2023. In recent days Johnson allies have repeated his assertion that he “got the big calls right” on the pandemic, often citing the successful vaccination programme.
But Lobby Akinnola, who lost his father Olufemi, a care worker, in April 2020, said: “While Johnson will move on to a life of writing newspaper columns and being paid eyewatering amounts to give after dinner speeches, there will be no moving on for the families like mine that have been ripped apart by his actions. Although his reign will shortly be coming to an end, his devastating impact on families like mine will not.
“We can only hope that the Covid inquiry will bring some closure for us, teaching us the lessons that will save lives in the future and meaning that no one will be able to repeat Johnson’s terrible mistakes and get away with it.”