The future of Public Health England (PHE) has been called into question, Whitehall sources told The Telegraph shortly after UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Tuesday that the government's COVID-19 handling had been 'sluggish' and stressed the failures in fighting with the pandemic had made him feel like being in a 'recurring bad dream'.
Even though Johnson did not drop any names, the sources believe he was referring to the agency, which he had supposedly criticised earlier for its response to COVID-19 in private conversations with Tory MPs.
According to one source, one of PHE's purported failures is that it has been "too slow" in responding to the outbreak and forced the government to intervene to take over some of its functions.
PHE had previously faced a backlash for declining offers of help from universities and private laboratories to carry out COVID-19 tests, while Britain had the highest number of coronavirus deaths in Europe.
On Tuesday, Johnson admitted that "mistakes" had been made in Britain's response to the coronavirus, adding that some parts of the government were "so sluggish" amid the pandemic.
“The problems in our social care system, the parts of government that seemed to respond so sluggishly that sometimes it seemed like that recurring bad dream when you are telling your feet to run and your feet won't move,” Johnson said.
“I know that there are plenty of things that people say and will say that we got wrong, and we owe that discussion and that honesty to the tens of thousands who have died before their time, to the families who have lost loved ones, and of course there must be time to learn the lessons, and we will,” he added.
While the country is gradually easing lockdown restrictions imposed in March, Health Secretary Matt Hancock announced on Tuesday the lockdown of the city of Leicester to combat a surge in COVID-19 cases.