'Nan could still be here with us now' - family reacts to Covid report
- Credit: Family of Margaret Bennett
An Ipswich family who lost a beloved nan has reacted to a report into the handling of the Covid-19 pandemic, saying the government were careless in the early days.
Margaret Bennett, who was from the Whitehouse area of Ipswich, died on December 11, 2020, aged 73.
She was described by family as a "kind and loving lady who loved having fun and making people laugh".
Her grandson, Chris Bailey, wasn't surprised by the findings of the report, but feels that government could - and should - have done more at the beginning of the pandemic to lessen the effects.
He said: "The report did not surprise me; it was what I'd thought for a while.
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"I definitely feel like more could have been done and even what was done was done too slowly or too late.
"I think that we should have gone into lockdown sooner and that the NHS should have had much more support. The government were careless with time and money at the start of the pandemic.
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"If things have been handled differently myself and my family, like so many others, could have avoided lots of stress and heartache. My nan could still be here with us now.
"My newborn daughter will never meet her great-nan and that could have been different.
"I hope that it shines a light on the government's failings and that in the future the same mistakes won't be made again."
The study from the cross-party Science and Technology Committee and the Health and Social Care committee was released on October 12 and exposed serious errors and delays at the hands of government and scientific advisers.
It said the UK's pandemic planning was too focused on flu and that ministers waited too long to push through lockdown measures in early 2020.
MPs said the "decisions on lockdowns and social distancing during the early weeks of the pandemic - and the advice that led to them - rank as one of the most important public health failures the United Kingdom has ever experienced".
Regarding the second lockdown, MPs said that more stringent social distancing measures adopted during the autumn could have "reduced the seeding of the Alpha variant across the country, slowed its spread and therefore have saved lives".
But praise was offered in two areas - treatments and vaccines - saying ministers were "correct to identify that a vaccine would be the long-term route out of the pandemic" and supported research and development.
Shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth said of the report: "This is a damning report by a cross-party group of MPs into the monumental errors made by ministers in responding to the pandemic."
A government spokesman said: "Throughout the pandemic we have been guided by scientific and medical experts and we never shied away from taking quick and decisive action to save lives and protect our NHS, including introducing restrictions and lockdowns.
"Thanks to a collective national effort, we avoided NHS services becoming overwhelmed and our phenomenal vaccination programme has built a wall of defence, with over 24.3 million infections prevented and more than 130,000 lives saved so far.
"As the prime minister has said, we are committed to learning lessons from the pandemic and have committed to holding a full public inquiry in spring."
The science minister George Freeman said the Covid pandemic “caught the world by surprise” when interviewed on Tuesday.
Speaking on BBC Radio 4, the MP for Mid Norfolk, said: "It’s caught every democracy – every country around the world has been hit hard – and of course when we have the full inquiry that is coming, we will look back properly and see the things that we got right, the things that we got wrong. Lots of countries got things right, lots of countries also got things wrong, there was no perfect experience.”
When asked if the government should apologise, he added: "It’s too early for any proper discussion about blame and fault. This was a biomedical Battle of Britain and I suspect mistakes were made.”
Speaking about the promise of a public inquiry, a spokesman for the Covid-19 Bereaved Families for Justice group said the report proved that a judge-led independent inquiry "must have bereaved families at its heart" in order to answer the "serious questions".
The group also criticised the focus of the report, with the spokesman saying it "manages to barely mention the over 150,000 bereaved families".
More than 1,600 people are reported to have died in Suffolk with Covid-19 listed on the death certificate since the end of March 2020.