Why was the inquiry set up?
There has been much criticism of the UK government’s handling of the pandemic, including the fact the country seemed to lack a thorough plan for dealing with such a major event.
Other criticisms levelled at the Government include allowing elderly people to be discharged from hospitals into care homes without being tested, locking down too late in March 2020 and the failures of the multi-billion NHS test and trace.
Families of those who lost their loved ones to Covid campaigned for an independent inquiry into what happened.
Then Prime Minister Boris Johnson said it was right that lessons are learned, announcing in May 2021 that an inquiry would be held.
Will Boris Johnson be quizzed? If so, when?
It’s not clear exactly when, or if, the former Prime Minister will be quizzed. No full list of witnesses has been published yet.
But given he was in charge of the Government for almost the entirety of the pandemic, his insights will prove central to understanding several aspects of the nation’s response.
If called forward as a witness, he would be hauled in front of the committee to give evidence.
What topics will the inquiry cover?
There are currently six broad topics, called modules, that will be considered by the inquiry.
Module 1 will examine the resilience and preparedness of the UK for a coronavirus pandemic.
Module 2 will examine decisions taken by Mr Johnson and his then team of ministers, as advised by the civil service, senior political, scientific and medical advisers, and relevant committees.
The decisions taken by those in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland will also be examined.
Module 3 will investigate the impact of Covid on healthcare systems, including on patients, hospitals and other healthcare workers and staff.
This will include the controversial use of Do Not Attempt Resuscitation notices during the pandemic.
Module 4 meanwhile will assess Covid vaccines and therapeutics.
It will consider and make recommendations on a range of issues relating to the development of Covid vaccines and the implementation of the vaccine rollout programme in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.
Modules 5 and 6 will open later this year, investigating government procurement and the care sector.
Who is in charge of the inquiry?
Baroness Heather Hallett is in the charge of the wide-reaching inquiry. And she’s no stranger to taking charge of high profile investigations.
The 72-year-old ex-Court of Appeal judge was entrusted by Mr Johnson with chairing the long-awaited public probe into the coronavirus crisis.
Her handling of the inquiry will be subject to ferocious scrutiny.
Until Baroness Hallett was asked to stand aside, she was acting as the coroner in the inquest of Dawn Sturgess, the 44-year-old British woman who died in July 2018 after coming into contact with the nerve agent Novichok.
She previously acted as the coroner for the inquests into the deaths of the 52 victims of the July 7, 2005 London bombings.
She also chaired the Iraq Fatalities Investigations, as well as the 2014 Hallett Review of the administrative scheme to deal with ‘on the runs’ in Northern Ireland.
Baroness Hallett, a married mother-of-two, was nominated for a life peerage in 2019 as part of Theresa May’s resignation honours.
How long will it take?
When he launched the terms of the inquiry in May 2021, Mr Johnson said he hoped it could be completed in a ‘reasonable timescale’.
But, realistically, it could take years.
It has no formal deadline but is due to hold hearings across the UK until at least 2025.
Interim reports are scheduled to be published before public hearings conclude by summer 2026.
The Chilcot inquiry into the Iraq war began in 2009 but the final, damning document wasn’t released until 2016.
Meanwhile, the Bloody Sunday inquiry took about a decade.
Should a similar timescale be repeated for the Covid inquiry, it would take the sting out of any criticism of any Tory Government failings.