Joint Biosecurity Centre

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The Joint Biosecurity Centre (JBC) is a scientific body which seeks to advise United Kingdom government policy as part of the response to outbreaks of COVID-19, such as on testing deployment, international travel, and the UK 'COVID-19 alert level'. Its existence was announced by Prime Minister Boris Johnson in May 2020. [1] [2] The body has been part of the UK Health Security Agency since the establishment of that agency on 1 April 2021. [3]

Contents

Accountability and personnel

The Minister of State for Social Care at the Department of Health and Social Care, Helen Whately, has oversight of the JBC. [4]

Tom Hurd, a civil servant, held the chief position at the JBC from May 2020 to June 2020, when he was replaced by Dr Clare Gardiner, on secondment from her role as a director at the National Cyber Security Centre. [5] [6] However, the post is believed to have been vacant since June 2021. [7]

The epidemiologist Dr Thomas Waite, formerly a senior leader at Public Health England, took part in the creation of the JBC. [8] In October 2020 he was described as its director of health protection, [9] and was its director of health analysis until he took up a Deputy Chief Medical Officer post in July 2021. [8]

As of July 2021, Johanna Hutchinson is the head of data and data science. [10]

History

In June 2020, the body was said to be part of the NHS Test and Trace service, [6] and it was reported that a small number of staff from GCHQ had been seconded to help the centre develop its data analytics capabilities. [5]

In October 2020, it came to light that one of the responsibilities of the JBC was "the local lockdowns enforced on millions of people across the country". [11] The JBC made the news in October 2020 when it was the subject of discussion over the secrecy to which it was entitled. Certain MPs and scientists then demanded that the minutes and the membership of the JBC be published. [11]

In the same month, it came to light that the JBC was responsible for decisions to impose movement restrictions in London, York and other areas. Certain MPs were upset that the JBC failed to publish either its analysis or its argument(s). Even its premises were shielded from view by its Health Protection bureau chief. [9]

In July 2021, the JBC was rebuked by the Office for Statistics Regulation over lack of transparency regarding data to support a 16 July decision by the government to strengthen quarantine requirements for travellers arriving in England from France. [12] [10]

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References

  1. Dan Sabbagh and Ian Sample, Senior counter-terror official put in charge of new UK biosecurity centre, The Guardian , 12 May 2020. Accessed 24 May 2020.
  2. "Joint Biosecurity Centre" (Press release). London: www.gov.uk. Retrieved 29 October 2020.
  3. "Securing our health: the UK Health Security Agency". GOV.UK. Retrieved 24 March 2021.
  4. "Minister of State (Minister for Care)". GOV.UK. Retrieved 30 July 2021.
  5. 1 2 Warrell, Helen; Neville, Sarah (5 June 2020). "Senior spy appointed to lead UK's joint biosecurity centre" . Financial Times. Retrieved 3 August 2021.
  6. 1 2 "Senior civil servant and former lecturer in medical statistics appointed to Joint Biosecurity Centre" (Press release). London: www.gov.uk. Department of Health and Social Care. 5 June 2020. Retrieved 29 October 2020.
  7. Mason, Rowena; Allegretti, Aubrey (2 August 2021). "Johnson dumps 'amber watchlist' plan as it emerges top adviser has quit". the Guardian. Retrieved 3 August 2021.
  8. 1 2 "Dr Thomas Waite". GOV.UK. Retrieved 30 July 2021.
  9. 1 2 Adams, Callum (17 October 2020). "Director of 'secretive' scientific body placing cities into lockdown accused of hypocrisy". The Telegraph. Retrieved 30 July 2021.
  10. 1 2 "Mary Gregory to Johanna Hutchinson: Statistics informing quarantine requirements for arrivals to England". Office for Statistics Regulation. 27 July 2021. Retrieved 30 July 2021.
  11. 1 2 Gardner, Bill (11 October 2020). "Call to end secrecy of body driving UK's new Covid lockdowns". Telegraph Media Group Limited.
  12. Allegretti, Aubrey; Grover, Natalie (29 July 2021). "Ministers under fire for putting France on England's 'amber plus' list". the Guardian. Retrieved 30 July 2021.