UK prime minister announces independent public inquiry into government’s handling of Covid pandemic

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UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has announced that a “full, proper” independent public inquiry into the government’s handling of the Covid pandemic will be held in spring 2022.

Speaking at Prime Minister’s Questions on May 12, Johnson stated that the UK government was “fully committed to learning the lessons at every stage of the crisis”, confirming that an inquiry would happen early next year in consultation with Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

The announcement comes a day after the UK prime minister stated that an inquiry is “essential” in response to a question from Liberal Democrat leader Sir Ed Davey, who called for an assessment of the government’s response “on behalf of bereaved families.”

Ensuring that the inquiry has the ability to fully assess the response and help the government plan for future pandemics, it will have full powers under the Inquiries Act 2005, allowing it to take evidence under oath and place “the state’s actions under the microscope.”

The announcement marks a U-turn for the UK government, as, only last month, Downing Street had ruled out setting up an “intensive” inquiry now as they claimed there is “simply no capacity” while the nation is still fighting the pandemic. 

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Johnson has been under increasing pressure to outline a timeframe for an inquiry, with a group called Covid-19 Bereaved Families for Justice UK having campaigned since last summer for an urgent investigation to be launched that they claim “is critical to saving lives now and in the future.” 

Since the start of the pandemic, the UK has recorded 4,437,221 cases of the virus, the seventh-highest number of any nation, and 127,629, the fifth-largest global fatality rate. With the nation’s vaccination campaign under way, over 50 million doses of a Covid vaccine have been administered, and more than 18 million people have been fully inoculated.

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