Boris Johnson: It’s essential we have inquiry into pandemic
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In what would be an unprecedented move, legal experts believe the judge-led investigation could compare how Britain fared over the course of the international crisis compared to other countries. The move would give the first real insight into whether the UK responded better or worse to the virus than other places across the globe.
The Government has been praised for its rapid rollout of vaccines since December but has faced criticism over its high death toll.
Britain has 127,651 coronavirus deaths, the fifth-highest number in the world, and the largest in Europe.
However, questions have been raised about how the UK’s four nations are recording coronavirus deaths, with some believing the UK is being stricter in its tally than other countries.
Matthew Smith, partner at the legal firm BDB Pitmans which has advised on high profile cases such as the inquests of the Westminster Bridge and London Bridge terror attacks, said looking at how other countries managed the pandemic could be within the remit of the inquiry.
He told Express.co.uk: “I think that’s going to be up for grabs in terms of the scope.
“There will be plenty of people saying we should do that.
“The principle reason for this inquiry is to know how we should respond in future so if there are lessons to be learnt internationally we should do that.”
The move would likely consider how lockdowns, travel bans and social distancing measures in other countries impacted on that nation’s response to the pandemic, and whether the UK should have acted in a similar manner.
It would also open up the possibility of comparing the UK public’s confidence in coronavirus vaccines to other countries, as well as the inoculation drive itself.
“The Covid Inquiry will be something of a trailblazer in this regard if there is to be detailed consideration of the UK’s position as compared with other countries – whether in the EU or further afield,” Mr Smith said.
The extent of the remit of the inquiry is yet to be determined, with Prime Minister Boris Johnson vowing to work with the leaders of the devolved administrations to set out the terms of the investigation.
Mr Smith said the chair of the inquiry would also have a considerable say in what was looked at.
“It’s going to be the inquiry’s report at the end of the day and so the chair is going to want to set out his or her stall very early on and I think will have a lot of say in what those terms of reference should be,” he said.
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“I would expect a chair who would who would have the profile taking on an inquiry like this would not be taking any prisoners on those sorts of issues and would be pushing hard on what they thought was appropriate and what they would be happy to be commenting on.”
The issues campaigners would want to be discussed in the investigation and therefore the scope the inquiry could take “is going to be absolutely unprecedented”, he added.
The Prime Minister has so far warned against comparing the UK’s death toll to other nations in the middle of the pandemic, saying it is currently hard to make international comparisons.
There is no accepted international standard for measuring deaths.
This has led to all countries using different statistical methods to record their death tolls.
In England, officials count anyone who died within 28 days of a positive coronavirus test as a Covid fatality, even if they died from something completely unrelated.
The UK also has the highest rate of Covid tests in the world, meaning more infections are likely to be picked up than in other places and therefore increase the chances of a death being registered as due to the pandemic.
Now, more than one million people are tested for the virus every day in the UK.
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