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UK Covid-19 inquiry launches first investigation

Baroness Hallett, Chair of the UK Covid-19 Inquiry, has officially launched the Inquiry and opened its first investigation into how well prepared the UK was for a pandemic.

It’s time for facts, not opinions –

and I will be resolute in my quest for the truth

Baroness Hallett

Baroness Hallett also set out the timetable for the Inquiry, with preliminary hearings starting this year and the first witnesses to be called next spring.

Baroness Hallett said:

“It’s time for facts, not opinions – and I will be resolute in my quest for the truth. The Inquiry is already gathering evidence and I will be holding public hearings next year. Our work must be swift. The Inquiry’s scope is broad, so we will start with the most pressing questions –  was the UK prepared for a pandemic? I will share more information on our investigations as our plans evolve. When meeting those who lost loved ones earlier this year, I was struck by the devastating nature of their loss, exacerbated by the impact of the restrictions in place at the time on their ability to grieve. Millions felt hardship and loss during the pandemic, and for some life will never feel the same again. I will do my very best to undertake the Inquiry in a way that acknowledges this suffering, and seeks to reduce the scope for others to suffer in the same way in the future.”

Terms of reference

The Terms of Reference are extensive, as would be expected for an Inquiry into an event of the magnitude of the pandemic. To achieve the depth and breadth of investigation needed, the Inquiry will be taking a modular approach, with Module 1 examining the resilience and preparedness of the UK for the pandemic. Module 2 will be split into parts and will examine core political and administrative governance and decision-making by the UK government, with Modules 2A, 2B and 2C looking at the same overarching and strategic issues from the perspective of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Hearings will take place in each nation. Module 3 will then investigate the impact of covid, and governmental and societal responses to it, on healthcare systems, including on patients, hospital and other healthcare workers and staff.

The Inquiry’s first procedural hearings will begin in September and October 2022 for Modules 1 and 2. Public hearings for Module 1 will begin in spring 2023, and for Module 2 in summer 2023. More information on Module 3 timings will be made available shortly, and the Inquiry will announce further modules for investigation in 2023. These are expected to cover both ‘system’ and ‘impact’ issues including: vaccines, therapeutics and anti-viral treatment; the care sector; Government procurement and Personal Protective Equipment (PPE); testing and tracing; Government business and financial responses; health inequalities and the impact of Covid-19; education, children and young persons; and the impact of Covid-19 on public services and on other sectors.

Inequalities and the pandemic

The Inquiry will be looking at the impact of the pandemic on inequalities at every stage of its investigations, and Baroness Hallett has pledged to deliver reports with analysis, findings and recommendations whilst the Inquiry’s investigations are ongoing, so that key lessons from the pandemic are learned quickly.

We will be contributing to the Inquiry as much as possible, so the voices and experiences of spinal cord injured people are heard and understood as the Inquiry progresses and lessons are learned.