UK's Johnson finally agrees to meet COVID-bereaved group

Virus Outbreak Britain

LONDON (AP) — British Prime Minister Boris Johnson will on Tuesday finally meet with members of the COVID-19 Bereaved Families for Justice campaigning group, who for more than a year have sharply criticized his handling of the coronavirus pandemic.

Johnson's Downing Street office confirmed Monday that the prime minister will hold a “private meeting” with members of the group.

At the meeting, the group said family members will tell the stories of how their loved ones caught the virus and reiterate their calls for a statutory inquiry into the pandemic to start soon.

The group, which has requested a meeting with Johnson on at least eight occasions, has asked for it to take place outside and that social distancing is observed — even though all restrictions on social contact have been lifted.

“It has been over a year since the prime minister first said he would meet us and in that time over 100,000 people across the country have lost their lives with COVID-19," said Jo Goodman, co-founder of the group.

“One of the hardest parts of the pandemic for us has been seeing new families join each week with the same pain and grief that we’ve experienced and distressingly similar stories to our own,” she added.

The U.K. has recorded the world's eighth-highest virus-related death tolls with more than 136,000 deaths, according to figures compiled by Johns Hopkins University.

With daily infections in the U.K. running at a relatively high daily average of 35,000 and widely expected to ratchet higher in coming months as more people gather indoors, there are concerns that many more thousands of people will die. But the government is hoping that high vaccination levels — 82% of the adult population — and common-sense behavior will drastically reduce the numbers of deaths.