A bereaved daughter whose mother who died from suspected coronavirus in a Sunderland care home is hoping to meet Boris Johnson to ask for answers.
Sylvia Griffiths, died at the age of 76 in April.
She had fallen ill with suspected coronavirus, but had not been tested for the disease.
Sylvia’s daughter Deborah Doyle, from Fulwell, Sunderland, said: “I’ve lost my mum, I can’t bring her back. But the Government need to learn from their mistakes, so it can’t happen again.”
Ms Doyle, a mother of two grown up sons and a grandmother, is a member of the Covid-19 Bereaved Families for Justice campaign, which represents 1,600 families who lost a loved-one to the disease.
They wrote to the Prime Minister in June asking for a meeting – and have sent three more letters since.
Despite this, Mr Johnson has declined to talk to them.
But he appeared to change his mind when he was quizzed in a TV interview this week.
Mr Johnson told a Sky News reporter: “I am not aware of those letters … of course I will meet anybody, people who are bereaved.”
Campaigners now hope the Prime Minister will be as good as his word.
They want the chance to explain why there must be a statutory public inquiry, to learn the lessons of the first wave of the coronavirus and ensure the same mistakes aren’t made if the virus strikes again.
The Government has been widely criticised for apparently failing to protect care home residents at the start of the health crisis, and Ms Doyle believes this is one issue an inquiry must consider.
She said: “My mum was in a care home in Sunderland. She became breathless and at that time there was suspected Covid within the care home.
“My mother was assessed by a GP and was given antibiotics. She showed signs of recovery, but then died very suddenly. There were around eight deaths in the care home that week.”
She added: “In the case of the care homes, there should have been a protective ring around them. It’s come to light that Covid-positive patients were being released into care homes. At that time there was inadequate personal protective equipment. And the Government guidance was unsatisfactory at that time.”
She echoed comments from Professor Neil Ferguson, a former scientific adviser to Number 10, who has said said 20,000 lives could have been saved if the UK had gone into lockdown a week sooner.
“If the lockdown had been done earlier and those things were in place, I do believe my mum could still have been alive.
“What we are asking the Government for is a rapid review. That’s an interim public inquiry, which is transparent so all the paperwork is there. It would mean that they can prevent further deaths if there is a second wave.
“In the group there are over 1,600 of us, and every single person in that group has a heartbreaking story. They want justice because they feel their loved ones shouldn’t have gone.
“We don’t want to be ignored. We’re not looking for compensation – it’s about saving people’s lives. We don’t want other people to go through this heartache.”
Mr Johnson and other government ministers have said that some sort of inquiry into the response to the coronavirus pandemic will take place, but they have provided no details and have not guaranteed that it would be a full Statutory Public Inquiry.
Jo Goodman, one of the founders of the campaign group, said: “We welcome Boris Johnson finally agreeing to meet with us. It shouldn’t have taken him months to agree to it, and it should only be a matter of days before it happens. All we want is to prevent others from going through the same pain we have.
“What we’re asking of the Prime Minister is simple but urgent: hold a rapid review phase of a public inquiry that can report within weeks, to learn the lessons of the first wave and save lives now. Is contact tracing adequate? Are health and care staff properly protected? There are so many questions that need urgent answers.
“A rapid review after the Hillsborough tragedy took just 11 weeks to report back crucial findings. In fact, if the Prime Minister had replied to our first letter back in June, a rapid review could be reporting right now: giving crucial lessons on how to save lives as the virus spikes again, as we’re seeing in locations across the country.”