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UK Health Security Agency to launch in April and other stories

The Government has announced that the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) will launch on 1 April to act as a “protective shield” over the country.

The UKHSA will “plan for, prevent and respond to external health threats such as infectious diseases” and its initial primary focus will be “the continued fight against the Covid-19 pandemic”.

Chris Ahjem reports:

England’s Secretary of State for Health and Social Care Matt Hancock announces UKHSA:

Backlash continues against Government’s new asylum policy

The Shadow Home Secretary Nick Thomas-Symonds has criticised the government’s New Plan for Immigration published today, saying that it “risks making the situation even worse for victims of human trafficking as it would be even harder to access help in the UK”.

Embed from Getty Images

The new plan proposes that asylum seekers’ claims will be assessed on how they enter the country and that those who enter illegally will face a much harder time than those who use legal methods.

The Home Secretary Priti Patel told MPs today that “this plan marks a step change in our approach as we toughen our stance to deter illegal entry and the criminals that endanger life by enabling it.”

Mr Thomas-Symonds said the new measures “will do next to nothing to stop people making dangerous crossing and they risk withdrawing support from desperate people.”

Government will intervene in Liverpool

Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick has confirmed commissioners will be sent in to run specific areas of Liverpool City Council.

Inspectors were sent into the local authority in December following an enquiry into building and development contracts in the city.

Speaking in the House of Commons, Mr Jenrick said the report had found a “deeply concerning picture of mismanagement”.

The Secretary stopped short of ordering a full takeover of the city council, opting instead to appoint commissioners to support the council’s chief executive Tony Reeves. 

The commissioners are expected to be in place for three years.

Eight John Lewis stores to close

John Lewis has announced that eight of its stores will not reopen after the latest lockdown. 

“John Lewis” by Uli Harder is licensed under Creative Commons

The move which puts 1,465 jobs at risk, will see stores in Aberdeen, Ashford, Basingstoke, Chester, Sheffield, Tunbridge Wells, Peterborough and York close. 

The retail giant has said that this is in part due to a significant shift to online shopping, with an expectation that 60 to 70% of its sales will take place online in the future.  

The company promised to “enter into consultation with 1,465 affected partners” and said it would make “every effort” to find replacement roles for as many as possible. 

Earlier this year, John Lewis announced its first ever annual loss of £517m.

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