On 21 July 2022 Baroness Hallett, the Chair of the UK-wide public inquiry into the COVID-19 pandemic, officially launched the Inquiry. The Inquiry will be divided into a number of modules which will each deal with particular areas for investigation. Applications for core participant status will be determined by the Chair on a module-by-module basis.

In her opening statement, Baroness Hallett set out how she intends to run the Inquiry. The terms of reference are wide in scope and she stressed that it would be impossible to call every witness relating to every event, issue or major decision – the Inquiry must focus on the key issues.

The Inquiry's terms of reference will be grouped into modules for investigation. Inquiry teams will be established across the UK to investigate each module and it is intended that they will work "broadly in parallel". Public hearings will then be conducted sequentially.

The Prime Minister intends to appoint two panel members to the Inquiry to assist the Chair in her role, however, Baroness Hallett has confirmed that she will not wait for these appointments to be made to begin her work.

The Inquiry is preparing to open three modules for investigation this year.

Core participants

Baroness Hallett also explained the approach that she will take to core participant applications. We explain what it means to be a core participant in a public inquiry in an earlier blog post.

While some individuals or organisations may wish to become core participants for more than one module, they will need to apply to participate in each module that they wish to be involved in separately. The Chair anticipates that there will be few, if any, individuals or organisations who will be designated as core participants for the whole Inquiry.

Baroness Hallett has opened the investigation into Module 1 which will focus on whether the risk of the pandemic was properly identified and the UK's preparedness for it.

The deadline to submit applications to become a core participant in Module 1 is 16 August 2022.

The Inquiry has published a "Core Participant Protocol" setting out the application process. Applications are to be submitted in writing and will be dealt with by the Chair on paper or with oral submissions at a preliminary hearing.

Individuals and organisations with common interests are encouraged to group together to participate in the Inquiry. If an applicant submits an application for core participant status as an individual person or organisation they must outline what steps they have taken to explore making the application in association with another person and the outcome of this.

Module 1

A provisional outline of the scope of Module 1 has also been published. It is intended that it will examine matters including:

  • the basic characteristics and epidemiology of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) and Coronavirus disease (COVID-19);
  • the Government structures and specialist bodies concerned with risk management and civil emergency planning, including devolved administrations and their structures, local authorities and private sector bodies;
  • the planning for the pandemic;
  • the readiness and preparedness of public health services;
  • economic planning by relevant Government bodies; and
  • planning for future pandemics.

Core participants and counsel to the Inquiry will have the opportunity to comment on the outline for Module 1 in due course.

A preliminary hearing is planned for September 2022 and the substantive public hearings for Module 1 are scheduled to begin in Spring 2023.

Module 2

Module 2 is to be divided into 4 parts. The first part will investigate "core political and administrative governance and decision-making for the UK". This will include the UK's initial response to the pandemic and the effectiveness of relationships with the devolved Governments, local authorities and voluntary and community sectors.

This will be followed by Modules 2A, 2B and 2C which will investigate the same issues from a Scottish, Welsh, and Northern Irish perspective respectively. These modules will take place within the devolved nation which is being examined.

Module 2 will open in late August 2022 and the first preliminary hearings will be held this autumn. It is intended that the substantive public hearings will begin in the summer of 2023 in London. The hearings for Modules 2A, 2B and 2C will follow.

Module 3

Module 3 will consider the impact of COVID-19 on the healthcare systems, patients and hospital and other health care workers.

The Inquiry will publish information about later Modules in due course – including modules concerning the care sector and Government procurement and PPE.

Parties who wish to become involved in Module 1 should not delay in submitting their applications for core participant status to the Inquiry.

For more information on participating in the Inquiry, please contact Christine O'Neill KC, Kirstyn Burke or your usual Brodies contact.


Kirstyn Burke

Senior Associate

Christine O'Neill KC

Chair & Partner