Today the Covid Inquiry Chair, Baroness Hallett, announced the start of the Module 2 investigation, focussing on the UK’s core political and administrative decision-making in relation to the Covid-19 pandemic between early January 2020 until February 2022, when the remaining Covid restrictions were lifted.  This e-alert addresses the scope of this particular Module investigation and whether your organisation would want to apply to be a Core Participant, the deadline for which is 23 September 2022.   This Module is focussed on Central Government, but is likely to draw in local government in a range of ways, for instance insofar as involved in lock down and public health communications decision making and also Universities and health bodies active in the scientific modelling, data and vaccine space.

A clear focus for this investigation will be on the key decision makers ranging from the Prime Minister and the Cabinet through to scientific and medical advisers, and it will be looking in particular at the critical period of between early January, and the first awareness of the coronavirus outbreak, and late March 2020, when the first national lockdown was imposed.

This investigation will look at:

  • the central government structures and bodies and their relationships and communications with the devolved administrations in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland and regional and local authorities;
  • responses to the World Health Organization information, advice from scientific, medical and other advisers and the response of other countries; this will include initial strategies relating to community testing, surveillance, the movement from ‘contain’ to ‘delay’ and guidance and advice to health and social care providers;
  • decision making on “non-pharmaceutical interventions” (NPIs) including the national lockdowns in March-July 2020, November-December 2020 and January-April 2021, local and regional restrictions, circuit breakers, working from home, reduction of person to person contact, social-distancing, the use of face-coverings and border controls. This will include examining the timeliness and reasonableness of such NPIs, including the likely effects had decisions to intervene been taken earlier, or differently.  There will, as promised be a particular focus on those at risk and other vulnerable groups in light of existing inequalities in our society.  
  • the use in decision-making of medical and scientific expertise, data collection and modelling relating to the spread of the virus and dissemination of data between government departments and between the government, the NHS and the care sector. The investigation will also look at the specific legislation and regulations put in place, their proportionality and enforcement.
  • public health communications will be considered “including the impact of alleged breaches of rules and standards by Ministers, officials and advisers”.

The Inquiry is now expected to engage pro-actively with many individuals and organisations to seek documents, information and potentially witness evidence.  A key decision at this stage will be whether to apply to become a Core Participant for this module.  The deadline for applications is 23 September 2022.  We have written before on what is involved in becoming a Core Participant, the pros and cons – whilst there are valuable rights attached to this status (representation at hearings, the opportunity to make opening and closing statements, and seeing other participants’ evidence etc.), it is entirely possible to engage with the Inquiry as an evidence provider only. 

Bevan Brittan’s expert Inquiries team can advise on engaging with the Inquiry, document preservation, evidence production, reputation management and the myriad of other issues that can arise.  Get in touch with Melanie Carter, Head of Inquiries and Investigations, if you would like to discuss any of the above.

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