Covid-19 inquiry chair hoping to make recommendations on preparing for pandemics

The chairwoman of the UK Covid-19 Inquiry has said she hopes to make recommendations to ensure Northern Ireland is better prepared in the event of a future pandemic.

Speaking after three weeks of inquiry hearings in Northern Ireland, Baroness Heather Hallett said the final report will “take some time” because it is “too important to rush”.

Lady Hallett also said she believes the high cost of bringing the inquiry to Belfast was worth it, and hopes the people of Northern Ireland do too.

Covid-19 pandemic inquiry
Brenda Doherty of Northern Ireland Covid-19 Bereaved Families for Justice holds a photo of her late mother Ruth Burke outside the Clayton Hotel in Belfast (Liam McBurney/PA)

“The report will take some time and I make no apologies for that. It’s too important to rush and so I ask people to bear with us,” she said.

“I hope that we’ll be able to publish it as soon as possible and I promise you the teams will be working extremely hard to make that possible.

“I hope that I’ll be able to include in it recommendations that will make the system stronger and better able to withstand the challenge of a national civil emergency on the scale of the Covid-19 pandemic.

“I know it is important to all those who have suffered that I do make recommendations and that they are implemented as soon as possible because they hope to reduce the suffering of others in the future.

“I should like to thank the bereaved families and everyone else who suffered, and all those who have contributed to these hearings.”

Covid-19 pandemic inquiry
First Minister of Northern Ireland Michelle O’Neill was among those who gave evidence to the UK Covid-19 Inquiry during its hearings in Belfast (Liam McBurney/PA)

“As I’ve always said, this is a UK-wide inquiry. It is not a London Westminster specific inquiry,” she said.

“I hope that my feelings are shared by the people of Northern Ireland, that it was worth bringing the inquiry here and I particularly hope that the bereaved feel that it was worth it.

“Some of them have been present throughout and I thank you for your constant support, but I know that many others have been following online and I thank them too.”

The next main hearings in the inquiry are set to take place in the autumn.

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