Covid-19 inquiry: Boris Johnson's WhatsApp expected to be "key" evidence as inquiry resumes
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Political decision making around lockdowns, travel restrictions and social distancing during the coronavirus pandemic are set be put under the microscope as the next phase of the UK Covid-19 Inquiry begins.
The government’s work during the crisis will be scrutinised over the coming weeks as the inquiry examines key decision-making in Westminster between January 2020 and February 2022, when the final Covid restrictions in England were lifted.
The inquiry, led by Baroness Heather Hallett, will also examine the decisions behind regional restrictions, also known as the “tier" system; work from home orders; mask wearing advice and border controls. It will scrutinise modelling data by scientists, which gave estimates on transmission of the virus and death rates.
Ministers and other government officials are expected to give evidence during the second module of the inquiry, titled “core UK decision-making and political governance”.
Other witnesses will include expert advisers, including members of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage); civil servants and health officials from the NHS, the Department of Health and Social Care and the now defunct Public Health England.
The inquiry has said it will “pay particular scrutiny” to the decisions taken by the then prime minister, Boris Johnson, and his cabinet. A key piece of evidence is likely to include the WhatsApp messages of Mr Johnson.
The device he used during crucial periods of the coronavirus pandemic should contain messages relating to the ordering of three lockdowns in 2020.
The inquiry will also hold specific hearings on “the strategic and overarching issues” in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
Public hearings for the second module of the inquiry will begin at Dorland House in London on Tuesday. Opening statements will be read out on Tuesday and Wednesday morning.
On Wednesday afternoon it is expected that the inquiry will hear from Joanna Goodman of the Covid-19 Bereaved Families for Justice, Dr Alan Wightman of the Scottish Covid Bereaved, and Anna-Louise Marsh-Rees of the Covid-19 Bereaved Families for Justice Cymru.
Catriona Myles of the Northern Ireland Covid-19 Bereaved Families for Justice, Professor James Nazroo, Professor Philip Banfield of the British Medical Association, and Caroline Abrahams of Age UK will give evidence on Thursday.
On Friday the inquiry will hear from Professor David Taylor-Robinson, former children’s commissioner Anne Longfield, Kate Bell of the Trades Union Congress, Ade Adeyemi of the Federation of Ethnic Minority Healthcare Organisations, Dr Claire Wenham, and Rebecca Goshawk of Solace Women’s Aid.
Public hearings will take place across 35 days between 3 October and 14 December.