Nicola Sturgeon calls for COVID inquiry to begin this year
Nicola Sturgeon has urged the UK Government to move faster on establishing its COVID inquiry, calling for it to start this year.
Boris Johnson announced earlier today that an independent inquiry would be established but it would not start until next year.
The inquiry will cover the whole of the UK and consider how governments handled the situation.
Speaking to the House of Commons, the Prime Minister said the inquiry would “place a significant burden on our NHS” and therefore he wanted to wait until after winter.
He said he expected the inquiry to begin in spring 2022.
While welcoming the inquiry would be on a four nations basis, the First Minister insisted there was no reason for delay.
Sturgeon said: “It is vital this inquiry covers all aspects of the impact and handling of the pandemic, and that bereaved families of COVID-19 victims have a say in shaping its scope.
“There is no reason for further delay and I would encourage the UK Government to establish a chair for the inquiry as quickly as possible, so that it can begin its work this year.”
The inquiry will be provided with statutory powers under the Inquiries Act 2005, which includes the ability to compel the production of relevant material.
Johnson said the inquiry will “work closely” with the devolved administrations.
He said it “must be able to look at the events of the last year in the cold light of day and identify the key issues that will make a difference for the future”.
Warning the end of lockdown is not the end of the pandemic, Johnson said the World Health Organization is predicting there could be another surge of the virus this winter due to new variants, when the NHS is already under maximum stress.
The BMA has also called for the inquiry to begin sooner.
Chair Dr Chaand Nagpaul said: “Whilst it would not be right to distract healthcare staff from their hugely important day to day work, the government mustn’t use that as an excuse to not get this inquiry underway as soon as is effectively possible.”
Sturgeon had previously committed to holding an inquiry into the handling of the pandemic in Scotland.
The SNP manifesto said: “We will commission a statutory, person centred and human rights based public inquiry into the handling of the coronavirus pandemic in Scotland.
“We will make sure the voices of families who have lost loved ones are heard as part of establishing the inquiry and that they have an active role in the process.
“We will begin to take the necessary steps to establish the public inquiry as soon as possible after the election.”