CORONAVIRUS: independent public inquiry into the handling of the pandemic will be held in spring 2022

Prime Minister Boris Johnson leaving Downing Street.

By Lucy Ashton

The UK government is “fully committed to learning the lessons at every stage” of the pandemic, Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said.

He told MPs an WILwill

The inquiry would place “the state’s actions under the microscope”, he added, and take evidence under oath.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer questioned why the inquiry could not start earlier, such as later in 2021.

But addressing the Commons, the prime minister said the inquiry could not “inadvertently distract” those within the NHS and government advisers, who were continuing to deal with the pandemic.

The inquiry’s terms of reference have not yet been defined but would be published in “due course”, he said, adding that the devolved administrations would be consulted.

On Wednesday the UK reported another 11 deaths within 28 days of a positive test and a further 2,284 coronavirus cases.

Mr Johnson acknowledged many bereaved families would want the inquiry to begin sooner, but said because of the threat of new variants and a possible winter surge in infections, spring next year would be the “right moment”.

Nicola Sturgeon: Families must have say in Covid inquiry.

Meanwhile, bereaved families must have a say in helping shape the public inquiry into the coronavirus pandemic, according to Nicola Sturgeon.

The First Minister made the remarks as she welcomed the announcement from Prime Minister Boris Johnson of a full, independent inquiry into the UK’s handling of the pandemic to be held in Spring 2022.

On Wednesday in the Commons, Johnson told MPs the inquiry would be able to take oral evidence under oath and will place “the state’s actions under the microscope”.

The Prime Minister also committed to “work closely with the devolved administrations” in establishing the inquiry.

Sturgeon has urged the UK Government to quickly establish an inquiry chair, whilst warning against any further delay.

“We broadly welcome the UK Government joining us in committing to take forward a four nations full public inquiry,” said Sturgeon.

“It is vital this inquiry covers all aspects of the impact and handling of the pandemic, and that bereaved families of Covid-19 victims have a say in shaping its scope.

“There is no reason for further delay and I would encourage the UK Government to establish a chair for the inquiry as quickly as possible, so that it can begin its work this year.”

The First Minister added: “We have tried to learn lessons and continuously adapt our approach to protect our NHS and save lives throughout the pandemic, and it is right that we learn from our experience, and that the voices of families who have lost loved ones are heard.

“This statutory full public inquiry must be person-centred and take human rights based approach if it is to get the answers we need.”

Meanwhile, families who lost loved ones during the pandemic have called for a separate inquiry into the Scottish Government’s handling of the crisis.

Families represented by PBW Law, a firm based in Glasgow, want the inquiry to address how “failings by the Scottish Government led directly to Covid transmission in care homes and the death of residents”.

Peter Watson, a litigation lawyer, said: “We are acting for number of families who suffered tragic losses in care homes as a result of a complete failure to protect  the elderly in Scotland.

“The former health secretary (Jeane Freeman) has previously admitted that mistakes were made. Families want to know why their loved ones were not protected. The First Minister has an opportunity now to make the position clear for all.

“The only appropriate course of action is a full and open examination of how Scotland dealt with risks to the elderly. There must be a separate public inquiry in Scotland.”

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