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We will need a new kind of public inquiry to adequately reckon with this tragedy

When the Covid-19 inquiry arrives it must be of a different kind, not bound by standard models of what the process should look like

By Lawrence Freedman  

Photo: Johnson at a No 10 briefing. Photo: Eddie Mulholland/Daily Telegraph/PA Wire/PA Images

The government has promised a public inquiry into the UK’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic. Given the high death toll, spread in care homes, problems with testing and personal protective equipment, it had little choice.

Yet public inquiries, though regularly demanded and occasionally delivered, can be frustrating affairs, not so much because of their conclusions but because of the time taken to reach them. Moreover, this crisis is far from over. The epidemiologists’ warnings that Covid-19 would be hard to suppress have turned out to be correct and, while vaccine developments are encouraging, mass inoculation is still months…

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