As demands are made for there to be no delay to a full public inquiry into the handling of the Government’s handling of the Covid pandemic, Afzal Khan, Labour MP for Manchester Gorton, reflects on the loss of three family members in a year of tragedy.
Mr Khan buried his mother and his parents-in-law in the past 12 months. Covid restrictions denied them traditional Muslim funerals, which typically bring together the wider family, friends and community to mourn together and comfort each other.
And as he remarks, delays to inquiries into past tragedies threaten to deny, not just delay, justice.
This week we marked the one-year anniversary of the first national lockdown being introduced in the UK.In that year a staggering 126,000 people have lost their lives to this virus and counting.
When we are constantly bombarded with statistics in the media, it’s easy to lose sight of the human story behind each number.
However, we mustn’t forget that behind the death toll, there are families, parents, children, grandchildren, siblings, friends, partners, and millions of people grieving the loss of their loved ones.
This is something I have experienced first-hand, as an entire generation of my family died this year.
Almost a year ago after we entered lockdown, my Mum passed away.
Without proper testing infrastructure at the time, I’ll never know if she died from Covid-19.
But that doesn’t matter.
As she lay in her hospital bed, I couldn’t hold her hand, I couldn’t comfort her, I couldn’t tell her I loved her, I couldn’t say goodbye.
A year later and people are still losing loved ones in these terrible circumstances. Just last month, my mother and father-in-law both contracted Covid-19 and died within just days of one another.
The shock of this was brought home when my wife and I buried my father-in-law next to the fresh flowers still laying at my mother-in-law’s grave.
Muslim funerals are traditionally big affairs as the community comes together to mourn and comfort one another.
Burying my mother and my parents-in-law without bringing together my wider family, friends, and community has been particularly painful.
As a society we have been robbed of the opportunity to collectively mourn, instead we are left to grieve alone and isolated.
My family is not the only one to have lost someone, or even an entire generation, to this virus.
Millions are grieving for their loved ones.
Those of us left behind want and deserve to understand what happened and how as a country we reached such a tragic milestone.
A full public inquiry into the handling of the pandemic must allow us to understand if there was anything more that could have been done to save lives and how we can prevent such a tragedy from happening again.
While I’m pleased the Prime Minister has committed to an inquiry, we need to know when this will happen.
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The experiences of the Chilcot and Hillsborough Inquiries demonstrate why we shouldn’t and mustn’t delay, for justice delayed is justice denied.
I will mark the anniversary of my Mum’s death in just a few days, and I know she would want me to fight for justice not just for her but for all those whose lives have been so cruelly cut short.