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COVID bereaved families group hopes PM will ‘take us seriously’ at meeting

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The co-founder of a coronavirus bereaved families group has said he hopes Boris Johnson will “at long last… take us seriously” when he meets them at Number 10 today.

Matt Fowler said it is vital the prime minister understand the need to start a public inquiry as soon as possible.

Mr Johnson will meet members of the Covid-19 Bereaved Families for Justice group on Tuesday afternoon – more than a year after promising to meet people whose loved ones had died.

They will share how their family members caught the disease and died, and repeat calls for a public inquiry to get priority.

“I think it’s going to be something incredibly, incredibly difficult for our representatives who will be there,” said Mr Fowler.

“And I’m just really hoping that the prime minister will at long last take it seriously and take us seriously – we definitely feel like we haven’t been.”

“We haven’t been standing in the streets and shouting at him about how it’s all his fault and making accusations against him because as far as we’re concerned, that doesn’t help anybody,” added the 34-year-old, from Warwickshire.

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“What’s important for us, what should be important for everybody, is the work that goes into this is about protecting people and saving lives.”

Mr Fowler’s father Ian caught coronavirus and died in hospital in April 2020, age 56.

A former design engineer at Jaguar Land Rover, he was the “life and soul of every party and “touched the lives of hundreds”, said Mr Fowler.

The group plans to raise issues with the PM such as the disproportionate effect of COVID on some ethnic groups, transmission of the disease on public transport and in the workplace, the impact of late lockdowns, and failures to learn from the first wave.

Boris Johnson previously said the inquiry would start in spring 2022.

Elkan Abrahamson, who represented families at the Hillsborough and Manchester Arena inquiries, will be the group’s lawyer.

Mr Abrahamson said the prime minister will be asked when an inquiry chairperson and panel will be chosen and when hearings can start.

“It’s not impractical to suggest that oral hearings can start pretty soon,” he said.

“It might be impractical to suggest you can have the whole thing done and dusted in three months because you can’t.

“But it’s about saving lives, and if there was a particular area where lives could arguably be saved by a detailed analysis of the position, and hearing expert evidence, that would be the way to go.”