Sunday, 27 Sep 2020

Boris Johnson 'heartless' after refusing to meet bereaved coronavirus families

The prime minister has been branded ‘heartless’ after back-pedalling on promises to meet bereaved families who have lost loved ones to coronavirus.

Campaigning group, Covid-19 Bereaved Families for Justice, said it wrote to Boris Johnson five times to request a meeting. When questioned over the letters last week, the PM said during an interview that he would ‘of course’ meet representatives for the families.

But campaigners were devastated when Johnson later told them in a letter that the meeting was ‘regrettably not possible’. Campaign co-founder Jo Goodman, who lost her father Stuart to the virus, accused the PM of ‘U-turn followed by a U-turn’.

She told Sky News: ‘The Prime Minister has done a 360: dodging five letters, then agreeing on live TV to meet with us, and now quietly telling us he’s too busy. It’s heartless.

‘Of course we know the prime minister can’t meet every bereaved person: but we really feel he should be meeting one of the largest groups of bereaved families in the country, representing over 1,600 people who’ve lost a loved one.’

Ms Goodman added that she felt like the group were the ‘wrong type of bereaved people’, adding that the PM only appears to want to meet with people who will not hold him accountable.

On Wednesday, Johnson said he was ‘not aware of those letters’ but said he will ‘of course write back to every letter we get’.

‘And of course I will meet the bereaved who have suffered from COVID. Of course I will do that,’ he added.

Six days later, the group which represents 1,600 families, finally received a response to their fifth letter from the PM, in which he declined to meet them.

The PM wrote: ‘I am acutely conscious that a letter will be of little comfort against the grief and heartbreak that families have suffered.

‘As much as I would wish to be able to offer my condolences in person to all those who have suffered loss, that is regrettably not possible and so I am unable to meet with you and members of Bereaved Families for Justice.’

The campaigners are now trying to secure an urgent public inquiry into the government’s handling of the crisis.

In the letter, Johnson acknowledged that the group have instructed solicitors who are in pre-action legal correspondence over an independent inquiry.

He said he will hold the inquiry ‘at the appropriate time’ and urged all further correspondence to be dealt with by their respective legal teams.

A Downing Street spokeswoman said: ‘The Prime Minister has responded to Bereaved Families For Justice to express his sincere condolences to all families who have sadly lost loved ones to this terrible disease.

‘He remains committed to meeting with members of the public and families of key workers who have been bereaved as a result of Covid-19.

‘The Prime Minister is resolute in his determination to beat this virus and prevent further families from suffering such dreadful loss.’

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