A picture of horror is emerging from the Covid inquiry in Scotland, which began taking evidence last week.
Already it has heard that testimony will be presented which shows elderly care home residents in Scotland “may have been neglected and left to starve” during the pandemic.
In some cases, residents that needed oxygen as part of their care did not get it. Further evidence will show that elderly and vulnerable people were pressured to agree to Do Not Resuscitate (DNR) notices—and that even some of those without a DNR notice were not resuscitated.
That means that there was no attempt to revive patients who had stopped breathing or whose heart had stopped beating.
The inquiry will also be told that care homes quickly ran out of PPE protective equipment and even basic disinfectant, and that workers were forced to improvise.
As infections rampaged through the care system, staff at one home report that alcohol-based hand gels “were locked in a cupboard to which staff were not permitted access by management”.
They “cleaned using air freshener” instead. And, in some cases, managers forbade staff from sharing news of what was going on, meaning that many families still have no idea of the true circumstances in which their relatives died.
Shelagh McCall, the layer acting on behalf of the Bereaved Relatives Group Skye, said the ban on care home visits made it impossible for family to check on relatives.
“Some staff formed the view that management cared more about their reputation in the community and the protection of their business than they did about the residents,” she said.
That led to families being “told their loved ones were ‘fine’, only to get a sudden hurried phone call that they were dying.”
The inquiry is also set to hear about the systemic failure of the health and social care systems. Care home managers will tell the inquiry that they were forced to accept patients discharged from hospitals to free up space there—and that this was the root cause of many care home outbreaks.
And, they will say, when care home residents developed illnesses, A&E units were under instruction not to admit them.
But even as the inquiry was laying out the scale of damage, it became clear that Scottish politicians are trying to derail both it, and the wider UK Covid Inquiry.
Key Covid WhatApp messages sent by Nicola Sturgeon were manually deleted from her phone. Documents given to the UK Covid Inquiry show the former Scottish first minister is among a string of senior government figures who claim the data no longer exists. That includes the current first minister Humza Yousaf and deputy first minister John Swinney.
Aamer Anwar, lead solicitor for Scottish Covid Bereaved, said, the people he represents find it “inconceivable” that most senior figures in the Scottish Government failed to retain their WhatsApp messages over the two-year period of the pandemic.
“At the very least by August 2021, when the Scottish Government announced a public inquiry, someone would have known that all those involved in key decision-making for the pandemic must immediately stop deleting the evidence. The families we represent deserve the truth.”
Rogue Cummings will embarrass his fellow rogues at the UK inquiry
Dominic Cummings, Martin Reynolds and Lee Cain are among the former senior Downing Street figures expected to give evidence to the UK Covid Inquiry this week.
Their evidence could lead to explosive revelations of the government’s pandemic failures. Cummings, has previously provided bruising testimonies when appearing before public committees.
In May 2021, he appeared before a joint committee on technology and health, where he criticised various aspects of the government’s response to the pandemic. And in a post on his blog earlier this month, Cummings said he had been going through his statement to the inquiry in a “painful” process.
There will rightly be much focus on “Disgusting and misogynistic” WhatsApp messages between Boris Johnson and Cummings.
Even firmer chancellor George Osborne has commented “I think we’re going to get some pretty astonishing and frankly shocking WhatsApp messages and the like being published from that Johnson period.”
It’s also possible Cummings’ testimony will show in detail how the Tories sought to put profits before people’s lives—particularly when deciding on lockdown restrictions.
According to The Times newspaper, Case said Johnson was keen to roll back social distancing regulations and announce, “We’re over Covid.”
In one message, the then head of the civil service described this behaviour as “Trump and Bolsonaro levels of mad and dangerous”.
No wonder some of those messages are now “missing”. Boris Johnson has told the inquiry he had been unable to access messages between 31 January and 7 June 2020, despite the phone being in action until the following spring.
And Rishi Sunak has refused to hand over his WhatsApp messages from the time, claiming that he did not have access to the messages during his time as chancellor because he changed his phone several times.
Other messages in a WhatsApp group containing Case, Cain and Cummings suggest the exasperation felt within Johnson’s inner circle at the government’s handling of the lockdowns.