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UK: Prime Minister Johnson announces COVID inquiry in spring 2022

Inquiry will examine UK government's response to pandemic and will take oral evidence in public under oath

Karim El-Bar   | 12.05.2021
UK: Prime Minister Johnson announces COVID inquiry in spring 2022

LONDON

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced in parliament on Wednesday that a public inquiry into the government’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic will begin in spring 2022.

“Amid such tragedy the state has an obligation to examine its actions as rigorously and as candidly as possible, and to learn every lesson for the future - which is why I’ve always said when the time is right there should be a full and independent inquiry,” Johnson said.

“I can confirm today that the government will establish an independent public inquiry on a statutory basis, with full powers under the Inquiries Act 2005 - including the ability to compel the production of all relevant materials and take oral evidence in public under oath.”

He said the national UK government will coordinate closely with devolved administrations before finalizing the scope and details of the inquiry, so that it can consider all aspects of the UK response.

Pledging that the inquiry will “place the state’s actions under the microscope,” Johnson added that it will be given “the resources required to do it properly”.

Johnson said the “right moment” for the inquiry to begin was spring 2022, because of the risk that new variants could evade existing vaccines and that there was a “high likelihood” of a coronavirus surge this winter.

“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,” he continued.

“Free to scrutinise every document to hear from all the key players and analyse and learn from the breadth of our response,” he said.

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

The pandemic has been a game of two halves for the UK government: in 2021 its world-beating vaccination program has brought it praise both at home and abroad, but throughout 2020 its inept handling of the pandemic itself was harshly criticized.

Despite being one the richest countries on earth with one of the world’s best healthcare systems that is also free at the point of use, the UK has suffered one of the highest death tolls and deepest economic damage of any of its peers.

As of May 2021, over 127,600 people have died within 28 days of contracting COVID-19, and over 151,000 have the disease listed on their death certificate.

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