THE response of the Welsh Government to the Covid-19 pandemic has come under fire from the barrister representing bereaved families.

Kirsten Heaven, addressing the UK Covid-19 inquiry on behalf of The Covid-19 Bereaved Families for Justice Cymru as public hearings began, said the people of Wales are still feeling “trauma due to the devastation caused by (the pandemic)” and feel “let down” by government.

She added: “They have experienced first-hand what they consider to be the catastrophic failure of the Welsh Government to adequately prepare for and respond to a pandemic in Wales.”

Unlike Scotland, Wales has not been granted its own inquiry and Ms Heaven said the families of the bereaved are “very disappointed” in “what they consider to be an inadequate response” to the probe by the Welsh Government.

She said the families were “frankly shocked by the brevity and lack of detail” of witness statements submitted by the Welsh Government and its advisers to module one of the UK inquiry.

Ms Heaven added: “It also appears very disappointing that in some quarters there appears to be a reluctance by certain ministers to take political responsibility for failures to prepare for a pandemic in Wales.

“This inquiry is the only opportunity the people of Wales will have to ensure there is proper scrutiny on the decisions of the Welsh Government and their advisers, “The people of Wales want answers. They are also looking for accountability and for failures to be acknowledged so that lessons can be learned.”

Meanwhile, the lead lawyer to the inquiry said the UK may not have been “very well prepared at all” to deal with the pandemic.

Hugo Keith KC said on Tuesday that the nation was “taken by surprise” by “significant aspects” of the disease that has been recorded on 226,977 death certificates.

He argued that preparations for Brexit had distracted the Government from making the improvements required to the strategy on how to tackle a deadly pandemic.

Inquiry chairwoman Baroness Heather Hallett vowed that those who suffered in the pandemic will “always be at the heart of the inquiry” as she launched the first public hearing.

The retired Court of Appeal judge said she intends to answer three key questions: was the UK properly prepared for the pandemic, was the response appropriate, and can lessons be learned for the future?

Mr Keith said that, near the start of the pandemic in March 2020, the Department of Health and Social Care, along with the three devolved governments of Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland, published a Covid-19 action plan “setting out how they planned to tackle the coronavirus outbreak”.

“The plan stated that the United Kingdom was well prepared to respond in a way that offered substantial protection to the public. Whether that was actually the case will be examined in module one,” he said in his opening statement.

“Even at this stage, before hearing the evidence, it is apparent that we might not have been very well prepared at all.”

The inquiry will be split into six areas, with the first looking at whether the UK was adequately prepared for the pandemic.

Interim reports are scheduled to be published before public hearings conclude by summer 2026.

A separate Scottish Covid-19 Inquiry chaired by Lord Brailsford is looking at the pandemic response in devolved areas in Scotland.