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Nearly 13,000 pandemic stories shared with the Covid-19 Inquiry

The Royal Commission of Inquiry into COVID-19 Lessons Learned has received nearly 13,000 stories of the pandemic from its public submissions process, says Inquiry Chair Professor Tony Blakely.

“Hearing from the New Zealand public is essential to the work of the Inquiry, which is to learn from our country’s pandemic experience to better prepare for any future pandemic,” says Professor Blakely.

“I want to express my thanks to everyone who provided a submission to the Inquiry – either from a personal perspective, or on behalf of their whānau, their business, or their community. The COVID-19 pandemic impacted all of us, and we know that sharing COVID-19 experiences isn’t always easy. We really appreciate and value the contributions we’ve received.”

Submissions ran from 8 February to 24 March 2024. During that time, the Inquiry heard from people of all ages and ethnicities across Aotearoa New Zealand, and from New Zealanders living overseas. The experiences shared with the Inquiry covered a broad range of topics and events.

“We have heard how people were impacted by lockdowns, vaccine mandates, and border closures,” Professor Blakely says. “Many people have also shared the impact the pandemic had on their health and wellbeing, for example.

“We have also heard how the pandemic impacted significant life events – including births, deaths, marriages, schooling, work, and more.”

The COVID-19 submissions we received include both detail on pandemic experiences as well as providing insights into how New Zealand can prepare for future pandemics. The many conversations the Inquiry has undertaken, and submissions we have received to date, all add to the work of the Royal Commission, Professor Blakely says.

The submissions received will be considered alongside previous studies, information and evidence collected by the Inquiry, including through meetings with key decision makers, businesses, community groups, education providers, and many others.

Alongside making a submission, the New Zealand public also had the opportunity to provide feedback on the Inquiry’s terms of reference.

The New Zealand Government has said it is committed to expanding the terms of reference for the Inquiry and asked the Inquiry to seek public feedback on this expansion on its behalf.

Over 11,000 people submitted feedback on the terms of reference for the Inquiry. This feedback is being sent to the Department of Internal Affairs, who will provide advice to the Minister of Internal Affairs ahead of any Government changes to the terms of reference.

The Minister has said decisions about an expanded terms of reference will be made by Cabinet later this year.

“The Inquiry is already looking at a wide range of topics related to the COVID-19 pandemic, but we recognise there may be specific topics that people would like considered and which could be included, or clarified, in our terms of reference,” says Professor Blakely.

“We recognise that, as a result of this feedback process, the Inquiry may be asked to look at additional aspects of the COVID-19 response, and we’ll work with the Government on what that might look like once public feedback has been considered.”

 

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