Why was the investigation initiated?
There has been much criticism of the UK government’s handling of the pandemic, including that the country did not appear to have a solid plan for dealing with such a major event.
Other criticisms of the government include allowing elderly people to be discharged from hospitals to care homes without being tested, being locked up too late in March 2020 and the failure of the multibillion-dollar NHS test and tracing.
Families of those who have lost loved ones to Covid campaigned for an independent inquiry into what happened.
Then Prime Minister Boris Johnson said it was right that lessons were learned, announcing in May 2021 that an inquiry would be held.
Is Boris Johnson questioned? If so, when?
It is not clear exactly when or if the former prime minister will be questioned. A full list of witnesses has not yet been published.
But as he was in charge of the government for almost the entirety of the pandemic, his insights will prove critical to understanding various aspects of the country’s response.
If called as a witness, he would be dragged before the committee to testify.
What topics will the research cover?
There are currently six general topics, called modules, that will be considered in the study.
Module 1 examines the UK’s resilience and preparedness for a coronavirus pandemic.
Module 2 will examine the decisions made by Mr Johnson and his team of ministers at the time, on the advice of the civil service, senior political, scientific and medical advisers and relevant committees.
The decisions of those in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland will also be examined.
Module 3 examines the impact of Covid on healthcare systems, including on patients, hospitals and other healthcare professionals and staff.
This includes the controversial use of do not resuscitate announcements during the pandemic.
Module 4, meanwhile, will assess Covid vaccines and therapies.
It will consider a range of issues and make recommendations related to the development of Covid vaccines and the implementation of the vaccine rollout program in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.
Modules 5 and 6 will open later this year, in which research will be conducted into government procurement and the healthcare sector.
Who is in charge of the investigation?
Baroness Heather Hallett is in charge of the extensive investigation. And she’s no stranger to leading high-profile investigations.
The 72-year-old former Court of Appeals judge was charged by Mr Johnson with presiding over the highly anticipated public inquiry into the coronavirus crisis.
Her handling of the investigation will be subject to rigorous scrutiny.
Until Baroness Hallett was asked to step aside, she acted as coroner in the inquest of Dawn Sturgess, the 44-year-old British woman who died in July 2018 after coming into contact with the nerve agent Novichok.
She previously acted as coroner for the inquests into the deaths of the 52 victims of the July 7, 2005 London bombings.
She also chaired the Iraq Fatalities Investigations, as well as the 2014 Hallett Review of the administrative plan to tackle ‘on the run’ in Northern Ireland.
Baroness Hallett, a married mother of two, was nominated for a lifetime peerage in 2019 as part of Theresa May’s resignation.
How long will it take?
When he launched the terms of the study in May 2021, Mr Johnson said he hoped it could be completed within a “reasonable time frame”.
But realistically, it could take years.
It has no formal deadline, but will hold hearings in the UK until at least 2025.
The publication of interim reports is planned before the conclusion of the public hearings in summer 2026.
The Chilcot Inquiry into the Iraq War began in 2009, but the final, damning document was not released until 2016.
Meanwhile, the Bloody Sunday investigation lasted about a decade.
If a similar timetable were repeated for the Covid inquiry it would take the sting out of any criticism of the Tory government’s shortcomings.