The news comes amid criticism of ‘vaccine slowdown’

Health secretary Matt Hancock has announced the creation of a ‘health security body’ that will launch on 1 April. The body’s objective will be to “provide a protective shield” over the UK in the event of another pandemic.

The move will merge Public Health England, NHS Test and Trace and the Joint Biosecurity Centre, with the body’s “total focus” being pandemic response, infectious disease and bioterrorism.

“Even after years without a major public health threat, UKHSA must be ready, not just to do the science, but respond at an unbelievable pace.”

The agency will also continue the current response to the Covid-19 pandemic, and will be headed up by Englands deputy chief medical officer, Dr Jenny Harries.

The announcement comes in the face of stark criticism of the UK’s pandemic response, most recently the apparent shortfall in vaccination numbers. Vaccination sites in Cornwall confirmed that they will ‘have to pause’ vaccinations because of national supply issues.

MPs vote today on whether to prolong coronavirus emergency measures, which give the government powers to restrict citizens activities in order to control the virus. The Coronavirus Act, which passed a year ago, is thought to be likely to remain in place until September.