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Whatever the merits of the Hancock leaks, this much is clear: Britain needs to speed up its Covid inquiry | Simon Jenkins

Did decisions made by the former health secretary lead to more care home deaths? The point is, we should already know

The delay to the inquiry into Britain’s handling of Covid merits an inquiry of its own. The allegations in the Daily Telegraph about the then health secretary, Matt Hancock – including that he dismissed expert advice to test anyone entering a care home for coronavirus at the start of the pandemic – may not be sensational. (Hancock has strongly rejected the claim.) Hindsight is a poor guide to judgments made in conditions of chaotic uncertainty. Whether the infection risk to care homes was higher from hospitals than from community contacts was surely debatable. Yes, around 20,000 care home deaths were recorded in just four months, but only an official inquiry can tell us why.

While Britain’s public administration appears in a state of shambles, its obsession with public inquiries is booming. Huge sums have been allocated into probing past injustices, tragedies and scandals: Bloody Sunday, Hillsborough, Grenfell, infected blood, the Manchester Arena attack, Post Office computers and Boris Johnson drinks parties. Too often, these take far too long and consume too much money.

Simon Jenkins is a Guardian columnist

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