£14m for "up and running" vaccine taskforce

COVID-19 UPDATE – Friday 17 April

Business Secretary Alok Sharma led today’s media briefing from Downing Street. Sir Patrick Vallance, chief scientific adviser and Professor Yvonne Doyle, medical director of Public Health England joined him and presented current data.

Vaccine taskforce up and running

Alok Sharma said that a crucial element to the UK successfully defeating the virus will be to find a vaccine.

He announced vaccine taskforce, led by the government which will speed up the development and manufacture of vaccines in the UK. The taskforce will report to Alok Sharma and Health Secretary Matt Hancock.

Sir Patrick Vallance and deputy chief medical officer Professor, Jonathan van Tam, will coordinate the taskforce’s efforts and is involves experts from government, academia and industry.

Green light for 21 projects - £14m funding

Alok Sharma said the vaccine taskforce will work with regulators to establish "rapid" trials.

It encompasses 21 projects and the newly announced £14m funding pot is an addition to £250m previously earmarked for vaccine development.

"When we make a breakthrough”, Said Alok Sharma, “we will be able to manufacture millions" of doses.

He was also realistic about this task: He said: "Be under no illusions. A vaccine is a colossal undertaking and a complex process which will take many months.

"There are no guarantees, but we are backing scientists [and] betting big."

Patrick Vallance stated that researchers have done "a great job to get to where they are". There are over 100 ongoing vaccine projects, but warned that "each single project does not have a high probability of success".

"Everyone goes out with great enthusiasm” he said, “but it is never the case we know we have a vaccine that works." And that "safety is incredibly important" before a vaccine is widely distributed.

Stay at home

Patrick Vallance cautioned that some areas are using more transport than others.

"Don't think just because you haven't seen it near where you are, it may not be there," he said.

A flattening in the number of new cases

Patrick Vallance said the number of new cases reported in hospital has "become flat" over the last few days. "We would expect this to start decreasing in terms of total number of cases," he added.

Decrease in hospital cases of coronavirus in London

Patrick Vallance noted a gradual decrease in the number of people in hospital beds in London, and a flattening and decrease in some areas.

“On track” for 100,000 daily testing target

Yvonne Doyle, stated that testing numbers are under scrutiny and the government is "on track".

She said we have extra testing capacity, and "getting that organised and acceptable locally is the next key”.

The testing target includes swab tests, which are already in use, and blood tests, which are yet to be launched.