Draft Terms of Reference were published on 10 March for the COVID-19 public inquiry, chaired by Baroness Hallett (see here ). A consultation on the Terms of Reference is open until 7 April 2022.
Scope of the inquiry
Based on the draft Terms of Reference, the inquiry will:
- examine the COVID-19 response and the impact of the pandemic, and produce a factual narrative account; and
- identify the lessons to be learned to inform the UK’s preparedness for future pandemics.
In relation to the response of the health and care sector, the inquiry plans to consider issues including: (a) the procurement and distribution of key equipment and supplies, including PPE and ventilators; (b) the development and delivery of therapeutics and vaccines; and (c) the consequences of the pandemic on provision for non-COVID related conditions and needs.
The inquiry also plans to consider a range of other issues in relation to public health decision making, including: (a) how decisions were made, communicated and implemented; (b) the use of lockdowns, social distancing and face coverings; (c) testing, contact tracing and isolation; (d) the closure and reopening of the hospitality, retail, sport and leisure sectors, and cultural institutions; and (e) the safeguarding of public funds and management of financial risk.
The scale of this task is significant. However, Baroness Hallett is keen to ensure that timely recommendations are made (and said that she would do everything in her power to deliver recommendations as soon as possible).
The inquiry is asking for views on the draft Terms of Reference (e.g. the scope of the Terms of Reference, which topics the inquiry should look at first and whether the inquiry should set an end-date for public hearings to help ensure timely findings and recommendations). As mentioned above, the consultation on the draft Terms of Reference is open until 7 April.
In a letter to the public, Baroness Hallett said that the inquiry team has been laying the groundwork to be ready to begin investigations once the Terms of Reference have been agreed. Baroness Hallett said that the inquiry will gather evidence throughout the year and she hopes to begin public hearings in 2023.