he UK Covid-19 Inquiry will be the thorough investigation into the pandemic that the nation deserves, chairwoman Baroness Heather Hallett has vowed as she opened the hearings.

Lady Hallett said she intends to answer three key questions: was the UK properly prepared for the pandemic? Was the response appropriate? And: can lessons be learned for the future?

The retired Court of Appeal judge began the first day of evidence of the official inquiry by welcoming the “dignified vigil” held by bereaved relatives outside the hearing.

Members of the Covid-19 Bereaved Families for Justice campaign group lined up outside holding pictures of loved ones as they expressed frustration at feeling “excluded from sharing key evidence”.

Lady Hallett said she had set out an “ambitious” timetable for the inquiry, adding: “To conduct the kind of thorough investigation the people of the United Kingdom deserve takes time and a great deal of preparation.

“If I am to achieve my aim of making timely recommendations that may save lives and reduce suffering in the future, I had no choice.

“I know that there are those who feel the inquiry has not sufficiently recognised their loss or listened to them in the way they feel appropriate, but I hope they will better understand as the inquiry progresses the very difficult balance I have had to strike.

“I hope they will understand when they see the results of the work we are doing that I am listening to them. Their loss will be recognised.”

The inquiry played a 17-minute video showing people describing the devastating impact of the coronavirus pandemic on themselves and their loved ones.

Split into six areas, the inquiry will first look at whether the UK was adequately prepared for the pandemic.

Interim reports are scheduled to be published before public hearings conclude by summer 2026.

A separate Scottish Covid-19 Inquiry chaired by Lord Brailsford is looking at the pandemic response in devolved areas in Scotland.

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