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Families who lost loved ones to Covid have reacted with anger after being told Boris Johnson will refuse to meet with them for another three months.
The Mirror understands the Prime Minister will sit down for talks with Covid-19 Bereaved Families for Justice in September.
Jo Goodman, co-founder of the campaign representing some 4,000 families, has hit out after Downing Street revealed the news in an email to the group's lawyers this week.
She said grieving families have been left feeling "distressed and ignored" by the three-month delay and want to meet now.
"With cases on this rise, the perspective of bereaved families has to be at the heart of the Government’s response. So why is Boris Johnson waiting until September to meet with us?," said Ms Goodman, who lost her father Stuart, 72, to the virus during the first wave.
"The Government has previously refused to meet with us on seven different occasions, leaving bereaved families feeling ignored and distressed across the country.
"Whilst we welcome the Government’s change of heart, it’s long overdue and should be happening immediately rather than in September."
They have repeatedly called to be consulted on the long-awaited public inquiry into the Government's handling of the pandemic, due to start in spring 2022.
It comes amid fears the head of the inquiry will be "hand-picked" by the Government and ministers will sideline families on key decisions about the probe before September.
(Image: AFP via Getty Images)
Families for Justice has also shared its draft recommendations for the inquiry's terms of reference with the Mirror.
Their greatest fear is that lives may be lost in a future pandemic if ministers fail to address gaps in the UK’s preparedness, such as on PPE.
The group has been critical of the Government's disastrous mistakes on late lockdowns and sending infected back people to care homes.
One of the group's key demands a rapid review phase that identifies failures and successes in how the Government tackled the pandemic.
The probe should look at whether the "legal, regulatory and policy frameworks to deal with a pandemic are fit for purpose" and whether cutbacks to the health service played a role, as well as make clear who Downing Street delegated responsibility to and what for, the document says.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock has faced criticism over his handling of care homes policy during the pandemic
(Image: Getty Images)
Lib Dem MP Layla Moran, who chairs the all-party parliamentary group on Covid, called on ministers to release an internal Whitehall report on Covid and begin the inquiry now.
She said: “Although it is welcome that the Prime Minister has belatedly agreed to meet the Bereaved Families for Justice group, there is no reason to delay the meeting until September. It is vital that this public inquiry gets underway immediately.
“It will be important for the inquiry to be fully independent and command the support of bereaved families, the public and Parliament as well as devolved administrations.
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“The chair and panel should therefore be agreed on a cross-party basis, rather than being hand-picked by the government.
“In the meantime, the government must publish its secretive review into its handling of the pandemic without further delay. The public has a right to know what mistakes have been made and what lessons have been learnt so far.”
Ministers have said it is vital they continue dealing with the pandemic now, as the Delta variant, first identified in India, continues to spread.
Mr Johnson delayed ending all lockdown measures until July 19 to give more time for people to get jabs.
The Mirror has contacted Downing Street for comment.