Sunday, 20 Jun 2021

Boris launches inquiry into Covid crisis that will put Government ‘under microscope’

Boris Johnson: It’s essential we have inquiry into pandemic

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The Prime Minister will be among those who give evidence under oath about the decisions taken during the pandemic once work begins next spring. A commission is also being set up to find ways to honour those who lost their lives, as well as frontline workers and the scientists who helped the country recover. The inquiry will have the power to compel witnesses to appear and demand documents are handed over.

Mr Johnson told the Commons the state has an obligation to examine its actions “as rigorously and as candidly as possible” and “learn every lesson for the future”.

He added: “This process will place the state’s actions under the microscope and we should be mindful of the scale of that undertaking and the resources required to do it properly.”

The terms of reference for the inquiry are yet to be set and it is not known if it will be led by a judge.

But Mr Johnson said: “This inquiry must be able to look at the events of the last year in the cold light of day and identify the key issues that will make a difference for the future. Free to scrutinise every document, to hear from all the key players and analyse and learn from the breadth of our response.

“That’s the right way, I think, to get the answers that the people of this country deserve and to ensure that we are better prepared for any future pandemic.”

Critics attacked the 2022 start date as “way too long”. The All-Party Parliamentary Group on coronavirus said it would “prolong the pain being felt by grieving families and vital lessons will go unlearned”.

Unison general secretary Christina McAnea said: “Launching the public inquiry next spring is way too late. People have already waited long enough.”

The Prime Minister told MPs that the Government is bracing for a surge in new variants this winter, so the “right moment” for the probe will be next spring.

He added: “It would not be right to devote the time of people who are looking after us, who are saving lives, to an inquiry before we can be absolutely, much more certain than we are now that the pandemic is behind us.”

Preparatory work for the inquiry will happen over the next year so it can begin straight away in the spring. An “informal” review has already been carried out but it will not be published, Mr Johnson said.

Latest Government figures showed a further 11 people had died within 28 days of testing positive for Covid-19 by yesterday.

Across the UK so far, 54,160,993 jabs have been given, including 35,722,461 first doses. It means 67.8 per cent of adults have been vaccinated once and 35 per cent twice. A Covid Memorial Wall has been created opposite Parliament and a portico housing a book of remembrance is planned for St Paul’s Cathedral.

But Mr Johnson said a commission on Covid commemoration will be set up too.

“This national endeavour above party politics will remember the loved ones we have lost, honour the heroism of those who have saved lives and the courage of frontline workers who have kept our country going, celebrate the genius of those who created the vaccines and commemorate the small acts of kindness and the daily sacrifice of millions who stayed at home buying time for our scientists to come to our rescue.”

Meanwhile a report commissioned by the World Health Organization (WHO), said a quicker international response could have stopped the Covid outbreak in China becoming a global catastrophe.

The report described February 2020 as a lost month when many more countries could have taken steps to contain the spread and “forestall the global health, social, and economic catastrophe”.

  • People living or working in Redditch, Worcs, are being urged to have a PCR test – where a lab processes the results – after “multiple” cases of the South African variant of coronavirus were discovered.

Postcodes that are affected can be found on the Worcestershire County Council website.

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