Joint Biosecurity Centre 'not yet up and running', says Matt Hancock

1 June 2020, 20:54

Matt Hancock and Professor John Newton at the coronavirus press briefing
Matt Hancock and Professor John Newton at the coronavirus press briefing. Picture: PA
Maddie Goodfellow

By Maddie Goodfellow

Matt Hancock has said that the Joint Biosecurity Centre, the body tasked with assessing the Covid-19 alert level, is not yet up and running.

The Joint Biosecurity Centre would have a national role "to provide the advice and the information that would then be acted on locally".

It would advise the UK's chief medical officers who would report to ministers and local health bodies.

Mr Hancock told the Downing Street press conference the Joint Biosecurity Centre “still formally needs to come into existence”, adding that “it’s being formulated at the moment”.

He said: “The Joint Biosecurity Centre’s role is a national one to provide the advice and the information that would then be acted on locally.

“So the way to think of it is that the Joint Biosecurity Centre has the information, it advises the CMOs of the UK, who in turn give advice to ministers and to local public health bodies through PHE.

“So that architecture is now established. The JBC still formally needs to come into existence, but we are putting in place all of those data flows to augment the already significant work that Public Health England do in this space.”

When asked whether the Joint Biosecurity Centre actually exists, Mr Hancock said: “Yes. We’re getting it stood up, making sure that all the information flows come to it so it’s able to analyse them and to make sure that it gets set up correctly.

“All that work’s being done, being done as we speak.”

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Matt Hancock also said there was a range of measures available to combat local flare-ups of coronavirus.

It could mean "shutting to new admissions a hospital A&E if there was an outbreak in that hospital", he said.

The powers available were as broad as the "legal toolkit" that was used for the national lockdown, he said.

Local directors of public health would work with regional Public Health England and NHS teams "to make sure we got the response right".

He said a "Joint Biosecurity Centre" would have a big role in helping to decide on local lockdowns, but admitted the body is not yet up and running.

An example of a local lockdown could be “shutting to new admissions a hospital A&E if there was an outbreak in that hospital”, he said.

Local directors of public health would work with regional Public Health England and NHS teams “to make sure we got the response right”.

The Joint Biosecurity Centre would have a national role “to provide the advice and the information that would then be acted on locally”.

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