The Grenfell inquiry has been temporarily suspended as a result of the national lockdown in England, organisers have said.
Hearings were due to begin after the Christmas break on Monday January 11 but have now been pushed back until at least February – when it is hoped that evidence can begin to be heard remotely.
A statement posted on the inquiry’s website on Wednesday said: “This was a difficult decision, but the increase in transmissibility of the new variant of Coronavirus means that there is a significant increase in the risk of infection facing anyone who travels to and works at the Inquiry’s premises, notwithstanding the robustness of the arrangements in place.
“In the current circumstances it is unreasonable to ask witnesses and Inquiry team staff to travel into a particularly high-risk area to attend the Inquiry.”
Hearings were halted during the first coronavirus lockdown in March but continued with limited attendance during the lockdown in November.
Victims and the bereaved have not been able to attend the inquiry in person since it restarted in the summer, and some have previously objected to the idea of remote hearings.
Wednesday’s statement added: “The Panel has decided it is better to have remote hearings than no hearings at all while the current restrictions are in place, and wishes to emphasise that this is a temporary measure to be used only for as long as it is absolutely necessary.”
The investigation into the 2017 fire which killed 72 people is in its second phase.
Hearings before Christmas were focused on how products used in the cladding system on the block were manufactured, tested and sold.