Government pursued: “A policy of negligent manslaughter” epidemiologist and senior academic tells inquiry

Last night at the final session of campaigning organisation Keep Our NHS Public’s [1] People’s Covid Inquiry, [2] the panel heard a damning assessment of the government’s strategy in dealing with the pandemic.

Deepti Gurdasani (Clinical epidemiologist and statistical geneticist, Senior Lecturer in Machine Learning, Queen Mary University London) said:

“I think its been a strategy of, I would say negligent manslaughter, but I think that’s generous because it’s not negligent, its essentially a policy where they have been fully informed on the risks to public health, the risk of mass deaths, the risk of suffering, but have gone ahead with this anyway because these risks and the impact on people were considered acceptable…The values that have been inherent with this government is a lack of value for life…

“It’s never too late to return to public health measures…people have consistently followed the rules, it’s just that the rules have been wrong…we’ve done nothing to protect the only strategy that we have…the biggest lesson we need to learn is that we cannot live with this [Covid]…”

The concluding session of the inquiry also heard how the Westminster government was at times playing catch-up with local authorities. Stephen Cowan (Leader of Hammersmith & Fulham Council) explained how, in mid-February 2020, his council took the decision that they would taken an independent move to announce a civic emergency footing if necessary. Care homes were closed and offered free PPE, as well as additional training to deal with the effects of the pandemic. The council also arranged testing and tracing measures (the first of it’s kind) something that was later adopted more widely across London:

“In the early days…it looked like the government’s focus wasn’t on the pandemic…I think we we became the first council in the country to formally move onto a civic emergency footing (on the 13th of March)…a letter had gone to the Prime Minister [on 22nd of March 2020 signed by representatives of all major parties] [3] demanding a lockdown explaining that we didn’t understand why Britain was out of sync with other liberal democracies and we agreed with other Conservatives [signatories] that we would not embarrass the government, which I think was their request…we had banners up telling people to wear masks in May, while the government was still dithering…”

Speaking about the lockdown actions over Christmas, Cowan said:

“I think if local government had had the power to impose a lockdown in London [in mid December] then I don’t think we’d have had the second wave anywhere near as bad, and we’d have saved a lot of lives.” 

Watch the full session here

Please note: Interim findings of the People’s Covid Inquiry will be presented at an online press conference on Wednesday 7th July 1-2pm, chaired by inquiry lead Michael Mansfield QC. A further in-person press conference will be held in central London in the autumn to present the finished report.
More details around both of these sessions will follow shortly.

Spokespeople are available for interview (subject to availability). Contact Samantha Wathen, Press Officer for Keep Our NHS Public [email protected] or Call/WhatsApp: 0777 6047472