1st public hearing from UK Covid-19 inquiry begins in London

1st public hearing from UK Covid-19 inquiry begins in London

Hearings due to last 3 years until summer of 2026

By Burak Bir

LONDON (AA) - The UK coronavirus inquiry began hearing evidence Tuesday for its initial investigation into the country's preparedness and resilience for the pandemic.

The hearing started with a statement from the Chair, Baroness Heather Hallett, followed by a short film showing the effects of the pandemic, featuring people from across the UK sharing their experiences of loss.

Speaking at Dorland House in the capital, Hallett said the inquiry would seek to answer three questions: "Was the UK properly prepared for a pandemic? Was the response to it appropriate? And can lessons be learnt for the future?"

Defining the inquiry as a "huge task," she noted that an "extraordinary amount of work" had been done to reach this point.

She also pledged that people who had suffered hardship and loss "are and will always be at the heart of the inquiry, in which a number of films will be shown to document first-person experiences of the pandemic.”

Hugo Keith, counsel to the inquiry, noted the first death recorded from the pandemic in Britain was March 2, 2020. Some groups were more affected than others, including those with pre-existing conditions such as dementia, heart disease, high blood pressure and diabetes , he said.

Mortality was "shockingly" 2.6 times higher in the most deprived areas than the least deprived, he noted, adding mortality rates were higher in those from the Bangladeshi, Pakistani and Black Caribbean communities.

"Even at this stage before hearing the evidence, it is apparent that we might not have been very well prepared at all," added Keith.

The UK saw 226,977 deaths from the virus as of May 12, 2023, according to official data.

The UK Covid-19 Inquiry -- independent and public inquiry -- is expected to last three years until summer 2026.

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