UK Covid Inquiry gives us all a chance to reflect on what we did during the pandemic – Stephen Jardine

Politicians and scientists are being scrutinised by the UK Covid Inquiry but everyone should think about their own actions

They used to ask “what did you do in the war?” The modern equivalent must be “what did you do during the pandemic?” Out in front are the NHS staff who stepped into the unknown and risked their lives to save others. Then there are the other 999 emergency workers who bravely battled on, the supermarket staff who kept us supplied and the employees who couldn’t work from home but still had to do essential jobs every day.

Right at the back are the Covid busybodies who taped off park benches and the man who tried to tell me I wasn’t properly following the one-way system on a windblown coastal path. Somewhere in the middle are the politicians who had to take some of the hardest decisions of their careers and now face a day of reckoning.

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The Covid inquiries, north and south of the Border, have shown it was hardly the finest hour for any of our political leaders but it has also brought back into sharp focus for the rest of us the grim recollections of that time.

The Covid pandemic prompted many community-minded people to volunteer to help those in need (Picture: Leon Neal/Getty Images)The Covid pandemic prompted many community-minded people to volunteer to help those in need (Picture: Leon Neal/Getty Images)
The Covid pandemic prompted many community-minded people to volunteer to help those in need (Picture: Leon Neal/Getty Images)

This weekend four years ago, the disease was in its infancy with only a handful of cases in the UK. Eventually, the total number of infected people here would reach 25 million. Many of us lost loved ones to the virus. My father-in-law was one of those who perished. Some families continue to campaign but for many others, the nightmare of that time has been locked away. The evidence being heard by the inquiries is bringing it all flooding back.

Were we kind to others?

For while the scandals over parties and WhatsApp messages are part of the picture, it’s important to remember the main focus is trying to learn lessons for the future. What we can do better next time because there will be a next time.

Whether or not we’re called to give evidence to the official investigation, it does represent an opportunity for us all to reflect on what we did during the biggest crisis this country has faced since the Second World War. Were we kind enough to others, did we really do our bit and what would we do differently?

Some of that is obvious. Being in a pub but not being allowed to drink alcohol made no sense then or now. Similarly sawing the bottom off school doors to allow more ventilation was a proposal that should never have left a blue-sky-thinking meeting. But from our personal behaviour to the way we treated others, none of us should be above reflecting on how we dealt with that time.

When the spotlight moves on from the politicians, scientists will be the next group to be scrutinised by the inquiry. If our leaders were relying on the experts, did they choose the rights ones and was the information correct?

We in the media have questions to answer as well. Were we robust enough in our scrutiny or were we also blinded by the science and too willing to simply accept what we were told?

Four years on, the Covid inquiries make uncomfortable viewing but they are doing a vital job reviewing the events and decisions but also giving us all the chance to reflect on how we reacted to a crisis we can only hope we never have to face again.



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