Questions asked at inquiry whether elderly in Wales were ‘overlooked’ during pandemic
The UK Covid-19 Inquiry should determine whether the elderly were “overlooked” during the crisis, bereaved Welsh families have said.
Covid-19 Bereaved Families for Justice (CBFJ) Cymru said there should be a “thorough examination” of the position of older people throughout the pandemic.
It has also asked for the UK-wide inquiry to critically analyse decisions taken by the Welsh government.
The group said the Welsh Government has “long resisted calls to grant people in Wales their own public inquiry”.
Bethan Harris of the Covid-19 Bereaved Families for Justice Cymru told the inquiry: “It is crucially important that the inquiry will identify whether the needs of older people were overlooked.
“Was there a subconscious or unconscious tendency to view this cohort as lesser? To view them as dispensable?”
She added: “In light of what was known, the decision in both England and Wales to discharge people from hospital into care homes without testing was indefensible.
“Given it was clear from early on that asymptomatic infection and transmission could have devastating consequences, this inquiry must scrutinise the decisions on prioritisation for testing for those who are asymptomatic.
“The evidence before the inquiry shows that decisions on testing demonstrated a lack of urgency.
“In Wales, the decision to extend testing to all staff and residents in care homes was not taken until May 16 2020. This appears to have been slower than the other three nations.”
Fighting for truth
Addressing the first day of hearings for the second module of the inquiry, CBFJ Cymru said bereaved families in Wales are “still fighting for truth, justice and accountability”.
She said: “We want to know how the decisions taken by central government impacted on those in Wales.
“While most of the decisions shaping the response in Wales were decisions for which the Welsh Government was responsible there were many decisions taken by the UK government which impacted on the people in Wales and shaped the response.
“Notably, the financial levers were made by the UK Government.”
Ms Harris added: “Can we also ask the inquiry to critically compare the decisions taken by the Welsh Government and to the devolved administrations alongside those taken by the UK Government?
“The Welsh Government has long resisted calls to grant people in Wales their own public inquiry.
“Their position is that a proper understanding of governmental decisions affecting each of the devolved governments can only be achieved by seeing them within the context of the wider UK, legal and policy landscape. We therefore invite that critical comparison.”
She continued: “CBFJ Cymru say that the response of the UK and Welsh governments was wholly inadequate to the task.
“The reason for those failings must be fully examined and understood so they will not be repeated.”
The group also called for scrutiny over travel restrictions, particularly between England and Wales when people in Welsh communities were told to ‘stay local’ but holidaymakers from England were able to cross the border during the same time frame.
It also highlighted confusion over rules and restrictions in towns which crossed the English and Welsh border.
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