'Blood on their hands' - Bereaved families react to Cummings over Covid

Dominic Cummings, former Chief Adviser to Prime Minister Boris Johnson, giving evidence to a joint i

Dominic Cummings, former Chief Adviser to Prime Minister Boris Johnson, giving evidence to a joint inquiry of the Commons Health and Social Care and Science and Technology Committees on the subject of Coronavirus: lessons learnt. Picture date: Wednesday May 26, 2021. - Credit: PA

Norfolk families that lost loved ones to Covid have reacted to claims by Dominic Cummings that "tens of thousands" of people died unnecessarily.

At a Commons select committee hearing, Boris Johnson’s former chief advisor also labelled health secretary Matt Hancock a "liar" and said the PM was unfit for the job.

Samantha Hendrie, of King’s Lynn, lost her dad, David Hendrie, 74, last April. She said she was “in total agreement” that the government acted too late but did not accept Mr Cummings' apology.

David Hendrie

David Hendrie - Credit: SUPPLIED

She said: “They should have watched what was happening in China and implemented a national lockdown much earlier.

“As for Dominic’s apology to the families that have lost love ones to Covid, unfortunately, that just isn’t good enough. I don’t want an apology. It doesn’t make right what they have done.

“They all have blood on their hands, that they all have to live with for the rest of their lives.” 

Steven Blackwell, who lost his mother Cynthia Blackwell, 92, in December, questioned the motives behind Mr Cummings allegations.

Cynthia Blackwell being awarded the Dennis Thompson trophy.

Cynthia Blackwell, who served as the hon treasurer of Great Yarmouth Swimming Club for over three decades, has died aged 92. Here she is pictured being awarded the Dennis Thompson trophy. - Credit: SUPPLIED BY FAMILY

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He said: “Hindsight is a wonderful thing and at the end of November, when my mum was first taken into hospital, nobody really knew how more infectious the Kent variant was.   

“I'm more upset that she was taken into hospital in the first place - to satisfy some tick box procedure - and that there was no effective way to communicate with her until that final chance to say goodbye.”

Sue English, of Harleston, whose 59-year-old husband Joe died from Covid in November, echoed Mr Blackwell’s sentiments.

Joe English

Joe English - Credit: SUPPLIED

Mrs English said: “No amount of finger-pointing or apologies will bring our loved ones back. This country has to rebuild and stand together, not use what we have all been through as some political platform.”

Katherine Sibbons agreed it was important not to put blame on anyone for the loss of her mother, Josie Page, but shared how difficult it had been for the family.

Josephine "Josie" Page

Josephine "Josie" Page - Credit: SUPPLIED BY FAMILY

"What we find the hardest is that as we lost mother right at the beginning of the pandemic, no one could be with her and hold her hand and say our goodbyes," she said. “It hurts and nobody can ever put right to that.  

“But lessons have been rectified and now nobody has to go through that pain. Covid pandemic is a learning experience for all of us and unfortunately, we have to all be a little bit more prepared to make a few changes to try and protect ourselves.”   

Mr Cummings said promises to put a shield around care homes were "complete nonsense”. He claimed people with Covid were sent back to the care homes without testing taking place.

Claire Ling’s 93-year-old grandmother, Lily Roythorne, was a resident in a care home when she contracted Covid, just a fortnight after the first lockdown. She later died at the hospital, six months before her sister who also died from the virus.

Lily Roythorne

Lily Roythorne - Credit: SUPPLIED

Mrs Ling, 40, of Dersingham, said: "We had been in the previous day to see her. Two weeks later she was taken into hospital with Covid. It all happened very quickly. 

“If the lockdown had been sooner, would she still have caught it? Probably not. Had there been a decision earlier, would that have saved many more in care homes across the country? Probably. 

“The government could have done things differently, but I guess Boris Johnson was thinking about things like the economy, jobs, leisure industry, etcetera. Ultimately, we paid the price in losing the number of lives we have.” 

One group that has been calling for a public inquiry is Covid-19 Bereaved Families for Justice UK. 

Jo Goodman with her father Stuart who died with Covid last April.

Jo Goodman with her father Stuart who died with Covid last April. - Credit: Submitted

Its co-founder Jo Goodman lost her father, Stuart, 72, of Norwich, to Covid last April. She set up the group almost exactly a year ago.

Mr Johnson’s announcement of a statutory inquiry to start next year was a bittersweet landmark. While the announcement was “a huge relief”, the group warned that the inquiry was starting too late, and called on the government to involve bereaved families in key decision-making.

Ms Goodman said: “I think a lot of what we’ve heard from Dominic Cummings are things we’ve already heard whispered. The shocking part is that we are not as shocked as we could be. 

“The levels of disregard for people at the time, and the information that has come out, really shows how important it is for this information not to be treated as tittle-tattle or for political gain.”