eople who have lost loved ones in the Covid-19 pandemic and those who have suffered will be at the “heart” of the public inquiry, its chairwoman has said.
Former Court of Appeal judge Baroness Heather Hallett opened the independent inquiry in London saying she would conduct a “thorough” and “fair” hearing.
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”.