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Covid-19 inquiry draft terms of reference published by Government

The draft terms of reference include identifying the lessons to be learned from the pandemic.

10 March 2022

The Government has published its draft terms of reference for the upcoming Covid-19 pandemic public inquiry.

In a statement published on Thursday, the Cabinet Office said the main topics of the inquiry will be examining the response to the pandemic and the impact of the pandemic in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, and produce a factual narrative account about what happened.

It adds that the inquiry plans to identify the lessons to be learned from the above so it can inform the UK’s preparations for future pandemics.

Kings College Hospital
Staff working on a Covid Intensive Care Unit at Kings College Hospital in south London (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

Within these two main topics, the public health response, the response in the health and care sector and the economic response are also expected to be covered.

It comes after a consultation with the inquiry chairwoman, Heather Hallett, and ministers in the devolved administrations.

The Cabinet Office said there would now be a further public consultation of about four weeks led by Lady Hallett to consider any changes to the terms before they are finalised.

She has urged those with views to come forward and share them.

The Cabinet Office said the terms allow for an inquiry which is UK-wide and “respects and does not duplicate” any inquiry established on a devolved basis.

It adds that the inquiry will aim to understand the experiences of those most affected by the pandemic – including bereaved families – as well as looking at any disparities evident in the impact of the pandemic and the Government’s response.

Baroness Heather Hallett
Baroness Heather Hallett is leading the public inquiry (UK Parliament/PA)

Baroness Hallett said: “Following publication of the draft terms of reference by the Government, tomorrow I shall open the public consultation on the scope of the UK Covid-19 Inquiry. This consultation is independent of the Government and an opportunity for everyone across the United Kingdom to give me their views on what the inquiry should investigate.

“I should like to hear views on the draft terms of reference from all those who have been particularly affected by the Covid-19 pandemic, especially people who have been bereaved, experienced hardship or suffered other harm.”

Becky Kummer, spokesperson for Covid-19 Bereaved Families for Justice, said: “The inquiry is a one-off and historic opportunity for the terrible suffering and loss of the past two years to be learned from, to ensure these tragedies are not repeated in the future.

“The Government finally publishing the draft terms of reference is a huge step forward, and we look forward to feeding into the consultation on them.

“Sadly, today’s announcement comes far too late. We will never know how many lives could have been saved had the Government had a rapid review phase in Summer 2020, as we called for at the time.

“Crucially, Boris Johnson must now commit to implementing the chair’s recommendations for the terms of reference in full.

“The fact his office is under police investigation for breaching their own rules means that if he attempts to interfere with what the inquiry looks into, it risks ruining its credibility before it’s even begun.”

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