- Hancock said he will support a total of £42.5 million in clinical trials for the two vaccine developments underway at Imperial College London and Oxford University.
- In response to the criticism of a lack of PPE in the medical field, he defended the government's measures.
- Kier Starmer, leader of the Labour Party, raised the issue of PPE at his first Prime Minister's Questions as Leader of the Opposition.
British Health Minister Matt Hancock announced on Tuesday that clinical trials of a new coronavirus vaccine, developed by Oxford University in the UK, will start on Thursday. The government says it is “committing” to promoting vaccine development. At a regular meeting at the Prime Minister’s Office, Mr. Hancock explained that “the best way to destroy a new virus” is a vaccine.
The development process is a series of “trial and error,” but he says the UK spends more money and leads the development process more than any other country. Meanwhile, with a lack of protective supplies for the National Health Service (NHS), staff is in talks with thousands of suppliers, but they can’t source them from all, Hancock said.
An additional 763 people died of coronavirus in the United Kingdom on Wednesday, the total reaching 18,100. There were 18,206 tests conducted in 24 hours until 9 AM on the 21st. The government has expanded its daily testing capacity to nearly 40,000, and wants to expand to 100,000 by the end of April.
“The UK is at the front of the global effort. We have put more money than any other country into a global search for a vaccine and, for all the efforts around the world, two of the leading vaccine developments are taking place here at home – at Oxford and Imperial. . . Both of these promising projects are making rapid progress and I’ve told the scientists leading them we will do everything in our power to support.”
In response to the criticism of a lack of personal protective equipment (PPE) in the medical field, he defended the government’s measures. Hancock explained that the plan to bring PPE to the forefront is “unprecedented” and “a scale never seen as a cross-government program.” Despite the scrutiny of domestic companies that have offered assistance, “realistically, not all of them can source large-scale deals,” he said.
So far, more than 8,000 companies in the country have offered support, and the government is currently cooperating with 159 manufacturers. He also added that he is “directly communicating” with purchases from Chinese companies. Regarding the delayed PPE import from Turkey, he said a military aircraft of the Royal Air Force will carry it.
Several British companies have said that they have offered help but have been ignored by the government. Interflex, an auto parts maker in Nottinghamshire, has offered to manufacture face protection masks and gowns. Although they said they would buy it on the 17th, they said that the contact was lost after that. Jim Griffin, the company’s president, said he is considering exporting these protective gear to other countries.
Kier Starmer, leader of the Labour Party, raised the issue of PPE at his first Prime Minister’s Questions as Leader of the Opposition. Starmer told the BBC it would be a “struggle for any government to get exactly the right kit to the right place at the right time.” However, people are “putting their lives literally on the line when they’re going to work,” and they needed the “proper equipment.”
The government’s Emergency Scientific Advisory Committee (SAGE), which is formulating new antivirus measures, discussed on the 21st whether to encourage wearing masks as a new coronavirus measure. Professor Jonathan Van Tham, Deputy Chief Medical Officer of England, said he would advise SAGE’s advice to the ministry, but did not provide details.
Hospital managers and others are worried that changing the advice on wearing masks could endanger the supply to the NHS. The World Health Organization (WHO) said no evidence was found that wearing a mask in public would prevent the spread of infection. But in the UK over the last few weeks, there has been growing debate about wearing masks.