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Johnson signals coronavirus inquiry will begin within a year

·3 min read

A “full, proper” public inquiry into the Government’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic could be established within a year, Boris Johnson has said.

The Prime Minister committed to setting up the inquiry within the new session of Parliament which started on Tuesday.

Although there is no fixed length for a parliamentary session, they typically run for around a year.

“I can certainly say that we will do that within this session,” the Prime Minister told MPs in the House.

“I have made that clear before… I do believe it’s essential we have a full, proper public inquiry into the Covid pandemic.”

Mr Johnson was responding in the Commons to a question from Liberal Democrat leader Sir Ed Davey, who urged him to set up the inquiry “on behalf of bereaved families across the country”.

Deputy Labour leader Angela Rayner said: “We welcome this commitment and will hold the Prime Minister to it.

“It must be entirely open and truly independent, have the trust and confidence of bereaved families, and cannot be an exercise in the Government marking its own homework.

“We went into this pandemic with the foundations of our public services and our communities weakened by a decade of Conservative governments.

“We must learn lessons from that, as well as from how the crisis has been handled.”

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But Jo Goodman, co-founder of campaign group Covid-19 Bereaved Families for Justice, said there could be no delay on the inquiry.

“An inquiry must begin this summer. The Prime Minister may feel he can wait for answers, but bereaved families certainly can’t,” they said, responding to Mr Johnson’s statement.

“Learning lessons from the pandemic is critical to saving lives now and in the future. The Prime Minister knows that and he’s said as much.

“So why does he think it can wait? Who delays learning critical lessons that can save lives?

“We know that the majority of the public support an independent inquiry and that 72% of those that do want one by the autumn, so the Prime Minister needs to get on with it like the British public want.

“The Prime Minister also again failed to commit to a statutory inquiry.

“Anything less would mean that no-one would be compelled to give evidence under oath.

“Simply put, it means the truth can be avoided and the right lessons aren’t guaranteed to be learned – yet a further insult to bereaved families.

“We are now drafting terms of reference that bereaved families would find appropriate for a judge-led, statutory inquiry and seeking an urgent meeting with Government representatives to ascertain what the Prime Minister means by a “full proper public inquiry”.

It comes as one scientist said a third wave may already have begun in the UK.

Paul Hunter, professor in medicine at the University of East Anglia, said: “Today 2,427 new cases of Covid have been reported in the UK.

“That is a 27% increase on the number of cases reported last Tuesday and means that in the last seven days there have been 15,895 cases reported, which is a 12% increase on the previous seven-day period.

“This represents the largest week-on-week increase since early January. Fortunately, as of yet there is no sign that hospitalisations have started to increase in the UK.

“There has been a lot of debate about when and if a further wave of infection will happen in the UK. The reports of today suggest that this wave may have already begun.”

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