Warning issued about coronavirus vaccine delay despite medical trials starting
A coronavirus vaccine is unlikely to be available before the year is out despite tens of millions of pounds being poured into UK trials.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock confirmed £41 million of additional investment this week for vaccine research, with Oxford University given the green light to start human trials today.
But Professor Chris Whitty, England's chief medical officer, poured cold water on hopes that an impending vaccine could be the way out of the UK lockdown.
He said some social distancing measures would need to stay in place until there was a vaccine or drug which reduced the severity of the virus.
“Until we have those, and the probability of having those any time in the next calendar year are incredibly small and I think we should be realistic about that, we're going to have to rely on other social measures, which of course are very socially disruptive as everyone is finding at the moment,” he said.
Meanwhile, First Secretary of State Dominic Raab said there was ‘light at the end of the tunnel’ after it was confirmed the UK had reached the peak of infections.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock told the Commons he was preparing to ramp up contact tracing on a ‘large scale’ as a way of keeping the virus under control once lockdown measures are eased.
The Government, along with the Office for National Statistics, has announced that 20,000 households in England are being contacted to take part in the first wave of the research designed to understand how the deadly bug has spread across the country, with initial findings expected in early May.
All participants will provide a nose and throat swab to test for whether they have the virus, while adults in 1,000 households will provide a blood sample to find out what proportion of the population has developed antibodies
In the Commons, Mr Hancock said he was confident the country was at the peak of the outbreak but stressed that continued social distancing was currently.
He also said a contact tracing app which will alert people if they have been in contact with somebody with the virus and should self-isolate was currently in trials.