Scotland’s former health secretary is to give evidence to the UK inquiry into the handling of the pandemic.
Jeane Freeman will face questions from the inquiry on how prepared the Scottish government was for the pandemic.
She was supposed to be have been joined by Dr Catherine Calderwood, the country’s former chief medical officer.
But Dr Calderwood, who quit after breaking her own Covid lockdown rules, will now give evidence on another day.
Nicola Sturgeon and John Swinney will both appear before the inquiry on Thursday.
The inquiry was set up to examine the UK’s response to the virus.
It will also look into the impact of the pandemic and the lessons that can be learned for future virus outbreaks, with public hearings expected to continue until 2026.
A separate Scottish inquiry that will look specifically at the impact of the virus north of the border has been hit by delays after its original chairwoman quit for personal reasons and four members of the inquiry’s legal team also stood down.
Ms Freeman served as Scotland’s health secretary between 2018 and May 2021, when she stood down as an MSP ahead of the Scottish Parliament election.
Ms Freeman has said that the UK-wide lockdown was an “absolute necessity” in the early stages of the pandemic, but has admitted she regrets that the Scottish government discharged so many hospital patients into care homes without being tested for the virus.
She will be followed on Thursday by Ms Sturgeon and the former deputy first minister Mr Swinney, who will face questions about the preparations the Scottish government had in place for dealing with a pandemic.
Both are expected to appear before the inquiry again in the future.
Lawyers representing Scottish bereaved families have been calling for all of Ms Sturgeon’s unredacted WhatsApp messages and other relevant materials to be provided to the inquiry.
On Tuesday, the UK’s former health secretary Matt Hancock criticised the country’s pandemic planning ahead of Covid, saying it was too focused on dealing with deaths rather than averting them, when he gave his first evidence to the inquiry.
About 227,000 people died in the UK with Covid listed as one of the causes on their death certificate – including more than 17,000 in Scotland – after the first cases were detected early in 2020.
More than 44 million people were estimated to have caught the virus by February 2022.
What is the Covid Inquiry?
- It is about going through what happened and learning lessons
- No-one will be found guilty or innocent
- Any recommendations made do not have to be adopted by governments
- The inquiry has no formal deadline but is due to hold public hearings until 2026
- Scotland is holding a separate inquiry in addition to the wider UK one