The UK plans to prevent future pandemics and health threats


A laboratory technician uses a pipette device to process samples to analyze the novel coronavirus Covid-19, at the Biogroup Laboratory in West London on January 21, 2021.

JUSTIN TALLIS | AFP | fake images

LONDON – The UK has plans to create a new national health security agency to plan, prevent and respond to “future external health threats such as infectious diseases”.

The “UK Health Security Agency” will lead in protection against future health threats and “ensure that the nation can respond quickly and on a larger scale to deal with pandemics and future threats,” the government announced Wednesday.

The agency will be headed by Dr Jenny Harries, an official who has become a familiar face to the British public during the coronavirus pandemic as England’s deputy chief medical officer. Harries has frequently participated in televised briefings alongside government officials during the pandemic.

The UK reflected on a difficult year of coronavirus lockdowns and losses on Tuesday, a year after the first lockdown was imposed on March 23, 2020. Since then, more than 4.3 million people have contracted the virus in the entire country, with more than 125,000 deaths, making it one of the most affected countries in the world.

One positive aspect has been the rapid launch of vaccination in the country, which began in December. To date, more than 28.3 million adults in the UK have received the first dose of a coronavirus vaccine. Last Saturday, a record 844,285 doses of vaccine were delivered in a single day.

Health officials say there is no room for complacency despite the planned easing of new restrictions on public life. More infectious variants of the virus are spreading across the world and the UK’s mainland neighbors in continental Europe are also now experiencing a third wave of infections.

As elsewhere, there is a consensus among UK officials that the country must be better prepared to deal with future pandemics and what it called “external” threats to health.

UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock said he wants “everyone at UKHSA, at all levels, to wake up every day with enthusiasm for planning the next pandemic.” Covid-19, he said, had “shown that the challenges of protecting the nation’s health are changing at an unprecedented rate, as new types of threats emerge.”

The government said the new body, which will take effect in April, replacing the National Institute for Health Protection, will be “the UK’s leader in health safety, providing intellectual, scientific and operational leadership at national and local levels, as well as on the global stage. “

UKHSA’s primary focus in its initial phase will be the continued fight against the coronavirus pandemic, the government said. It will also continue to bring together the agencies and expertise that have been deployed during the coronavirus crisis, such as the UK’s respected genomic surveillance capabilities and its contact tracing network.

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