A cabinet minister has apologised for government failures that led to thousands of avoidable deaths from Covid-19 in the first wave of the pandemic.
Oliver Dowden, the co-chair of the Conservative Party, said he was “sorry” and that ministers “would do some things differently with hindsight”.
Mr Dowden’s comments to Kay Burley of Sky News follow the refusal of his cabinet colleague Stephen Barclay to apologise to the same interviewer on Tuesday.
A damning report by MPs found that the government’s initial approach towards the pandemic was focused on herd immunity, leading to a delay in introducing the first lockdown, which potentially cost 20,000 lives or more.
The 150-page document, titled Coronavirus: Lessons learned to date, also admits to a failure to create a working test-and-trace system, the government’s lack of priority for social care, and the disproportionately high death rates for ethnic minorities and those with learning disabilities.
Invited to apologise over the findings, Mr Barclay said: “Well, no. We followed the scientific advice, we protected the NHS, we took the decisions based on the evidence before us.”
On Wednesday, however, Mr Dowden said: “I welcome this report. It’s a very good report by Greg Clark and Jeremy Hunt. The government will, as we do with all these reports, be fully analysing it and giving a full response to the recommendations.”
He added: “We’re sorry for the losses that all those families have suffered.”
Jo Goodman, co-founder of the campaign group Covid-19 Bereaved Families for Justice, said: “This is the first time the government has publicly apologised to us for the loss of our loved ones, and the acknowledgement of their responsibility is welcome.
“However, yesterday’s report only scratched the surface of what this country has been through over the past two years. It is clear that only through a full statutory inquiry will we learn the lessons needed to save lives in the future and answer the questions that will help bring closure to bereaved families."
Ms Goodman lost her father, Stuart, in March 2020 and believes an earlier lockdown may have meant her father would not have been so easily exposed to the virus. She has been campaigning for justice for bereaved families since.
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