What we know about the Covid inquiry so far as first preliminary hearing begins

The first evidence sessions are due to begin in spring 2023.

Coronavirus lateral flow test
Coronavirus lateral flow test

The public inquiry into the UK’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic, and its impact, has begun in London.

– Why was the inquiry set up?

There has been much criticism of the UK government’s handling of the pandemic, including the fact the country seemed to lack a thorough plan for dealing with such a major event.

Other criticisms levelled at the Government include discharging elderly people from hospitals to care homes without testing, locking down too late in March 2020 and failures of NHS test and trace.

Families of those who lost their loved ones to Covid have campaigned for an independent inquiry into what happened.

Former Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said it is right that lessons are learned. He announced in May 2021 that an inquiry would be held.

– Who is leading the inquiry and what is its scope?

The inquiry is being chaired by Baroness Heather Hallett, a former Court of Appeal judge.

It is so wide-ranging that it has been split into three modules, with more to be announced.

Module 1 will examine the resilience and preparedness of the UK for a coronavirus pandemic.

Module 2 will examine decisions taken by the Prime Minister and the Cabinet, as advised by the civil service, senior political, scientific and medical advisers, and relevant committees.

The decisions taken by those in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland will also be examined.

Module 3 will investigate the impact of Covid on healthcare systems, including on patients, hospitals and other healthcare workers and staff.

The inquiry is expected to last at least a year, with the first evidence sessions starting in spring 2023.

– Who will be called as a witness?

The range of people who will be called to give evidence has not yet been announced but is likely to include scientific advisers and politicians.

Families will also be invited to submit evidence.

The inquiry can compel witnesses to give evidence and release documents but cannot prosecute or fine anyone.

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