Nearly Three In Five Brits Want An Independent Public Inquiry On Govt Handling Of Coronavirus

57% say public inquiry should take place on UK response to COVID, and majority of Brits claim government ISN’T prepared to handle potential peak this winter
- Research comes ahead of first meeting this Wednesday of cross-party group of MPs seeking to ensure lessons are learned
- Incoming chair Layla Moran MP: ‘each day brings more evidence of catastrophic mistakes in the handling of this pandemic’

Nearly three out of five Brits (57%) say there should an independent public inquiry into how the UK Government has handled coronavirus, according to new polling conducted by YouGov on behalf of campaign group March for Change.

The research comes ahead of the first meeting this Wednesday (8 July) of a new all-party parliamentary group on Coronavirus, to be chaired by Liberal Democrat MP Layla Moran.

Other officers and members include Conservative MP Dr Dan Poulter, Labour MP Clive Lewis, Scottish National Party MP Dr Philippa Whitford, Plaid Cymru MP Liz Saville-Roberts, Green Party MP Caroline Lucas and Green Party Life Peer Jenny Jones. The group will focus on ensuring lessons are learned from the government’s handling of the pandemic so far to improve its response ahead of a potential second surge this winter.

Layla Moran, MP for Oxford West and Abingdon, said: “From the neglect of care homes to the lack of an effective testing regime, each day brings more evidence of catastrophic mistakes in the handling of this pandemic.

“The country and the NHS cannot afford for these errors to be repeated. The case for an independent public inquiry is now undeniable, and this poll shows the majority of the British people agree. All political parties must come together to ensure lessons are learned ahead of a potential second wave.”

The new YouGov research shows that support for a public inquiry has grown significantly over the last three weeks, despite government relaxing lockdown rules and announcing the re-opening of pubs. Compared to early June, support for a public inquiry has increased by 4% - and since polling started at the end of May, the number of people who want an inquiry has increased by 8%.

The number of people who believe there should NOT be an independent inquiry into the government’s handling of the pandemic dropped by 3% to under a third (30%). Leave voters are now almost equally split on the matter, with 42% in favour against 45% who don’t want an independent inquiry. Of those who want an inquiry, 62% say it should happen before the winter months - including a majority (55%) of Conservative voters, up 4% from last month.

Dr Philippa Whitford, the Scottish National Party MP for Central Ayrshire, and SNP Health spokesperson in the House of Commons, said: “In the first wave of COVID19, the UK response was too slow and behind the curve. In early March, with the virus spreading exponentially, cases were doubling in less than a week. Delays of even a few days in taking action meant soaring cases and, tragically, greater loss of life.

“We cannot let this happen again if there is a second wave later this year. It is important to have a rapid inquiry, involving cross-party MPs and Peers along with the science and health community, to consider the key components of the response; including testing, contact tracing and PPE provision. It’s vital to learn the lessons of the last five months so we don’t end up back at square one.“

Asked if the government is adequately prepared to handle coronavirus in the upcoming winter months, a majority (56%) say it ISN’T prepared – and only around a quarter (26%) think the government is adequately prepared for any spike.

Martin McKee, Professor of European Public Health, and Past President, European Public Health Association Research Director European Observatory on Health Systems & Policies, said: “There is a huge opportunity here for government, health professionals and society at large to get ahead of the game for the first time. Ministers may say they are prepared for winter, but we need to consider the impact of renewed restrictions on mental health, the backlog of cancer operations, or how coronavirus would interact with seasonal influenza. We need a strategy, and one that is informed by an honest assessment of what has worked and what has not. We cannot afford to go in to winter flying blind.”  

Dr Rinesh Parmar, Chair of the Doctors’ Association UK, added: “As we celebrate the 72nd birthday of the NHS we approach the yearly winter pressures in the knowledge that our already stretched NHS will be strained further by COVID-19. Doctors working in Hospitals and GP practices across the frontline recognise the vital importance of commencing a rapid review into the pandemic.

“Rather than enabling the government to mark its own homework, a fully independent review with cross party backing, examining in granular detail what happened and what needs to change is the only way to learn lessons and save lives. This is precisely what the government should be directing resources and support towards, to learn not blame and channel this learning into saving lives in the future.”

Last month (June), 27 leading medics and scientists signed a March for Change letter calling on Boris Johnson to order a public inquiry to prepare Britain for a second wave of the coronavirus this winter, warning that many more will die unless the country improves its response.  The 27 experts, of which more than half are professors in virology, public health, epidemiology and other relevant fields, said there was an urgent need to fix shortcomings in Westminster’s coronavirus response, which have contributed to the UK suffering one of the highest death rates in the world.

Dr Mike Galsworthy, March for Change director, added: “Over the last month, a rapidly rising number of people agreed that a public inquiry is necessary. There’s an urgent need to get on the front food and ahead of the curve.

“We cannot repeat in the second half of the year what happened in the first, where a government operated alone on narrow bandwidth of inputs, missed big opportunities, and made serious errors.  Looking at the huge, complex set of threats coming up in the winter months, we need broader bandwidth all parties and key parts of society to be on board. That’s why an urgent independent public inquiry with rapid-action recommendations is needed to make sure we catch as many problems in time as possible.”

The March for Change campaign has been calling for an urgent public inquiry into the UK government’s handling of coronavirus since mid-April, and its online petition currently stands at over 115,000 signatures: https://www.marchforchange.uk/coronavirus_inquiry

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Press info: Howard Bowden, howardbowden@marchforchange.uk, 07720 839 852

Notes to editors: 
March for Change is a grassroots campaign founded in 2019.  Having set up the APPG, the March for Change campaign will fill the function of the group's secretariat. Its petition is hosted on the March for Change website: https://www.marchforchange.uk/coronavirus_inquiry

All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc. Total sample size was 1,608 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between 30th June - 1st July 2020. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all GB adults (aged 18+).

 

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