British people are strongly in favor of a full public inquiry scrutinizing the government's handling of the novel coronavirus pandemic, according to an opinion poll commissioned by The Guardian newspaper.
Almost half of those questioned said they supported the idea, and just one-fifth were opposed to a statutory public inquiry, with many of those citing expense rather than lack of utility as the reason.
The strong support prompted a government spokesperson to say: "There will be an appropriate time in the future to look back, analyze, and reflect on all aspects of this global pandemic."
But Reuters reported a spokesperson for the prime minister also said: "Now is not the right time to devote huge amounts of official time to an inquiry."
The Daily Mail said calls for an analysis of the official response to the pandemic grew after Prime Minister Boris Johnson reportedly said he regretted not locking the nation down more quickly, back in March 2020.
Jo Goodman, co-founder of the group COVID-19 Bereaved Families for Justice, which claims to represent 2,800 families that lost loved ones during the pandemic, told The Guardian: "It's as plain as day we need a proper public inquiry into the government's handling of the pandemic … Just one in five people think otherwise and, as more and more information comes to light, ever more people are realizing how crucial this is for the whole country."
Goodman told The Guardian the "generation-defining crisis" deserves a process that ensures lessons are learned. "If the government doesn't learn from its mistakes, then how will it save lives in the future," she said.
Many doctors, nurses, and scientists have joined bereaved families in calling for an official inquiry, with the British Medical Association and Royal College of Nursing on record as supporting the idea.
The Guardian said 47 percent of people polled supported a public inquiry being convened, that has the legal power to compel people to give evidence under oath. Only 18 percent were opposed, with 35 percent saying they neither supported nor opposed the idea.
The polling was conducted by ICM in the second week of March.
Many respondents said they would like to know why the UK developed one of the highest mortality rates among the world's large economies. As of Tuesday, the nation of 68 million had recorded 125,690 COVID-19 fatalities.
The paper said people also want to know whether the nation's borders should have been closed sooner, and whether there were issues around the protection of people in care homes, and the provision of personal protective equipment.
Other issues people want addressed through an inquiry include the effectiveness of the National Health Service's test and trace system, and the apparently disproportionate impact of the virus on people from black and minority ethnic backgrounds.
A public inquiry would likely not be started for several years for logistical reasons, and could run for several years after that, the Evening Standard newspaper said.