Date published: 21st July 2022

On 21st July 2022, The Chair of the Covid Inquiry, Baroness Heather Hallett, issued an opening statement via an online webinar, which you can watch below. In the opening statement, Lady Hallett set out exactly how she plans to run this Inquiry, thoroughly, swiftly, and with the aim of making sure the UK is better prepared for future pandemics.

Watch the opening statement below. 

The opening statement comes after the Covid Inquiry was officially launched on 28th June by Boris Johnson, shortly before announced his resignation as Prime Minister of the UK. The Covid-19 Bereaved Families for Justice group, represented by Elkan Abrahamson in the Covid Inquiry, first began the campaign for a Covid Inquiry back in early 2020 to learn lessons as quickly as possible and prevent further loss of life.

Speaking of the devastation caused to bereaved families, Lady Hallett said:

When meeting those who lost loved ones earlier this year, I was struck by the devastating nature of their loss, exacerbated by the impact of the restrictions in place at the time on their ability to grieve. Millions felt hardship and loss during the pandemic, and for some life will never feel the same again.

I will do my very best to undertake the Inquiry in a way that acknowledges this suffering, and seeks to reduce the scope for others to suffer in the same way in the future.

Jo Goodman, co-founder of Covid-19 Bereaved Families for Justice campaign said:

Today was an emotional day for those of us who have lost loved ones and it meant a lot to hear Baroness Hallet recognise the “devastating nature of bereavement” and the pain we’ve been through. Hopefully this will be reflected by not making bereaved families go through the stressful and draining process of applying to be core participants in every single module. 

Ultimately, all bereaved families want the same thing, which is to make sure that lessons are learnt from our devastating losses to protect others in the future. For the inquiry to be successful our experiences need to be at the heart of the entire process, be that the research they're commissioning, the evidence being gathered or the hearings themselves.

The Chair also outlined a schedule for the Inquiry over the next 12 months and has announced that they have already begun gathering evidence. As expected, the Inquiry will be split into Modules. Procedural hearings will begin in September and October, starting with Module 1 which will look at preparedness. Public hearings for Module 1 will begin in spring 2023, and more information on Module 2 and Module 3 will be available in the coming weeks.

Similarly to the Manchester Arena Inquiry, the Chair has also promised to release reports with key learnings as the Covid Inquiry progresses, so that lessons are learned quickly. While recommendations that come as a result of the Inquiry’s investigations are not mandatory, modular releases of reports ensure learnings are not simply published after the fact and never considered again.

Elkan Abrahamson, Director & Head of Major Inquests & Inquiries at Broudie Jackson Canter, and the Solicitor leading the legal team representing the bereaved, said:

We are pleased that the Chair has once again stressed the importance of all the evidence being available to the inquiry. It is of fundamental importance that we have access to all relevant documents and that the government offers full disclosure to the inquiry. The bereaved would regard anything less than full disclosure as a coverup. What we and the families need is for an open and transparent process to ensure accountability and that the inquiry highlights the lessons that need to be learned.

If you’ve lost a loved one to Covid, it isn’t too late to join the Covid-19 Bereaved Families for Justice group and be part of this Inquiry, without any cost to you.

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