A Machynlleth woman has spoken of her fears for the future if Wales does not have its own inquiry into the Covid-19 pandemic.

The first hearing for the First Module of the UK inquiry started last Tuesday, looking at preparation and resilience.

Catherine Griffiths from Machynlleth has been watching the inquiry with great interest.

Originally from Dinas Mawddwy, Catherine has been fighting for a Wales inquiry since her 86-year-old father Harry, died of Covid in Hafan y Waun care home in Aberystwyth.

Catherine's dad, Harry
Catherine's dad, Harry (Family photograph)

With fellow campaigners from Wales, Catherine met with First Minister Mark Drakeford to call for a Wales-specific public inquiry into the handling of the pandemic, but their calls were ignored and Wales, unlike Scotland which is holding its own investigation, has been included in the UK probe.

Catherine is still fighting for justice however, and agreed to be interviewed, along with other people from across the UK who lost loved-ones to Covid-19 for the inquiry.

The interviews, which opened the first day of the inquest, are tough to watch, but Catherine wanted to share her father’s story to try to make sure nothing like this happens to other families in future. Commenting on the inquiry so far, Catherine said: “The Welsh Government was invited to submit evidence to this inquiry - they were slow and delayed it.

“That also gave us less time to look at it, but what they did submit was very scant.”

Catherine added: “There were three exercises in 2009, 2014 and 2015 to see how the UK would respond to a pandemic and there must have been recommendations from those, but Mark Drakeford said he didn’t know a lot about pandemics.

“There was no plan for lockdowns, body bags, storage or testing.

“Health and social care are devolved issues and the responsibility of the Welsh Government. We met the First Minister to ask him to hold a Wales inquiry, like Scotland is having its own, but we don’t get that in Wales as the Welsh Government denied us that.

“We were told there would be a pandemic but it seems there was no preparation in place at all.

“Vaughan Gething said there was plenty of PPE but we know there wasn’t.

“There was advice to stockpile PPE but they didn’t.

“We believe they didn’t prepare for a pandemic.

“I asked if there was something in place to protect care home residents in the event of a pandemic, via a Freedom of Information request, but there were only plans for flu and norovirus.

“Personally I am pleased an inquiry has started, but I still think Wales should have its own. It won’t get the scrutiny the people of Wales deserve- under the UK-wide one.

“I hope the inquiry results in making changes in policy to ensure that all of the nations are fully prepared with protocols in place for the next pandemic, which we are assured by scientists will come our way, and that could be in a very short time.

“I want the reassurance that our representatives in government are doing everything they can to protect people in Wales, especially older people and the vulnerable.

“Older people have done their bit for society and we in turn have a duty to make sure they are safe.

“I say all this on behalf of my father who died ,and others. I am focussed particularly on older people as that is my experience of this, but I appreciate there are vulnerabilities at all ages.

“I think the lack of planning by Welsh Government led to a great loss of dignity in death and after death, and that’s very difficult for the families of those who died.

“The impact videos at the start of each day of the inquiry are difficult to watch, but I am grateful to have been able to say what I have and for my voice to have been heard. Bereaved families remain overwhelmed by all of this.”

A Welsh Government spokesperson said: “As the public hearings have now begun, we won’t be commenting on the Covid-19 inquiry.”

Catherine Griffiths
Catherine Griffiths (Picture supplied)