The inquiry was adopted in late March 2020 at a time of great uncertainty as government and society grappled with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. With the House unable to sit because of the pandemic, the committee commenced this inquiry in order to ensure that parliamentary scrutiny of the government's management of the pandemic continued. At a time of crisis, there is a need for greater parliamentary scrutiny of the actions of government, not less.
In adopting this inquiry, the committee followed precedents set by the New Zealand Parliament and the Australian Senate, which had already established inquiries into the management of the pandemic in their jurisdictions. It was a significant and necessary step for the New South Wales Legislative Council to take.
To undertake the inquiry, the committee had to take its hearings online. In March 2020, the committee and the parliament generally had very little experience of the technology needed to facilitate and broadcast online hearings. However, the Parliament and the committee quickly implemented new technologies and processes which facilitated the shift online, with the first online hearing held on 7 May 2020. The hearing itself, coming at the peak of the first COVID-19 wave and with the Minister for Health and the Chief Health Officer in attendance, created considerable public interest. This continued as the inquiry progressed and further hearings were held.
The committee's hearing held on 10 August 2021 at the commencement of the Delta wave was watched live by almost 2,500 viewers and was ultimately viewed 63,000 times on YouTube. In some senses, the committee was able to reach out better to the community through online hearings than with more traditional hearings.