Downing Street has said it is too busy dealing with the pandemic to launch a public inquiry into its handling of the crisis.
In a letter seen by The Guardian to lawyers representing bereaved families, the government said “an inquiry now is not appropriate” because “the very people who would need to give evidence to an inquiry are working round the clock”.
It said that “it is not anticipated that the government’s workload will ease in the coming months”.
The remark comes amid growing calls for an inquiry over the government’s handling of the pandemic.
Jo Goodman, co-founder of the Covid-19 Berevaed Families for Justice group, branded the government’s response “an insult to the bereaved” and “prevents the government from protecting future lives to the best of their ability”.
It comes just days after the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, piled the pressure on Johnson to launch an inquiry as he said the time for an independent probe “must be coming close”.
Welby said during a visit to the National Covid Memorial Wall in central London that a probe should focus on “lessons to be learned” and must be “very independent” and “very wide-ranging”.
A government spokesman told The Guardian that an inquiry will be held “at the appropriate time” but officials are currently “rightly focused on protecting public health and saving lives”.
Johnson has said a probe will take place “as soon as it would not be an irresponsible diversion of the energies of the key officials involved”.