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‘Hearing from New Zealanders a vital part of learning the lessons from Covid-19’

An important part of the Royal Commission of Inquiry into COVID-19’s work is to understand what happened to people and why, says Inquiry Chair Professor Tony Blakely.

The Royal Commission of Inquiry COVID-19 Lessons Learned Te Tira Ārai Urutā today opened a dedicated online submission site – www.covid19inquiry.nz – in order to hear from people about their experiences of the pandemic. Submissions will be open until 24 March 2024.

“The COVID-19 pandemic affected all of us, and New Zealanders – both here and living overseas – were asked to undertake extraordinary actions during this time. We want to hear about the wide range of experiences people had, and their observations of the pandemic, whatever they might be,” says Professor Blakely.

The Royal Commission is looking at what can be learned from the pandemic to ensure that Aotearoa New Zealand is as prepared as possible for any future pandemics.

“By hearing from individuals, from families, organisations and the wider community, we can help to ensure we’re as prepared as possible. The unfortunate reality is that there will be another pandemic, and it’s important we take this opportunity to learn important lessons, both from our own experiences, and from those overseas, that could be applied in the future.”

Alongside sharing their experiences of COVID-19, the public also have the opportunity to provide feedback on what an expanded terms of reference for the Inquiry might include.

“The Government has said it is committed to expanding the Inquiry’s terms of reference and has asked us to undertake consultation, on its behalf, on a broader, clarified scope for the Inquiry.

“While the Inquiry is looking at a wide range of COVID-19 related topics, such as mandates and other public health measures, and a variety of social and economic matters, we recognise there are additional topics that people might like us to consider and likely useful clarifications to make (for example, regarding the scope and depth of inquiry into vaccine effectiveness).”

Feedback on the terms of the reference will be provided to the Department of Internal Affairs, who will then provide advice to the Government ahead of any changes that might be made to the scope of the Inquiry. As a result of this consultation, the Inquiry may be asked to look at additional aspects of the COVID-19 response.

Professor Blakely says it is his hope that lessons can be drawn from across a range of areas where major decisions were taken during the pandemic.

“It’s also my hope that, in sharing their stories with the Royal Commission, people feel in some way they have had the opportunity to express the impact the pandemic had on them, their families and communities.”

People will be informed about the Inquiry, and how to make a submission through a public information campaign that will get underway from Sunday 11 February. The campaign – ‘Look back to move forward’ – will feature in both mainstream and social media between now and the end of March. The Royal Commission will also have a presence at some public events, like community markets and A&P shows, during the consultation period to encourage people to share their experiences.

Public submissions are in addition to the many direct engagements that the Inquiry has undertaken with individuals, organisations and communities since it began in February 2023. The Royal Commission has also been directed to review a wide range of publicly available information as part of its terms of reference, says Professor Blakely.

 

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