The Tortoise
Covid Inquiry


Friday 4 December

Day Three sessions include:

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.

Book your ticket

Each day will run from 08:00-15:00 and will include several sessions, examining the UK government’s handling of coronavirus.

Your ticket will give you access to all of the sessions, but just like an in-person conference you can dip in and out. Recordings will be available in our members’ app shortly after each day.

If you’re not a member, use code takepart to claim a free ticket.


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.

Friday 27 November

10.00-11.00

The economy: CBILs and job support – was it enough?

“Whatever it takes” was Sunak’s mantra at the start of Covid. But as the crisis unfolded, the loan scheme floundered and 3 million taxpayers were excluded from government support. Did Rishi get it right?

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Shadow Financial Secretary

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Co-Founder and spokesperson, ExcludedUK

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Chair of London councils

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Criminal defence lawyer


Chief Executive of the Resolution Foundation

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Investigations Editor, Tortoise

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Co-Founder and editor, Tortoise


11.15-12.15

Downing Street – Cummings, communication & public confidence

Confidence in the government’s handling of the coronavirus fell dramatically after Dominic Cummings’s Durham trip came to light. Public faith was shattered and a clear message started to muddy. How much responsibility should the prime minister’s aide shoulder for the drop in public confidence in the covid strategy?

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Blavatnik School of Government

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Associate director at Freuds and former Special Adviser to the Secretary of State for Defence

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Political editor, Sky News


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Editor, Tortoise


12.30-13.30

Who was failed the most?

Far from being a great leveller, Covid attacked some people more than others – with obesity and BAME groups more likely to fall victim to the virus. At the same time, domestic violence, child abuse and demand for child protection rose quickly under lockdown but schools and social services were too often powerless to help. So were lawyers and the courts in safeguarding cases. Why did the safety net fail some of the most vulnerable in society? How should it be fixed?

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Senior Research Fellow, The Health Foundation

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UCL Epidemiology & Health

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Director of the Runnymede Trust

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Editor, Tortoise


13.45-14.45

What went wrong with education?

Schools were shut down and exams cancelled – only replaced by an ill-conceived algorithm. A lack of online teaching during lockdown meant the poorest children were disproportionately punished and the education gap grew. Then, in September, universities became Covid hotbeds and new students were imprisoned in their halls. And all the while the Secretary of State for education Gavin Williamson was nowhere to be seen…

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Criminal defence solicitor

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UCL institute of Education

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Co-director of Big Education and Co-founder and first headteacher of School 21

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Headteacher of Reach Primary School

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Editor, Tortoise


15.00-16.00

Quarantines and travel corridors – a wasted summer?

In the lull between waves one and two the government had a window in which to create an effective national test and trace system. Instead it seemed to fret for months over who could go where on holiday. What was the scientific advice behind the travel rules? Why were there no health checks at airports? And why did thousands of tracers have nothing to do?

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Former secretary state for international development


Barrister at 3 Hare Court

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CEO, Virgin Atlantic


Infectious disease epidemiologist

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Editor, Tortoise

Friday 20 November

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.

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Partner, Volterra Partners

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London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine

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Economics Editor, Sky News


Liverpool University

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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?

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Chief Executive, The Nuffield Trust

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The Sunday Times

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UCL

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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?

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University of Oxford


The Times


The Institute for Risk and Disaster Reduction, UCL


11.45–12.45

Inside 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?

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Imperial University

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Good Law Project

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Director of the Centre for Human Health and Performance, UCL

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Criminal defence lawyer


12:45 – 14:00 Break


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?

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The Alzheimers society

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Journalist

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Founder and Director, Compassion in Care

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The Nuffield Trust