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Grenfell Tower Inquiry suspended over coronavirus

Coronavirus social distancing sees Grenfell Tower Inquiry suspended

The inquiry into the Grenfell Tower fire has been paused because attendees would be at "unacceptable risk" from coronavirus.

The Grenfell Tower Inquiry has been suspended following new guidance from the UK government asking people to work from home and avoid offices, pubs, restaurants and theatres, and unnecessary travel.

"In the light of the prime minister's statement this afternoon the panel has decided that the inquiry should hold no further hearings for the time being," said chairman inquiry Martin Moore-Bick.

Continuing would "send the wrong signal"

The decision was made to ensure the safety of those attending the enquiry. A member of the inquiry panel, health and safety expert Thouria Istephan, has been taken ill with suspected coronavirus. Istephan is an architect at London studio Foster + Partners.

"To do so, even on the basis of limited attendance, would be to expose those whose presence is essential for that purpose, not to mention those whom we wish to call as witnesses, to an unacceptable risk of infection," added Moore-Bick.

"It would also send the wrong signal to the world at large at a time when everyone is being urged to cooperate with measures designed to minimise the effect of the virus."

Panel may not be able to continue digitally

Moore-Bick added that the panel would consider whether they could "resume hearings using electronic means", but warned that it even then it may not be possible for the inquiry to continue for now.

At 73 Moore-Bick is in the high risk category of those over 70 years of age who are being asked to self isolate to protect themselves from coronavirus, along with people of all ages who have existing health conditions.

The Grenfell Tower Inquiry, which is now in its second phase, is hearing evidence from architects and contractors involved with the renovation of the social housing tower block before the fire.

Before the inquiry was halted it was revealed that architects Studio E were unaware of the fire risk posed by the cladding that was used.

Phase one of the Grenfell Tower Inquiry, which finished in 2019, heard evidence from responders and survivors about the night of the fire where 72 people died. Despite the focus on the events of the fire, Moore-Bick concluded that there was "compelling evidence" the tower was not compliant with building regulations.

Main image is by Carcharoth.