Sunak tells Covid inquiry he is 'deeply sorry' to bereaved families

The UK prime minister says it is important to learn lessons from what had happened

By Reuters

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Covid campaigners and families of those who died during the pandemic hold placards as they protest outside the Covid Inquiry at Dorland House, where British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak is giving evidence. — AP
Covid campaigners and families of those who died during the pandemic hold placards as they protest outside the Covid Inquiry at Dorland House, where British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak is giving evidence. — AP

Published: Mon 11 Dec 2023, 5:53 PM

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak told bereaved families at an official inquiry into the UK's handling of Covid on Monday that he was "deeply sorry" and he hoped the country could learn lessons from the pandemic.

Sunak, a relatively unknown politician who was promoted to become finance minister on the eve of Covid's arrival, said it was important to learn lessons from what had happened so Britain could be better prepared for the future.

"I just wanted to start by saying how deeply sorry I am to all of those who lost loved ones, family members through the pandemic and also all those who suffered in the various different ways throughout the pandemic and as a result of the actions that were taken," he said.

"It's important that we learn the lessons so that we can be better prepared in the future."

Britain's Covid inquiry is examining the country's response to the pandemic and has heard testimony about often chaotic scenes in the government of then-prime minister Boris Johnson, marked by incompetence, backstabbing and misogyny.

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A former investment banker, Sunak won plaudits at the time for his handling of the pandemic fallout, appearing sure footed as he set out hundreds of billions of pounds of spending to keep companies and livelihoods afloat.

However some officials and scientists have since questioned whether his focus on reopening the economy came at a detriment to public health, with one former government adviser saying Sunak had said they should "just let people die".

One area of focus for the inquiry is likely to be Sunak's "Eat out to help out" subsidised meal scheme which was designed to boost spending at restaurants, cafes and pubs in August 2020.

Some scientists have since questioned whether it may have contributed to a wave of infections.


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