This week has seen the welcome news that a vaccine has been approved and will be rolled out within days. While many of us will be looking ahead to a return to normality, there is still a need to evaluate the response to the pandemic. Any public inquiry will need to consider what worked well, as well as the mistakes made, if it is to identify the lessons that can be learned.
The pandemic has highlighted the importance of clear and well-founded guidance. The constantly changing and often conflicting guidance issued by the DHSC and PHE revealed a fundamental failure to understand the social care sector. In contrast, the Gas Safe advice to landlords on the completion of gas safety checks offered a practical and supportive approach.
Public messaging has often been confused and unfair. Ministerial assurances that care home visits could start were followed by measures which left providers exposed to regulatory risk and cast care home managers as the 'bad guys' blocking visits.
In the education sector, the Government took a similar blanket approach, publicly declaring that it was safe for all pupils to return to school - without giving those schools the practical support and guidance required to adequately address the risks to the clinically extremely vulnerable and to manage the absence of others who were simply afraid to return.
Even with the vaccine, we cannot assume that the rollout will be straightforward, with logistical challenges for the delivery of the vaccine, difficult decisions around who should have priority and the loosening of restrictions as wider immunity is established.
In the rush to return to 'normality' we must not forget the need for a public inquiry, to ensure that the tragic lessons of the pandemic are learned.
As outlined in our earlier briefing on the purpose of a public inquiry, organisations and their representative bodies should begin to consider now the influence they could have in shaping the likely focus of an inquiry and be ready to articulate the messages they want to be heard.
Up to 99% of Covid-19 hospitalisations and deaths could be avoided with the first wave of vaccinations, England's deputy chief medical officer Prof Jonathan Van-Tam has said.