British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has started a project as a part of which the civil servants would work to reduce the U.K.’s import dependency on China, especially for essential medical supplies.

The decision has come in light of the coronavirus crisis. According to a report that surfaced Friday, May 22, Johnson has asked officials across Whitehall to identify key economic vulnerabilities in Britain to potentially hostile foreign governments. This is being regarded as a new approach to national security that the prime minister is planning to take.

The new initiate, dubbed “Project Defend,” will be headed by the foreign secretary Dominic Raab. As a part of the project, the U.K. officials will plan on how to facilitate the “repatriation” of key manufacturing capabilities and identify key components of the supply chain that the British businesses have to rely on from outside of the country.

The team is supposed to work in two groups to diversify supply lines to not rely on foreign countries for essentials for non-food essentials. However, after a review, the government is expected to make it applicable for pharmaceuticals and other medical supplies such as personal protective equipment (PPEs).

Johnson further added that he wants to protect Britain’s technological base.

China has been at the receiving end of flak it has been receiving from countries around the world, especially Australia, the U.K. and the U.S. after the coronavirus pandemic spread to other countries. COVID-19 outbreak was first reported in Wuhan, China and later spread to the rest of the countries.

China has been widely criticized for its delayed response to the pandemic and has also been accused of hiding important information about the coronavirus outbreak, its severity and the threat it poses to the world.

In fact, during the early days of the COVID-19 outbreak in Wuhan, China kept emphasizing throughout January that there is no evidence of human-to-human transmission. However, later it was officially declared as a pandemic of severe nature by the World Health Organization (WHO) after cases of COVID-19 were reported from different parts of the world.

China has denied all accusations so far and has even threatened retaliation in case countries do not stop blaming Beijing for the coronavirus pandemic. China’s decision to ban beef imports from five companies in Australia and an 80 percent increase in import duties on Barley is being considered as signs of retaliation.

Australia is among over 100 countries who are demanding an independent inquiry into the origin of coronavirus.

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson Prime Minister Boris Johnson leaves 10 Downing Street for PMQ's on March 25, 2020 in London, England. British parliament will be suspended tonight due to concerns about the spread of COVID-19. It had previously been scheduled to break for Easter on March 31; it will tentatively sit again on April 21. The Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has spread to at least 182 countries, claiming over 18,000 lives and infecting hundreds of thousands more. Peter Summers/Getty Images