Michael Mansfield QC responds to the call for a public inquiry on Covid, 25 March 2021
With much of the public and several organisations now calling for an official public inquiry into the Covid pandemic, health campaigning organisation Keep Our NHS Public  are currently holding their own, held in a quasi-legal fashion, with sessions happening fortnightly until June, and findings to be presented to the government. 
Last night saw the third session  in which Inquiry Chair, the renowned human rights barrister, Michael Mansfield QC, set out his own assessment of the practicalities of the situation and why this People’s Covid Inquiry was so important:
“Even if the government ordered an inquiry now, it would take at least a year, possibly two…once you begin to look at the practicalities [of forming an inquiry] you realise that the demand for that is not going to be satisfied now and the hearings and reporting will take a further 4 years in total…so you put it all together; it could be 6 years before you get a public inquiry. This inquiry is the only one, and there isn’t the likelihood of another one, secondly it is done in the format of a judicial inquiry…what we endeavour to do is ask the questions everyone wants answers to.” 
The third session (entitled Did the Government adopt the right public health strategy?) heard expert testimony from Professor Anthony Costello (Professor of Global Health and Sustainable Development, UCL; former Director at the WHO, and a member of Independent SAGE) who reported that public health professionals were excluded from SAGE:
[the government adopted] “an influenza pandemic plan…policy was being led by people with no public health experience…public health people would have done something completely different.”
The inquiry also heard from Professor Michael Baker (Department of Public Health, University of Otago, New Zealand) Rehana Azam (National Secretary GMB Union) and Janet Harris (Sheffield Community Contact Tracing Group) who each set out their assessment of how the UK government had attempted to contain the spread of covid-19.
The session explored the calls from civil society for the adoption of a ‘Zero Covid’ strategy, with panellists examining the UK government’s engagement with local government public health and primary care GP teams and the NHS and asked if this had been effective. The decisions of government to privatise testing and contact tracing, their response to calls for ‘Find, Test, Trace, Isolate and Support’ (FTTIS), their sharing of data and decision making with local government; the financial support for central v. local contact tracing and performance of these; abolition of Public Health England and the level of public health expertise relied on in their decision making.
For more information, please contact Samantha Wathen, press officer for Keep Our NHS Public [email protected] or call/WhatsApp: 07776047472 Spokespeople are available for broadcast interview subject to availability.
Notes to editors
- Keep Our NHS Public is a national independent organisation campaigning for a well-funded, publicly owned and provided NHS www.keepournhspublic.com
- The Peoples Covid inquiry is Chaired by Michael Mansfield QC and formed of eight sessions fortnightly until June which will culminate in a report and a key set of demands presented to the government. Testimony gathered will provide the basis for evidence-based recommendations on the provision of health and social care in the UK, including the future funding and organisation of the NHS. Sessions are free to access and open to all. A dedicated website https://www.peoplescovidinquiry.com/ has also been launched featuring testimony from members of the public, keyworkers and celebrities, which will aid the publicity and public accessibility of this important project.
- Watch the third inquiry session: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g1z6PNCGL5I
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