Sajid Javid today apologised for the government’s Covid ‘failures’ and insisted ‘lessons will be learned’.
The Health Secretary stressed he was ‘sorry’ for the losses and suffering – after a Cabinet colleague sparked anger earlier this week by refusing to apologise 11 times in an interview.
But speaking to broadcasters, Mr Javid also appeared to take a swipe at predecessor Matt Hancock by pointing out he personally was ‘out of government when a lot of those crucial decisions were made’.
Mr Javid, who was axed as Chancellor in a reshuffle in January 2020 but brought back as Health Secretary when Mr Hancock quit over an affair with an aide in June this year, said: ‘I was a humble backbencher.’
The first major probe into the Covid crisis was published on Tuesday, concluding that thousands of care home residents died needlessly in the pandemic, and that ministers were blinded by ‘groupthink’ among scientific advisers who wrongly wanted to manage the spread of the virus, rather than suppress it.
The dossier also claimed that No10’s early decisions on lockdowns and social distancing rank as ‘one of the most important public health failures the UK has ever experienced’.
Sajid Javid stressed he was ‘sorry’ for the losses and suffering – after a Cabinet colleague sparked anger earlier this week by refusing to apologise 11 times in an interview
Mr Javid also appeared to take a swipe at predecessor Matt Hancock (pictured) by pointing out he personally was ‘out of government when a lot of those crucial decisions were made’
But Cabinet Office minister Stephen Barclay faced a backlash after refusing to apologise 11 times during an interview on Sky News on Tuesday.
What were the key findings of the first Covid report?
The UK’s first Covid inquiry was published this week by MPs from the health and science committees in the House of Commons.
It revealed a catalogue of failures right up to the top of Government, and sparked anger among families who lost loved ones. Pressure is building for an independent judge-led inquiry to begin as soon as possible.
Key findings included:
- Thousands of care home residents needlessly died during the pandemic, with the elderly treated as an ‘afterthought’;
- The performance of the £37billion test and trace system was ‘chaotic’;
- Early decisions on lockdowns and social distancing ranked as ‘one of the most important public health failures the United Kingdom has ever experienced’;
- Ministers were blinded by ‘groupthink’ among scientists, who wrongly wanted to manage the spread of the virus rather than suppress it;
- The UK’s response was too ‘narrowly and inflexibly based on a flu model’ that failed to learn lessons from Sars, Mers and Ebola;
- This was a ‘serious early error’ when other countries were taking drastic action;
- The lack of a proper test and trace system early on meant a full lockdown was ‘inevitable’ and should have come sooner;
- Decision-making was dysfunctional with the exchange of important information between public bodies ‘inadequate’;
- Death rates among black, Asian and minority ethnic communities and those with learning disabilities were unacceptably high.
Tory chairman Oliver Dowden struck a far more emollient tone yesterday, saying he was ‘very sorry’ and admitting ‘we didn’t get everything right’.
Asked on BBC Breakfast this morning if he was sorry for the ‘failures’ which had occurred, Mr Javid said: ‘Yes, of course I’m sorry.
‘Obviously I am new in the role but on behalf of the Government I am sorry for, during the pandemic, anyone that suffered, especially anyone that lost a loved one, a mother, a dad, a brother, a sister, a friend. Of course I am sorry for that.
‘Also all those people that may not have lost someone but they are still suffering – there are many people sadly suffering from long Covid, we still don’t know the impact of that. Of course I am.
‘There will be lessons to learn from this pandemic for this Government, for governments across the world, there will be lessons. It is important that is done.
‘There is going to be a public inquiry and I think that is the best place to learn these lessons.
‘But if you are asking me if I am sorry, then of course I am.’
Asked on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme what mistakes he was apologising for, mr Javid said: ‘What I am saying sorry for is the loss that people have suffered and how they have been affected. I don’t think I am in a position yet to go back and look at every decision that was made and how we can for that.’
Pressed if he thought he had been wrong as a backbench MP to argue for greater weight to be given to economic needs during the pandemic, Mr Javid said: ‘No, I don’t, based on the information that I have had and also from what I know.’
He added: ‘I have been in this job for 100 days and was out of government when a lot of those crucial decisions were made. I was a humble backbencher.’
Mr Javid disclosed that he has yet to read all the report of the Commons Science and Health Committees into the pandemic.
‘It is one report and I welcome the report. I haven’t had the opportunity to study every word of the report. I will study it properly this weekend,’ he said.
Keir Starmer has said that saying sorry is the ‘least the PM could do’ and insisted a planned public inquiry should be brought forward.
Sir Keir added: ‘The PM should take responsibility because the responsibility is his, and he should apologise.’
Mr Johnson has promised a formal inquiry into the Government’s response to the pandemic will start in Spring 2022 but an exact date has yet to be set. When he announced the probe, he insisted key players would be put ‘under the microscope’.
Labour had originally called for the inquiry to begin in June this year, in line with No10’s lifting of virus restrictions. There are currently virtually no Covid curbs on daily life in England.
Dominic Cummings has slammed his old boss for his handling of the pandemic, branding the Prime Minister a ‘joke’.
The report published by the Commons health and science committees is the first to shine a light on the catalogue of failures made at the top of Government.
Among other things it castigated the ‘chaotic’ performance of the £37billion test and trace system, although it said the vaccination drive had been a significant success.
Minister Stephen Barclay refused to apologise 11 times for the Government’s failures at the start of the pandemic when he was on Sky News earlier this week. Former top adviser Dominic Cummings has branded Boris Johnson a ‘joke’