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12 May 2021

At last, Boris announces setting up of inquiry into Government’s handling of coronavirus pandemic

12 May 2021

The Government will set up an independent public inquiry with statutory powers into the handling of the coronavirus pandemic, Boris Johnson has said.

The Prime Minister told MPs the inquiry will begin in spring 2022 and will place “the state’s actions under the microscope”.

The inquiry will be able to take oral evidence under oath, he said, adding that the state has an obligation “to learn every lesson for the future”.

It comes as a damning report from the Independent Panel for Pandemic Preparedness and Response, commissioned by the World Health Organisation (WHO), said a quicker international response could have stopped the 2019 Covid-19 outbreak in China becoming a global catastrophe.

Speaking in the Commons, Mr Johnson outlined the impact of the pandemic so far and added: “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.

“So, 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 devolved administrations would be consulted before the final scope of the inquiry was published.

He added: “This process will place the state’s actions under the microscope and we should be mindful of the scale of that undertaking and the resources required to do it properly.”

On the persistent threat of new variants, he added: “Should these prove highly transmissible and elude the protection of our vaccines, they would have the potential to cause even greater suffering than we endured in January.

“There is in any case a high likelihood of a surge this winter when the weather assists the transmission of all respiratory diseases and when the pressure on our NHS is most acute.”

He added: “So I expect that the right moment for the inquiry to begin is at the end of this period in the spring of next year, spring 2022.”

It comes as NHS sources told the PA news agency that people aged 38 and 39 will be able to book their Covid-19 vaccinations from Thursday morning in England.

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