Former health secretary Matt Hancock has said he is ‘profoundly sorry for every death’ caused by the Covid pandemic.
Appearing in front of a public inquiry into the Government’s handling of the pandemic, he also said that the system had been ‘geared towards how to clear up after a disaster, not prevent it’.
He said: ‘I am profoundly sorry for each death that has occurred, and I also understand why for some it will be hard to take that apology from me – I understand that, I get it.
‘But it is honest and heartfelt, I’m not very good at talking about my emotions and how I feel but that is honest and true.’
Mr Hancock also told the inquiry that the attitude of the UK was ‘to plan for the consequences of a disaster’.
‘Can we buy enough body bags? Where are we going to bury the dead? And that was completely wrong,’ he said.
‘I was assured that the UK planning was among the best and in some instances the best in the world.’
Mr Hancock also had encounters with beavered families before giving evidence.
In his written evidence to the inquiry, he said: ‘There isn’t a day that goes by that I do not think about all those who lost their lives to this awful disease or the loved ones they have left behind.
‘We discovered over the first three months of 2020 that the nation’s preparations for a pandemic of this nature were not good enough.
‘In many areas there are lessons to be learned to prepare for the next pandemic, both where things went wrong, and where the UK response was exemplary.
‘I express my heartfelt thanks to all those who rose to the enormous challenge of dealing with this unprecedented pandemic, in the NHS, social care, public health, civil service and much wider.’
Mr Hancock will appear in front of the inquiry again in the autumn, with other senior Government officials who played key roles in the pandemic response.
The independent public inquiry was set up to examine the UK’s response to and impact of the Covid pandemic, and ‘learn lessons for the future’ and is chaired by Baroness Heather Hallett, a former Court of Appeal judge.
The BMA welcomed the inquiry’s launch last year but said that lessons must be learned ‘swiftly’ to prevent future pandemics.