I really must stop watching the Covid Inquiry, it’s bad for the blood pressure. Even the element of drama is lacking because we all know how this story ends: Lady Hallett, shaggy blonde bob shaking sorrowfully, will find that chaotic, “shopping-trolley” Boris locked down too late (even though notably un-chaotic Germany only locked down two days earlier than us). Bad Boris also raised commonsense objections to lockdown and refused to keep the population masked and social distancing in perpetuity, as recommended by Susan “Stalin’s Nanny” Michie of the Sage scientific advisory group.
Given the choice between Boris’s hale-fellow magnanimity and Michie’s joyless authoritarianism, I know which I would choose, but that is very much not the preference of this appalling establishment sham.
Relatives of those who died from Covid are allowed to be present (holding up laminated photos of the deceased) which gives proceedings the feel of a tribunal in Revolutionary France hellbent on personal revenge rather than what they should be; a rational and honest assessment of whether shutting down the country was justified.
After the former prime minister apologised on Wednesday – “I understand the feelings of these victims and their families, and I am deeply sorry for the pain and the loss and the suffering,” said Boris – four protesters stood up, holding signs which said: “The dead can’t hear your apologies.”
What gives those people the right to sole occupancy of the moral high ground? Of course their losses are terribly sad, but the median age of death from Covid (about 83 years) was not that different to the normal life expectancy for men and women before the pandemic. What about younger people killed or traumatised by lockdown?
Where are the photos of the formerly happy girl who developed anorexia in 2020 and tragically took her own life (as recounted by the girl’s mother to a rightly upset Julia Hartley-Brewer on her Talk TV show)? How about the one million youngsters currently on a waiting list for mental-health services, a shocking queue that would stretch from London to Manchester?
Any portraits perchance at the Inquiry of the bereaved at funerals who were not allowed to console each other, not even when they lived in the same house for goodness sake? Or the pregnant women who went through miscarriages alone because, apparently, having the father with them was too much of a Covid risk?
How about the distraught, self-isolating spouses of confused and lonely care home residents who could not visit while staff trooped in gaily with their Tesco carrier bags? What about the grown men and women who still cry into their pillow at night fretting that their darling mum or dad died thinking they had abandoned them?
Sons like Rick, who emailed to tell me that staff at Salford Royal Hospital refused to let him in to see his dying father in May 2020. “I arrived to a near-deserted hospital, masked-up, hands sanitised. A nurse opened the door of the ward. ‘Yes?’ she said. I introduced myself and asked to be able to see my dad in his final hours. ‘No’, she said, ‘only your sister is allowed to see him’. I explained that I had purposely sacrificed not visiting in the weeks prior in order to assist with the pandemic effort, take pressure off the NHS, and try to minimise the spread of Covid, but that I desperately hoped she could find a way to accommodate me in seeing my father for the final time.
“‘No, sorry, hospital policy, only one named visitor per patient and you are clearly not your sister.’
“I paced the corridor, knowing that my father was literally just metres away from me on the other side of the wall. I knocked again. Eventually, the same nurse plus a senior female nurse/manager came out. Once again, I begged, praised them for their heroic efforts and said, ‘Could I just please come in to see my father for a few minutes for the last time?’
“Hallelujah, it worked! The senior nurse said, ‘Yes’, but then came out with the devastating words that broke me in two – ‘But now you will be the only named visitor for your father. Your sister will not be allowed in again.’
“The nurses turned, and held the ward door open for me. I stood rooted to the spot, just a metre away from entering the Promised Land where my dad lay. ‘I can’t do that to my sister,’ I said, ‘Surely, you’re not asking me to make a split-second decision between my father and my sister? Surely, this cannot be the policy of the hospital?’
“The response was as rigid and intransigent as ever. ‘You need to decide because we are very busy in the middle of a pandemic,’ was the senior one’s reply. My eyes stinging with tears, I could barely get my final words out, ‘Could you please tell my dad I came to see him?’”
Rick’s father died two days later. “He died wondering why his eldest child hadn’t been to see him when he needed me most in his final hours,” says Rick. “Experiences like my father’s (and in many cases much worse) won’t get aired at the Covid Inquiry. Gove, Vallance, Whitty, Hancock & Co, with their regrets that the measures taken weren’t stringent enough or soon enough, will win the day. Only Boris will get the blame. None of them cared about my father, or my sister, or me. None of them cared about so many like us. They should be forced to listen to the testimony of those whose lives they devastated with their draconian, incoherent, inconsistent and often barmy diktats.”
Yes, they damn well should, Rick. Thank you for reminding me of the outrageous cruelty inflicted on the British people for 18 months, much of it with no scientific basis whatsoever. Thank you for keeping my anger ablaze at the evasive, backside-covering, conveniently-missing-the point Covid Inquiry. Watching the Inquiry these past few months, I found myself thinking it was positively surreal how the former ministers, aides and scientists have somehow managed to avoid reputable studies which have found lockdowns had barely any impact on the number of Covid deaths while the economic and social collateral damage of that blunt instrument becomes ever more apparent.
Oh, and there’s another thing that Hugo Keith KC and Lady Hallett could usefully consider. Should they ever find the time, that is, between being pleasantly scandalised by Boris and juvenile name-calling on WhatsApp. It is terrifying how the number of excess deaths above the historic five-year average has continued while those linked to Covid have almost disappeared. In 2022, excess deaths (non-Covid) were running at between 500 and 1,100 every single week. Although that trend is slowing, why are tens of thousands of people who should be alive today no longer with us? Is it vaccine-related injuries, as some claim?
A major culprit, though, must be that public-spirited, but in practice lethal, instruction to “Stay Home, Protect the NHS”. It made people too guilty (or too scared) to consult a doctor (if one was even available) so cancers and other diseases were not picked up early enough. According to Professor Karol Sikora, one of the UK’s top oncologists, “a tsunami of cancer deaths is coming”. The excess deaths, he says, will start to show up next year among younger people because they tend to have more aggressive cancers than the old.
Will we be seeing any laminated photos at the Inquiry of them – the Amys and the Harrys and the Sophies and the Jacks – who perished in their twenties, thirties and forties because a bunch of panicking politicians, mystic-meg modellers and over-mighty scientific advisers chose to lock down an entire nation for a virus which overwhelmingly affected the very old?
As if. The pathologically incurious Covid Inquiry is not interested in tragedies caused by lockdown, although they may easily outnumber the victims of the virus. Lady Hallett and her lawyers are betraying the living and the dead. “I will never forget nor forgive them for what they did to my father in his final hours,” says Rick. “He must have died a devastated man believing his only son had deserted him on his deathbed. I will never comply again.”
Nor must we comply. Not after this Inquiry to whitewash the guilty. Never, never, never again.