Health Policy March 19, 2020
PM’s Briefing: Turning the tide in 12 weeks

By Daniel Male - Accountable Care Journal

The Prime Minister, appearing alongside the Chief Scientific Advisor Professor Patrick Vallance and Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty, announced his aim to “turn the tide” on coronavirus within 12 weeks.

Delivering a shorter briefing than previous days for the fourth press conference, the Prime Minister set his timescale for “getting on top” of coronavirus. While advising that it is “possible to turn the tide in 12 weeks,” Boris Johnson acknowledged that this will require all steps outlined to be taken and is still far from a guarantee.

The Prime Minister also confirmed that the first UK patient has been put into a randomised clinical trial for a treatment for COVID-19. This is a major step given the current strategy for outlasting the spread of coronavirus. Vaccine trials are expected “from mid-April,” added Professor Whitty.

In order to begin to return to a degree of normality following the isolation measures put in place, antibodies testing will need to be implemented to identify who has immunity and who does not.

“The answer is to remove the cloak of invisibility,” said Boris Johnson, emphasising the importance of identifying who has the virus and is safe to return to work. He confirmed that the Government is in talks about buying a “game-changing” antibodies test to enable this process. However, there is no confirmation as to when this test will be available for widespread distribution.

“While we are confident there will be antibodies tests, we are not yet confident if the ones on the market are the right ones, so they are being tested out,” added Professor Whitty.

Professor Whitty once again reiterated the importance of ensuring the highest possible capacity of hospital beds with respiratory support are available and that NHS staff with symptoms can be tested quickly to allow them to return to the NHS front line if they do not have the virus.

Meanwhile, Professor Vallance confirmed the “ramping up” of testing for both the antibodies test and COVID-19 test. The response remains ambiguous around timescales for achieving an upscaling to the government’s target of 25,000 per day. The antibodies testing still requires confirmation that it works in the way expected, reiterated Professor Vallance.


More to come on business  

The government has come under criticism over the cause of the delay over the speed of their response in implementing the economic measures announced by Chancellor Rishi Sunak earlier in the week. Businesses and the self-employed continue to be concerned about the speed at which they will get access to financial aid from the Government.

Businesses will have to wait a further day for an update on the availability of financial support from Chancellor Rishi Sunak, who will be talking about “the package available to workers,” confirmed the Prime Minister.

Once the tide has been turned, the Prime Minister advised that things will begin to return to normal and once again urged businesses to “stand by their staff” over this period until business as usual resumes.

Many across the UK and in particular in London are looking to the next steps and the widely regarded inevitability of a lockdown. The Prime Minister reiterated that people should follow the advice offered previously and that there are no plans to stop public transport at this time. It seems that pressure to take further steps to restrict contact between individuals has not yet changed the Government’s course.


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