1 Dec 2023

Covid-19: Royal Commission of Inquiry delays public submissions until goverment review

1:09 pm on 1 December 2023
Collage of Covid molecules and graph

File image. Photo: 123rf.com / Composite Image - RNZ

The Royal Commission of Inquiry into the pandemic response is delaying hearing public submissions until next year while the new government reviews its scope.

Under the coalition agreement with New Zealand First, the National Party has agreed to progress "as a matter of urgency ... a full scale, wide ranging, independent inquiry" encompassing lockdowns, vaccine procurement and efficacy and social and economic impacts of decisions made during the pandemic.

Prime Minister Christopher Luxon indicated it may do this by expanding the remit of the existing Royal Commission.

Commission chairperson Professor Tony Blakely said it "welcomed the opportunity" to work with the new government on what an expanded remit will look like.

"Related to this, it was our intention to seek public input and submissions on the Inquiry from November this year.

"However, given the scope and Terms of Reference of the Inquiry may change, we've made the decision to delay public submissions until early 2024.

"We believe this delay will avoid any confusion for those who want to share their Covid-19 experiences with us."

Meanwhile, the wider work of the commission continued, he said.

"To date, we have undertaken over 200 evidence-gathering engagements and met with around 800 people across New Zealand, and we look forward to further engagements in the coming months.

"Alongside these engagements, we are making good progress in analysing all the information we have received to date and blending it with the large body of knowledge and insights from countries around the world, to generate lessons for Aotearoa New Zealand on how best to prepare for, respond to, and recover from the next pandemic whenever it occurs."

One of the three commissioners - former National MP and minister Hekia Parata - stepped down this month for personal reasons.

It is expected a new commissioner will be appointed by the incoming government to join Professor Blakely and former public servant John Whitehead.

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