Covid inquiry is vital and urgent so Nicola Sturgeon and Boris Johnson must not delay – Scotsman comment

Nicola Sturgeon and Boris Johnson should be crystal clear: there is going to be an independent public inquiry into the Covid pandemic.

Nicola Sturgeon and Boris Johnson both need to demonstrate greater urgency over a public inquiry into the Covid pandemic (Picture: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)

This inquiry will scrutinise every detail of the decisions made by them and their governments and the public will be told what mistakes were made. Any attempt to prevent this is utterly unacceptable. If either tries to delay or hinder this inquiry, their own party members should rise up and overthrow them.

For, just as the public has demanded that our politicians must focus on managing the recovery from Covid – both in terms of the backlog of patients waiting to be treated by the NHS and the economic harm caused by the virus and lockdown – they will also demand that lessons are learned.

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The reason is simple: it could well be a matter of life-and-death.

This pandemic caught our governments off guard. Right now, it very much appears that we went into lockdown to late; that hospital patients were wrongly transferred en masse to care homes, exacerbating the deadly outbreaks that took place there; and that restrictions on foreign travel should have been tighter.

But sometimes even the clearest of appearances can be deceptive or at least partially so. We need an expert analysis of everything that took place both to uncover any failings that we do not know about and to shed fresh light on those that we think we already understand.

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What we have been getting are piecemeal accounts such as the one laid out by an embittered former employee, Dominic Cummings. There is a risk, particularly as other headline-grabbing accounts emerge, of the truth being lost in all the claim and counter-claim.

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie has now written to Nicola Sturgeon to ask her to commit to a timetable for a Covid inquiry.

"While the chicanery of political advisers like Dominic Cummings may create headlines, I hope that you will agree that it is important that the detail of Scotland-specific decisions are not lost. The longer we wait for an inquiry to begin, the greater the risk is that the truth strays, lessons won’t be learned and service improvements will be left waiting,” he said.

Rennie pointed out that he had called for a rapid inquiry after the first Covid wave. This was ignored and “students were sent back to university without protection, a tier system was replaced just as quickly as it had been developed, contact tracing saw long delays and travel and quarantine failures contributed to the virus being re-seeded,” he said, adding: “The result was a deadly second wave.”

It is unlikely that an inquiry would have entirely prevented the second wave, but it could only have helped.

Thanks to the vaccines, our current situation is thankfully much improved. We need to seize the chance we now have – with considerable urgency – to find out what mistakes were made and how best to fight any future pandemics.

The purpose of an inquiry is not to find scapegoats or apportion blame, it is about making sure we are never again so woefully exposed to such an all-embracing and catastrophic event and any politician who fears for their reputation cannot be allowed to stand in its way.

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