UK COVID-19 inquiry begins, scrutinising pandemic response and impact

The United Kingdom’s COVID-19 inquiry has commenced its main hearings, scrutinising the nation’s handling of the pandemic that led to one of the highest global death tolls. Heather Hallett, the chairwoman of the inquiry, emphasised the importance of acknowledging the suffering and loss experienced by many during her opening statement on Tuesday.

The inquiry was initiated by former Prime Minister Boris Johnson to investigate the UK’s preparedness, public health response, and economic measures taken during the pandemic. Over 175,000 virus-related deaths were reported by the time Johnson left office in July of the previous year. The first part of the hearings, focusing on the country’s preparedness for the pandemic, began this week. Although preliminary hearings have been held, this week marks the first time evidence will be presented since the inquiry’s formal launch in June 2022.

As a national election is anticipated next year, the in-depth analysis of decision-making during the pandemic could pose political challenges for current Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, who served as finance minister during the crisis. Nevertheless, the second part of the evidentiary hearings, which will examine governance and decision-making throughout the pandemic, is not scheduled to commence until later this year.

The government has initiated a legal challenge against the inquiry concerning its requests for internal government WhatsApp messages from Johnson’s tenure, which it deems “unambiguously irrelevant” to the investigation. The inquiry contends that it is the chairwoman’s responsibility to determine the relevance of the material. The legal case is expected to be heard around the end of June.

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Matthew Coles

Matthew is a British journalist with a unique flair in reporting about the latest news and events happening in Europe. Matthew focuses on producing well-researched, balanced, and narrative-driven content related to both national and regional interests across various European countries. He is passionate about discovering the diverse cultures found within Europe and showcasing them through his insightful articles.

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