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UK Health Security Agency begins work

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The new UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) has been formally established, with Dr Jenny Harries starting her first day as the Chief Executive of the new agency on April 1 2021.

Dr Harries and the Health and Social Care Secretary, Matt Hancock, visited Colindale, north London, to see the work being done to help the UK understand and respond to new variants of the virus causing COVID-19. These laboratories, which have been operating throughout the pandemic under Public Health England (PHE) leadership will transfer to the new UKHSA.

The new agency will work to protect the country from future health threats and ensure the nation can respond to pandemics quickly and at greater scale.

It will also work with global partners, becoming a mainstay of what the Prime Minister and other international leaders have called “a more robust international health architecture that will protect future generations.”

The UK has also confirmed a £4 million contribution to the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Contingency Fund for Emergencies (CFE). The purpose of the CFE is to give WHO the resources to quickly mount an effective response to disease outbreaks and humanitarian crises in developing countries and stop these health emergencies from spiralling out of control, saving lives.

Health and Social Care Secretary, Matt Hancock, 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 focussed on the current and future health threats facing our country so we are always ready for whatever is on the horizon.”

Dr Jenny Harries, Chief Executive, UKHSA, added: “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. 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 roadmap to return to normality. UKHSA will work with our regional, national and global partners to tackle this virus while ensuring we are ready to face future health challenges.”

The primary focus for UKHSA in its initial phase of operation will be the continued fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.