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From the Newsroom: Boris Johnson is right to say the Covid inquiry should look into lockdown harms

In recent weeks, The Telegraph reported that Boris Johnson believes the Covid inquiry should “urgently examine the harms caused by lockdown”.

Frankly, it would be an outrage if it doesn’t – particularly given that we now know there are doubts about whether or not they even worked in the first place.

To be honest, the whole inquiry is turning into little more than a political name-and-shame fest. Very few of the questions the public actually want answered are being asked.

Boris Johnson appeared at the Covid inquiry last week. Picture: PA
Boris Johnson appeared at the Covid inquiry last week. Picture: PA

Yes, the fall-out between Boris and Dominic Cummings made for interesting reading – but how does it benefit us?

Given that more than £60million has already been spent on this process, do we really need to know about the inner workings of WhatsApp group chats and what cabinet members say to each other?

The answer is no. Instead, this inquiry should be asking the hard-hitting questions that will lead to a better pandemic response in the future.

Why, for instance, did we dive head-first into lockdowns with very little evidence suggesting they would work?

Why did we think it would be a good idea to roll out furlough and ‘eat out to help out’ schemes without adequate consideration as to how we would pay back this money?

Most importantly, however, as Mr Johnson suggests, we should be looking deeper into the harms of lockdowns.

A generation of children already addicted to phones and computers were forced inside, away from their friends, because of a virus which posed very little danger to them.

Now, many of these same children can barely take their eyes from their screens, endlessly scrolling through the likes of TikTok and unable to hold meaningful conversations.

Not only that, but numerous studies have highlighted the numeracy and literacy levels in UK schoolchildren dropped during the Covid years – while there were also increased rates of depression and other mental illnesses.

The economic fall-out from lockdowns, meanwhile, has been catastrophic. The UK remains heavily in debt because of our wild spending.

And what of the domestic abuse victims left trapped at home with their partners? What of people who already suffered from isolation-related mental health problems who were cut off from the rest of the world?

Something obviously had to be done to deal with Covid, but would a more targeted approach have been appropriate? For instance, could the Government have told those most vulnerable to the virus to shield, rather than locking every one of us down?

These are the questions we need to ask, and Boris Johnson is right to say so.

Unfortunately, I can’t see it happening - those involved in the process are either too afraid or too interested in petty politics.

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