The Chair of the Covid 19 Public Inquiry, Baroness Hallett, has now published her Opening Statement, which provides more information on the Inquiry’s structure and timelines, particularly for its early areas of focus.
The Inquiry is going to be structured in modules which will allow it to focus on multiple areas as it progresses (although public hearings will happen in sequence). The initial stages have now been identified:
- Module 1 concerns pandemic preparedness and resilience, including government decision-making and planning, and the preparedness of public health services. This module is now open and applications for Core Participant status must be made by 16 August 2022.
- Module 2 will focus on political and administrative governance and decision-making in the initial UK response to the Covid-19 pandemic. This will include areas such as
- Decision making for non-pharmaceutical interventions, including lockdowns;
- The Government’s use of scientific expertise, data collection and modelling.
The Opening Statement says that Module 2 will open in late August. Modules 2A, 2B and 2C will look at the same issues in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, and will follow Module 2.
- Module 3 is going to examine the impact of Covid (and government responses to it) on healthcare systems, and on patients and staff, including in hospitals and primary care. It will examine the impact of the pandemic, and government responses, on non-Covid treatments, and the impact of vaccination programmes and responses to Long Covid. The timescale for Module 3 has not yet been announced.
Future modules will focus on the care sector, government procurement, financial responses, and the impact of the pandemic on education and young people. Inequalities, including health inequalities and the impact of the pandemic, will be pervasive themes throughout the Inquiry.
Core Participant status
The Inquiry has also published its Core Participant Protocol. Core Participant status can be granted by the Inquiry and is available in respect of individual modules. Core Participants (CPs) will have certain additional rights during the Inquiry:
- Disclosure: CPs can receive electronic disclosure of material relevant to the part of the Inquiry in which they are a CP;
- Statements: CPs can make opening and closing statements to the Inquiry;
- Questions: CPs can suggest lines of questioning of witnesses, and can apply to question witnesses during hearings.
For each module, a window will be allowed for applications for CP status – as above, applications for CP status in Module 1 must be made by 16 August.
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