Representatives of the Covid-19 Inquiry will visit towns and cities across the UK over the next few weeks to meet with people impacted by the pandemic.
Chair of the inquiry Baroness Heather Hallett said she wants to hear from people across the four nations who will give her their views on what it should investigate.
It comes after the Cabinet Office published its draft terms of reference for the public inquiry on Thursday.
The main topics of the inquiry will be to examine the response to the pandemic and its impact in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland – and to produce a factual narrative account of what happened.
It also plans to identify the lessons that can be learned so it can inform the UK’s preparations for future pandemics.
A consultation has now opened into the draft terms of reference and contributions are being sought from the public, bereaved families, professional bodies, and support groups.
It runs from midnight, March 11 until 11.59pm on April 7, 2022.
Lady Hallett will then consider the public’s views on the draft terms before recommending changes to the Prime Minister.
Once finalised, the terms of reference will set out the scope of the inquiry.
In an open letter to the public, Lady Hallett said: “I hope that people across the UK will participate in the online public consultation. It is important that the Inquiry’s Terms of Reference properly reflect the public’s concerns.
“I will do everything in my power to deliver recommendations as soon as possible, to ensure that in any future pandemic, the suffering and hardship many of you have experienced is reduced or prevented.”
She added that evidence will be gathered throughout the year with a view to begin public hearings in 2023.
Fleur Anderson MP, Labour’s shadow cabinet office minister, said the party welcomed the draft reference terms, but added the inquiry was coming “far too late”.
“With Downing Street under police investigation for breaking Covid rules, the Conservatives must commit to implementing the inquiry’s recommendations in full when it reports back if the process is to retain any integrity and credibility,” she said.
“The inquiry must now start as soon as possible so that no more time is wasted before we can learn lessons from the mistakes that were made.”
Julia Jones, co-founder of John’s Campaign, said she wants the inquiry to explore a variety of issues, including if measures taken to protect people in the health and social care sector were actually “causing harm”.
“Were equality impact assessments meaningful, how did the regulators discharge their responsibilities, how were individuals themselves consulted and what happened when grass roots organisations tried to ensure that the voice of the residents, patients and service users was heard?” she said.
“These are ethical questions and at a time of great trial, the maintenance of core principles must surely guide all the actions of a government department within a democratic society. That must surely be a key question for the inquiry.”