UK Covid-19 Inquiry: Core Decision Making and Political Governance

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Report from the first session of Module 2 UK Covid-19 Inquiry

Sioux Vosper is an active member of Covid-19 Bereaved Families for Justice and Covid Action. She has been attending the public inquiry daily throughout Modules 1 and 2.

@VosperSioux @CovidJusticeUK @covidactionuk

On 3rd October Module 2 of the UK Covid-19 Inquiry started with the Chair, Baroness Hallett’s opening remarks. This was followed by the Impact Film where 14 people from across the UK (including myself) talked about the impact the pandemic has had on them and their families. It covers Long Covid in adults and children, isolation, bereavement, hospital wards, funerals, care homes and grief. Core participants then made statements.

During the first five weeks of Module 2, several key witnesses have taken the stand, including three bereaved family members in Week 1. They are questioned by King’s Counsel to the Inquiry and include experts in their field, scientists, medical advisors, and government officials, many of whom are yet to give evidence.

In Week 2, Professor Chris Brightling and Dr Rachael Evans, experts on Long Covid, and Ondine Sherwood, founder of Long Covid SOS took the stand. Long Covid was officially recognised on 5th July 2020 and Your Covid Recovery was set up by NHS healthcare professionals to support those suffering this life changing disease. The former PM Mr Johnson didn’t take this seriously and scribbled an expletive (‘B*****s’) over a report in October 2020. There was a gasp from the public gallery from people suffering Long Covid. Even in February 2021 Mr Johnson still dismissed it, comparing it to ‘Gulf War Syndrome’. It is estimated that 2 million are suffering from Long Covid and 60,000 are children.

We heard from Martin Reynolds, the former Principal Private Secretary to the PM (Week 4) that he had activated his WhatsApp ‘disappearing messages’ settinf, despite knowing they would be evidence in an Inquiry. He talked about the ‘lost month’ in February 2020. We had no coronavirus plan at all, only a flu plan and ‘herd immunity’. Mr Johnson went on a 2-week half term holiday and was not disturbed. This was a vital time when we needed to act swiftly and precisely if lives were to be saved. The Government didn’t want the country to be alarmed, to overreact, to get things out of proportion. They were very confident that our wonderful NHS could cope. 

Imran Shafi, former Private Secretary to PM for Public Services, said there had been too much emphasis on death management and body bags, and none on how to stop the spread of infection. We should have been doing both. He told us the Prime Minister said that large numbers would die so ‘why are we destroying the economy for people who will die anyway soon’. Old people should take the hit so young people could get on with their lives.

Lee Cain the former Director of Communications at No 10 said that Covid 19 was not even in top 5 of PM priorities in January 2020. He admitted there was a lack of leadership, a toxic atmosphere and chaos, and abusive language used in WhatsApp messages. He also admitted we locked down too late.

Helen McNamara former Deputy Cabinet Secretary talked of misogyny, how women were ignored and talked over. They were often not in the room – only there on zoom, whilst only men were present in the room. This meant the female element was missed: pregnancy, childbirth, single parents and domestic abuse for example, when there was too much emphasis on preserving sporting events. 

Lord Mark Sedwill, former Cabinet Secretary and Head of Civil Service (Week 5), spoke about Matt Hancock, Secretary of State for Health and Social Care at that time: his overconfidence, his lack of candour, his over-promising and under-delivering. Sedwill had advised the PM to get rid of the Health Secretary.

Patrick Vallance, former Government Chief Scientific Advisor is due to appear 20 November. His evening notes are already available to the inquiry. From these we discover that scientists were not consulted on the ‘Eat Out To Help Out’ scheme – it was the idea of the Prime Minister and Rishi Sunak, Chancellor of the Exchequer (otherwise known as Dr Death). Imran Shafi had testifed that England’s Chief Medical Officer, Chris Whitty had called it ‘Eat Out To Help Out The Virus’. Scientists were not consulted on the ‘rule of six’ nor the tier system. 

In February 2020 we knew Covid-19 was airborne but the messaging was to wash hands. Coronavirus was downgraded from a high consequence disease on the grounds of wider lab testing but the real reason was due to the lack of PPE. The same mistakes were made in the following waves of Covid. We didn’t lock down soon enough. We had no robust test, trace and self-isolate system. We continued to flip flop and lessons were not learned. The UK didn’t look to Asian countries who, with their experience of SARS and MERS, had swiftly implemented contact tracing.

The lessons yet to be learned

Hospitalisations and deaths from Covid-19 are on the rise and not only adults: three children have died in the second week of November. We need mitigations now.

  • The ONS Coronavirus Infection Survey needs to be implemented: many witnesses said this was an indispensable tool during the pandemic and needs to be up and running before the next pandemic.
  • We need good quality masks in all healthcare settings and clean air in all public spaces especially our schools.

We cannot wait until the end of the inquiry – there are lives to be saved now. 

Module 2 continues 20 November and is expected to end on 14 December.

For more information go to:

KONP’s People’s Covid Inquiry (February-June 2021) and the final report ‘Misconduct in public office: why did so many thousands die unnecessarily?’ December 2021.

The campaign Covid-19 Bereaved Families for Justice, three members of which gave evidence at the People’s Covid Inquiry in 2021

More information on what is needed to beat the pandemic at Covid Action UK

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  1. Thanks for this Sioux. I’m finding all the revelations extremely triggering and I certainly could not attend the Inquiry like you’ve been doing. It’s so useful to be able to read a precise summary that avoids the who-ha over “celebrity” witnesses.

  2. Thankyou Sioux.
    Very concise read, but very alarming too. To know that if the steps they should have taken to protect the public, would have meant my parents might still be with us.

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