Ex-judge launches coronavirus probe into UK handling of pandemic

LONDON (AP) – A retired judge launched a public inquiry Tuesday into how Britain has handled the coronavirus pandemic, saying bereaved families and those suffering will be at the heart of the lawsuit.

Former Court of Appeal judge Heather Hallett said the inquiry would look into Britain’s preparedness for the pandemic, how the government had responded and “whether the extent of the damage was unavoidable, or whether things could be done better”.

Under pressure from the families of the victims, former Prime Minister Boris Johnson agreed to an inquiry into his government’s handling of the outbreak. COVID-19 has killed more than 204,000 people in the UK, one of the deadliest countries in the world.

Hallett said her main purpose was to advise before “another disaster strikes”.

“I have a duty to the public to conduct a thorough, fair and independent inquiry into the whole of the UK, and I intend to do so,” she said.

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She added that the investigation will not “delay for decades and report when it’s too late to help”.

The investigation will have the power to call evidence and question sworn witnesses. Hundreds of thousands of people are expected to share their experiences through “formal listening exercises” designed to allow people to participate without having to attend a hearing in person or provide evidence in a formal setting.

Speaking about some bereaved families fearing they would be “marginalised” in the survey, Hallett said she couldn’t cover all the issues in “as detailed as some would like”.

The start of the investigation has been delayed for months, to the dismay of the family. Expected to last at least a year, the first evidence session will begin in spring 2023.

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