A new report by MPs has described the Government failure to do more to stop the spread of Covid ‘one of the worst public health failures the country has ever experienced’. Chesterfield MP, Toby Perkins, is calling on the Government to ensure that they learn the lessons and to apologise to the families who have lost loved ones for allowing political ideology to take precedence over scientific advice.

He said; “This report is an important and thorough piece of work. In many ways it exposes what many people felt- that the government were slow to act, too often put faith in untried private firms rather than our trusted public services and were too easily led by the voices of the media and wishful thinking rather than the best scientific advice.”

The report by the Health and Social Care Committee and the Science and Technology Committee entitled ‘Coronavirus: Lessons learned to date’ has also highlighted failures with the Test & Trace system, which was deemed “slow, uncertain and often chaotic”.

The Labour Party had called for Test and Trace to be done by local authority public health teams and the report has criticised the Government for sticking to a central [privately owned] system. The report also slammed the Government in England for rejecting scientific advice to have a two-week “circuit-breaker” in the autumn, which potentially led to the November lockdown. The Labour leader, Keir Starmer, had pressed for this circuit breaker but his suggestion was dismissed by the government..

Toby Perkins said, “The survey that I did this summer shows me that many Chesterfield residents had a far better awareness of the balance of risk and restriuction than the government themselves did.

The majority of respondents felt that the Government were too lax in their response. The Government were far too slow to act at the start of the pandemic and even allowed large events such as football matches and the Cheltenham Festival to go ahead when the virus was surging through the population; too slow to restrict travel from India because Boris Johnson wanted to go there and put too much faith in Serco. Ironically, it is only when the government placed the NHS themselves in charge of the vaccine programme was there a sense that they were starting to get on top of this virus.

We need to the Government to take responsibility for these mistakes and apologise to the families who have lost loved ones to the virus.”

Toby spent the summer recess conducting doorstep surveys in all 17 wards within his constituency, in order to hear his constituents’ views on issues like mask wearing, vaccine passports and a variety of other issues. Over 850 people completed the survey and the results showed that more than half felt that the Government was too lax in their response to the pandemic, and only 29% of residents felt they had got it right. 79% of people felt that the Government were too slow in restricting travel from India, which allowed the Delta variant to spread, and 64% believed that the Government were wrong to make mask-wearing on public transport optional.

Toby added, “There was a real anger and frustration from people in Chesterfield who had made huge sacrifices in their lives, who had not seen friends or family for weeks on end and done everything asked of them, but who felt the Government weren’t meeting their end of the bargain and then squandered the sacrifice they made by failing to stop the delta variant from spreading, failing to have a circuit breaker lockdown in October and then scrapping restrictions without a real plan. The decision to allow people to leave hospitals to go back to care homes without a test was a particularly costly failure.

My constituents all understood that this was a difficult challenge whoever was in government, but the instinct of the public that the government were not being restrictive enough is borne out by this important report.”

The Government should bring forward the public inquiry into their response to the pandemic so that the public, particularly those bereaved families, get the answers they deserve.”

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