Activist groups and the political opposition welcome the decision, which they say should have been made sooner.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has announced that an independent public investigation into the treatment of the coronavirus pandemic will take place next year.
He told politicians on Wednesday that the investigation will have broad legal powers and that the government has a responsibility to learn lessons from the pandemic after the deaths of more than 127,500 people as a result of the coronavirus, the highest death toll in Europe .
“Our country, like all countries, has been on the teeth of the most severe pandemic for a century, imposing groundbreaking pain on families around the world,” he said.
“In the midst of this tragedy, the state has an obligation to examine its actions as rigorously and sincerely as possible and to learn all the lessons for the future,” he added.
Johnson said he expects the investigation to begin its work in the second quarter of next year and will have the power to force the production of all relevant materials and take legal evidence under oath.
The announcement was generally well received by opposition parties, although Labor Party leader Keir Starmer wondered why it could not be held sooner.
The UK group COVID-19 Bereaved Families for Justice, which has pressured Johnson to respond to an investigation, said its announcement has been “long overdue”.
He also said it should “start before 2022” and “should include families in grief to establish terms of reference and the presidency.”
For about a year, Johnson has resisted calls from families of people who have died during the pandemic to convene an investigation since last summer (as of June), arguing that the timing was not right.
He reiterated Wednesday that now was not the right time to do an investigation because many front-line workers are still trapped to deal with the pandemic and there are still concerns about new variants.
Critics have argued that the country was very unprepared to face a pandemic after years of cuts to public health.
They also argue that Johnson was too slow to close the country on three occasions, especially last March at the start of the pandemic and earlier this year after a new, more contagious variant first identified in the south-east of England. become the dominant strain.
The delays, many argue, caused the UK to record the fifth highest number of deaths related to the virus in the world, despite the courageous efforts of people working in the National Health Service, which has endured the most difficult period. since its creation just after World War II. II.
One aspect of pandemic government management has garnered general applause. The deployment of coronavirus vaccines has been rapid and has helped prevent infections, allowing the government to ease restrictions sooner than many other countries have been able to.
About 53 per cent of the UK population has received at least one dose of vaccine, and about a quarter have been given it twice.
Johnson also told politicians that a commission will be set up to commemorate the pandemic and that he supports a plan for a memorial at St. Paul’s Cathedral.
“There is a solemn duty across the UK to come together and cherish the memories of those who have been lost,” he said.
Johnson said he had been “deeply moved” to visit the COVID memorial wall in front of Parliament, which was made up of 150,000 choirs to commemorate those who have died. The official death toll from the government only counts those who tested positive for the virus and only includes those who died within 28 days of the positive result.