UK Covid-19 Public Inquiry: updating you ahead of the first public hearing
Inquiry to date
- the Inquiry was formally established by the Chair (Baroness Heather Hallett) on 28 June 2022, at which time the final Terms of Reference were published by the Government (UK COVID-19 Inquiry: terms of reference - GOV.UK (www.gov.uk))
- there are currently three active modules (Module 1 – Resilience and preparedness; Module 2 – Core UK decision-making and political governance; and Module 3 – impact of the pandemic on healthcare systems in the UK)
- there have been preliminary hearings held for each of the active modules, which has included the designation of and written submissions from Core Participants. We anticipate the same structure for future modules
- ‘Every Story Matters’ – a national listening exercise to hear from bereaved families and those who have experienced hardship or loss resulting from the pandemic. These experiences will be fed into the Inquiry’s investigations via themed reports
- future modules are set to be confirmed later in 2023, but the topics will likely cover ‘system’ and ‘impact’ issues, including: vaccines, the care sector, government procurement, test and trace, government business and financial responses across the UK, health inequalities, education, public services, and the public sector. Please note that Core Participant applications will be considered separately for each future module
Module 1 list of issues
The ‘list of issues’ sets out a guide into what topics will be set out within the scope of Module 1. The first public hearings are due to take place over a six-week period. As Module 1’s attention will be drawn towards the UK’s preparedness for the pandemic, we have been informed that the “relevant period” of investigation is set to predominantly focus on the timeframe between 11 June 2009 and 21 January 2020 (but this is not exclusive). Broadly, the issues have been categorised into six wide-ranging areas, which we have summarised below:
The basic characteristics and epidemiology of Covid-19.
Beyond the science, this will include a background to the virus’ emergence in 2019, together with a history of other infectious disease pandemics/epidemics which have occurred in the UK.
The adequacy of the UK Government and devolved administrations’ structures, alongside specialist bodies concerned with risk management and civil emergency planning.
This will query whether the UK Government (and local government) had in place suitable risk management and resilience systems for a pandemic. It will also ask about what lessons have been learnt as a result of the pandemic. This certainly appears to be the overarching question.
The planning for a pandemic, including forecasting, resources, emergency plans in place and international comparisons.
The focus here is whether the pandemic plans were clear, resilient, adaptable and effective. Areas such as the considerations behind border and port controls / restrictions on international travel will also be examined. As a wide-ranging point, we can also expect an analysis into the extent to which pre-existing inequalities and vulnerabilities were considered and accounted for as part of risk assessments and communicating emergency planning procedures.
Public health services.
This issue will include an inquiry into the state of pandemic readiness and preparedness in respect of public health bodies, with a particular focus on surge capacity alongside resources and personnel.
Economic planning by Government bodies.
In the context of emergency planning, this is anticipated to cover to what extent funding was ring-fenced for civil contingencies within the UK Government and devolved administrations. As expected, it will also encompass a discussion and analysis behind specific economic and fiscal consequences of the pandemic in the context of emergency planning. Anti-fraud provisions are also anticipated to be conferred.
Planning for future pandemics.
This will include making recommendations in relation to the current surveillance, alert and response systems (both UK and internationally), and the specific risks of new SARS CoV-2 variants and the possibilities surrounding another pandemic in the foreseeable future.
As a reminder, proceedings will be held at Dorland House, Paddington, London, W2 6BU and via a live-stream on the Inquiry’s YouTube channel (UK Covid-19 Inquiry - YouTube). Whilst open for the public to attend, we have been informed that space will be limited.
Shoosmiths will continue to provide updates in respect of all items relating to the Inquiry. For further information, please do not hesitate to get in contact with our Inquiries team on 03700 868 733.
Link to article