A new Government agency aimed at protecting the UK from future health threats has been formally established.
The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) will be led by Dr Jenny Harries and will seek to ensure the country can respond to pandemics “quickly and at greater scale”.
It will lead on health protection and security activity for England and will take over from the Public Health England (PHE) and NHS Test and Trace work already carried out on a UK basis.
PHE and NHS Test and Trace will continue to operate during the transition to the UKHSA.
Dr Harries, chief executive of the UKHSA, said the agency offered a “brilliant opportunity” to ensure lessons from the coronavirus pandemic can be learned.
“It is a significant moment as the work of the UK Health Security Agency begins with a specific focus on pandemics and public health threats,” she said.
“We have learned so much from responding to Covid-19 and this is a brilliant opportunity to ensure these lessons can be applied in the future, with the scale and capacity needed to save lives and protect the public.
“There is work to do right away as we continue our fight against Covid-19, even with the success of our vaccine programme so far, and the tentative steps we have made on the road map to return to normality. The UKHSA will work with our regional, national and global partners to tackle this virus while ensuring we are ready to face future health challenges.”
Health Secretary Matt Hancock hailed the establishment of the agency, pledging it would help the UK be ready for future challenges.
He said: “This is an important day as we launch the UK Health Security Agency to ensure that we protect the public and prepare for the next pandemic.
“The team working at UKHSA, expertly led by Dr Jenny Harries, will spend every day focused on the current and future health threats facing our country so we are always ready for whatever is on the horizon.”