Uk Prime Minister Rishi Sunak Apologies At Covid Inquiry

In a crucial moment for the UK, PM Rishi Sunak has appeared before an inquiry investigating the nation’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Following in the footsteps of former Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Sunak’s testimony aims to unravel the government’s actions during a crisis that claimed over 232,000 lives in the country, among the highest death tolls globally.

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At the beginning of his testimony, Sunak expressed deep regret and offered a sincere apology to those who lost loved ones. Recognizing the seriousness of the situation, he emphasised the need to learn from the experience for future preparedness. Sunak clarified his role as PM, highlighting that Prime Minister Boris Johnson bore ultimate responsibility for the country’s direction, with his role focused on providing input on economic matters.

A central point of inquiry focused on Sunak’s “Eat Out to Help Out” scheme, which subsidised midweek meals in pubs and restaurants during August 2020. Despite gaining popularity, the scheme faced controversy for not being communicated in advance to key figures, including former Health Secretary Matt Hancock and England’s chief medical officer Sir Chris Whitty. Critics argued that the initiative, while not directly linked to increased infections, may have sent the wrong message to the public.

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Sunak defended the scheme, stating that Boris Johnson supported it, and he did not recall objections from key advisers during meetings. However, the inquiry aims to explore whether this initiative influenced the pandemic’s trajectory, with even the government’s chief scientific adviser, Dame Angela McLean, referring to Sunak as “Dr Death the Chancellor” in a private WhatsApp exchange.

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Throughout the inquiry, the delicate balance between economic concerns and public health measures emerged as a recurring theme. As PM, Sunak grappled with the challenging task of mitigating economic impacts while safeguarding public health. The £70 billion furlough scheme, protecting millions of workers affected by lockdowns, exemplified the government’s commitment to supporting the economy during the crisis. However, clashes between Sunak and scientific advisers highlighted the complexities of balancing economic and health priorities.

Details also emerged about internal challenges within the Treasury. Sunak revealed that in March 2020, the government faced significant issues with gilt rates, signalling a shift in the global investment community’s perception of the UK government’s borrowing capabilities. A failed gilt auction heightened concerns, leading the government to enter a ways and means facility at the Bank of England, essentially an “overdraft facility.”

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Protesters outside Dorland House voiced their anger, associating the “Eat Out to Help Out” initiative with lives lost to Covid. The inquiry counsel questioned Sunak about the scheme’s risk of transmission, while the PM defended it as a “micro-policy” aligned with safe reopening measures.

As the inquiry continued, the intricate details of the decision-making process, communication breakdowns, and the delicate balance between economic and health considerations were scrutinised. Rishi Sunak testimony shed light on the challenges faced by the government during an unprecedented crisis, offering a glimpse into the complexities of navigating a pandemic with far-reaching consequences.


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