England axes health agency criticised for COVID-19 response

LONDON, Aug 18 (Reuters) - England will scrap the government agency responsible for responding to public health emergencies after the country has suffered the highest death rate in Europe from the coronavirus pandemic.

Public Health England, a cornerstone of the state-run health system with responsibility for managing infectious outbreaks, will have many of its functions merged with the government’s contact tracing service into a new body to be known as the National Institute for Health Protection.

Dido Harding, the former chief executive of internet provider TalkTalk and the current head of the contact tracing service, will run the new institute.

“The National Institute for Health Protection will have a single and relentless mission, protecting people from external threats to this country’s health; external threats like biological weapons, pandemics, and of course, infectious diseases,” said Matt Hancock, Britain’s health minister. (Reporting by Andrew MacAskill and Alistair Smout; editing by William James)