A bereaved relative has drawn parallels between the coronavirus crisis and the aftermath of the Grenfell Tower fire before the third anniversary of the disaster.
Karim Mussilhy, whose uncle Hesham Rahman died in the blaze, said the pandemic had been tough for many of the bereaved and survivors of the fire, which killed 72 people.
Speaking before the third anniversary of the fire on Sunday, Mussilhy, the vice chairman of the Grenfell United group, said: “Especially in the beginning, there were a lot of similarities to what was happening just after the fire.
“Being able to know what’s going on with your loved ones when they were taken into hospital, waiting by the TV listening to the number of deaths rising every day, being glued to the TV for any sort of news and not being able to know where to go or who to turn to.”
Mussilhy also drew parallels between the government’s response to Covid-19 and the aftermath of Grenfell.
“The government has been criticised for not reacting quickly enough: making sure the NHS has the right equipment and is supported in the right way to be able to tackle the pandemic. They just didn’t react quickly enough.
“It’s also three years on, people always say that time changes, time is the best thing for healing, but in this case it feels like it just gets worse and so many things are happening that have so many similarities to what happened to us, and what continues to happen to us.”
In tribute to each victim who died in the west London tower block, bells of London churches will toll 72 times and green lights will glow from tower block windows as remembrance and commemoration moves online due to the pandemic.
Faith leaders will conduct sermons and reflections online throughout Sunday; from 10.30pm, people in homes across the UK are asked to display a bright green light from their screens to show solidarity with survivors and the bereaved, said the Grenfell United group.
Mussilhy said the lack of face-to-face contact with other victims and those who are bereaved would make this year’s anniversary more difficult.
He described feeling “really weird and heavy this year”, adding: “I guess going through extremely tough times, the one thing that’s helped me the most is being able to be around people and be around friends and family. Not being able to do that, it’s just been extremely tough.”
A statement from Grenfell United said: “It is a day of remembrance and mourning. This year will be different to the last two years. We are living through another tragedy – Covid 19 – and it has affected our community.
“Please join from home to remember 72 lives lost and reflect on our ongoing journey to justice and change. Even apart we remain together until justice comes.”
A spokeswoman for the Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government said: “The safety of residents is our priority and we took immediate steps after the tragic Grenfell Tower fire to ensure nothing like it could ever happen again.
“This included setting up the Building Safety Programme and testing process to quickly identify all high-rise buildings with ACM cladding. Since then we have worked tirelessly with councils to ensure buildings at risk are made safe – backed by £1.6bn in funding.
“We will ensure everyone affected by the Grenfell Tower tragedy continues to receive the support they need with over £158m committed to supporting the community so far.
The public inquiry into the disaster was paused in March because of the pandemic and is due to restart on 6 July.