The Grenfell Tower Inquiry has once again been put on hold due to England's national lockdown, just weeks after it was suspended before Christmas when a member of the panel tested positive for coronavirus.
The inquiry had been due to resume hearing oral evidence on 11 January after the Christmas break, but is now not expected to restart until at least February, when it will be held remotely.
The hearings examining the 14 June 2017 disaster were also suspended for more than three months in 2020 after the pandemic struck and core participants rejected a switch to entirely remote hearings. However, the panel said it is keen to maintain the momentum of the Phase 2 hearings, and so has made the decision to switch to remote hearings as soon as possible.
The bereaved and survivors had previously opposed that, saying witnesses and representatives of the construction companies responsible for the refurbishment could be coached in their answers when facing cross-examination via computer link.
Describing it as a 'difficult decision', the Inquiry said in a statement: 'The increase in transmissibility of the new variant of coronavirus means 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.'