Call for Wales Covid inquiry as UK inquiry opens
Calls for a Wales-specific Covid-19 pandemic public inquiry have been made as a UK inquiry opens in London today, October 4.
Former Court of Appeal judge Baroness Heather Hallett opened the independent inquiry in London today, October 4, saying she would conduct a “thorough” and “fair” hearing, and those who have suffered will be at the “heart” of the public inquiry.
Just before a minute’s silence was held for those who lost their lives, she said: “There’s one word that sums up the pandemic for so many, and that is the word ‘loss’.
“Although there were positive aspects of the pandemic, for example, the way in which communities banded together to help each other and the vulnerable, millions of people suffered loss, including the loss of friends and family members; the loss of good health – both mental and physical; economic loss; the loss of educational opportunities and the loss of social interaction.
“Those who are bereaved lost the most.
“They lost loved ones and the ability to mourn properly.”
Families have expressed fears they could be sidelined in the inquiry if they are only able to share their experiences through a Listening Project, which was established so members of the public can take part without formally giving evidence or attending a hearing.
This is due to begin later this year, with the inquiry expected to hold the first evidence hearings for its first module in late spring 2023.
In previous public inquiries, such as those concerning the Grenfell Tower fire and Manchester Arena bombing, family and friends provided “pen portraits” of victims at the start of the formal hearings.
According to its terms of reference, the Covid-19 inquiry will “listen to and consider carefully” the experiences of bereaved families and others affected by the pandemic.
It “will not consider in detail individual cases of harm or death”, but “listening to these accounts will inform its understanding”.
Baroness Heather Hallett told the Covid-19 public inquiry that the bereaved would be “properly consulted”.
She said: “We should also find an appropriate way, or ways, to commemorate those whom we have lost. In planning and designing the listening exercise and commemoration we will ensure that those most affected, in particular the bereaved, are properly consulted.
“I promised the bereaved, during the consultation process on the terms of reference, that those who have suffered will be at the heart of the inquiry.
“And I intend to keep that promise.
“As I’m sure they will understand that does not mean that I can, or should, consult them and the other core participants at every single stage of our preparation – if I did, the inquiry would go on forever.
“But today, I do invite further submissions on the listening exercise and other issues and thereafter we shall of course be listening to the most affected as we design the listening exercise and the commemoration or commemorations.”
Wales inquiry call
Welsh Liberal Democrat Leader Jane Dodds has reiterated her party’s calls for a Welsh specific Covid inquiry.
“Decisions made in Wales, by our devolved Government were often different and had an impact, be it negative or positive. The bereaved families of Wales deserve an inquiry that pays full attention to that decision-making in Cardiff Bay,” Jane Dodds MS said.
“The Welsh Liberal Democrats strongly believe in devolution, but Welsh Labour needs to understand that with increased powers comes increased scrutiny. This should not be sought to be avoided.
“I would once again urge the First Minister and Welsh Labour to reconsider their position. An inquiry is not about apportioning blame, but rather learning vital lessons to ensure we are more prepared for the future.”
Welsh Conservative Shadow Health Minister, Russell George MS has also made calls for a Wales-specific inquiry.
“The Welsh Conservatives have consistently called for a Wales-specific Covid inquiry to give bereaved families the answers that they deserve.
“At the very least, Welsh families should be given a place as core participants in the UK-wide inquiry. We also support the calls for the first stage of the inquiry to have a greater emphasis on the decisions made in Wales.
“I am disappointed that the Labour Government in Cardiff Bay continues to dodge scrutiny, given the differing decisions that they made and the fact that Wales had the highest deathrate in the entire UK.”
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