Baroness Hallett’s Opening Statement was uploaded to the Covid Inquiry website on the 21st July 2022. Baroness Hallett made the statement to open the Inquiry and set out her approach to running it.
In her statement Baroness Hallett detailed the background and facts on the pandemic as already known. She began with the December 2019 identification of cases from Wuhan. This was followed by the WHO’s characterisation of Covid 19 as a pandemic in March 2020. Her statement then detailed emergency packages followed by measures imposed by the government. These included initial advice re behaviours, working from home etc, followed by support packages, the closure of schools and finally the first ever national lockdown on 23rd March 2020. Baroness Hallett referenced further lockdowns in October 2020 and January 2021, the commencement of the vaccine programme and the removal of most restrictions by the Spring of 2022.
A ‘listening exercise’ will begin later in 2022. This is intended to provide an opportunity for individuals to tell the Inquiry about their experiences of Covid 19 and the pandemic but without them having to give evidence at a public hearing.
The Inquiry intends to review research about the pandemic from around the world so as to understand the UK’s preparedness and response to the pandemic. In her statement Baroness Hallett was keen to emphasise the fact that the Inquiry is an independent ‘fact finding exercise’ and that it will make no assumptions but will be ‘led by the evidence”. Expert groups will be established with the tasks of creating joint reports which can be used in evidence and those groups will be asked to set out areas where they agree and disagree on topics on which they were instructed to assist.
The Inquiry will be grouped into modules with teams, based throughout the country, investigating each one. The teams will work in parallel, but the hearings for each module will take place module sequentially.
Module 1 is now open. This module will consider the extent to which the risk of a Coronavirus pandemic was properly identified and planned for and whether the UK was ready for the pandemic. It will look at the UK’s preparedness including the system of risk management and pandemic readiness. It will also scrutinise government decision making in relation to planning and seek to identify lessons from earlier incidents, simulations and international comparisons.
The first preliminary hearing into this module will start in September and the full public hearings for Module 1 will commence in Spring of 2023. The application process for Core Participants to Module 1 commences immediately. The deadline for applications will be the 16th August 2022.
Module 2 will be split into parts. The first part will look at core political and administrative governance and decision making for the UK. Initially, it will look at the UK wide and English perspective and then look at the issues from the perspective of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland (Modules 2a, 2b and 2c).
The base for public hearings will be London but it will also spend time hearing evidence about the response and impact of the pandemic in each of the four nations.
Module 2 will be opened in late August, preliminary hearings will be in the autumn and public hearings will begin in the summer of 2023 in London.
Module 3 will examine the impact of Covid, governmental and societal responses on health care systems generally and on patients, hospital and other health care workers and staff. It will investigate health care systems and governments, hospitals, primary care, the impact on NHS backlogs and non Covid treatment, effects on health care provision and vaccination programmes together with long Covid diagnosis and support.
Baroness Hallett reiterated her promise from the Terms of Reference that inequalities will be at the forefront of the Inquiry’s investigations.
In a separate document we discuss Module 1 and the core participant protocol of July 2022.
Olliers Public Inquiry Team
Olliers has extensive experience of public inquiries and if you or someone you know would like to be considered as a core participant the Covid Inquiry team at Olliers will happily assist. We can also assist with applications in respect of legal representation at public expense.