The Tortoise Covid Inquiry: Day One

Over three days in November and December, Tortoise will convene a series of investigations of the key moments and decisions in a nine-month effort to control the virus that by any reasonable standard or comparison has failed. The question is: why?

The case for a public inquiry into the UK’s response to the Covid pandemic is clear and urgent. Clear, because over 44,000 people have died and Britain’s excess death rate is higher than for any comparable advanced economy. Urgent, because the longer it is delayed the more scope those responsible will have to varnish the record, and the more inclined a weary public may be to let them.

A full inquiry and a fearless reckoning are essential – to learn lessons, save lives and for the sake of justice – and yet it isn’t happening. The government’s position is that the appropriate time will come, and it will tell us when. But the stakes are too high to leave the timing to the witnesses, and too high to wait.

So we’ve decided to hold an inquiry ourselves. Our evidence collection has already begun and will continue with a call for submissions from members, the public and other interested parties over the next six weeks.


How to take part: as an observer or a witness

The Tortoise Covid Inquiry is open to members of Tortoise and specially invited guests. Inquiry sessions will feel rather different from usual Tortoise ThinkIns. The sessions will include statements from invited witnesses, along with introductory comments from legal professionals. The Chat function will be open as normal.

If you are interested in contributing as a witness at any of the Inquiry sessions, please let us know using the booking form or by emailing covid.inquiry@tortoisemedia.com and we will be in touch.


Day One sessions

08.00 – 09.00: The UK – how did it fare?

By comparison to other nations, how was the UK’s handing of Covid-19 across the year? And how did the four nations of the UK compare in their different approaches? We’ll look at infections, hospitalisations and mortality rates as well as excess deaths, secondary health impact, and economic and social costs to develop a picture of how the virus impacted different communities of the UK and beyond. Read up


09.15 – 10.15: The lost month – what happened in February?

Was the UK too slow to react to covid? We look back at the early days of coronavirus when Britain had a three week head start on Italy. How and why did we lose it? Read up


10.30 – 11.30: Following the science? Early failures of test and trace

A fateful decision was taken in March to stop testing even those with symptoms. Was this based on science or lack of resources? Who in government argued for herd immunity over lockdown and on what basis – and was that goal ever really abandoned? Read up


11.45 – 12.45Inside the NHS – part 1

There was a lack of PPE and panic at our national healthcare system being overwhelmed. But were the right decisions being made in the first phase of frontline care? Did centralised control mean ventilators were overused and important lessons learned too late? Read up


14.00 – 15.00: What happened in care?

An overwhelmed sector wasn’t able to protect the most elderly and vulnerable people in society. The UN has called the number of covid care home deaths across Europe “an unimaginable tragedy.” So how did we fail our most frail? Read up