British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has warned that a mass vaccine for the novel coronavirus may be over a year away and, in the worst-case scenario, may in fact never be found.
In his foreword to the government’s new 50-page guidance on a step by step easing of the lockdown measures in place to control the spread of the deadly virus, the UK prime minister lays out plans for businesses to gradually start reopening with “COVID-19 Secure” measures of social distancing and for the public to use “good solid British common sense” as the economy is unlocked.
“A mass vaccine or treatment may be more than a year away,” said Johnson, highlighting the work being done in the UK by scientists at Oxford University and Imperial College London towards this mission.
“Indeed, in a worst-case scenario, we may never find a vaccine. So our plan must countenance a situation where we are in this, together, for the long haul, even while doing all we can to avoid that outcome,” he said.
Admitting that a vaccine or drug-based treatment is the only “feasible long-term solution”, he said the UK has accelerated this with “promising” vaccine development programmes and a collaboration between Oxford University and pharma major AstraZeneca was a vital step that could help rapidly advance the manufacture of a COVID-19 vaccine when it is ready.
As part of global efforts, he flagged the 388 million pound in aid funding for research into vaccines, tests and treatment, including 250 million to the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations.
“But while we hope for a breakthrough, hope is not a plan,” he said, as he unveiled his plan for starting to lift lockdown restrictions from this week in phases.
UK plan to leave lockdown:
Lockdown easing is set to have three phases.
From today onwards, people who cannot work from home in England will be “actively encouraged” to return to work under the government’s plans, while there will be some relaxation of personal restrictions. Sunbathing, unlimited exercise and driving to a national park or beach will be permitted, for example.
The second phase, which would happen from June 1 “at the earliest”, would see primary schools in England start to reopen, the resumption of trading by “non-essential” retailers such as clothes shops and the restarting of sporting events behind closed doors.
The third phase, which would start “no earlier than July 4”, would see the reopening of “at least some of the remaining businesses and premises that have been forced to close”, such as hairdressers, some hospitality venues, and public spaces including places of worship.