What we learned from today's Downing Street coronavirus briefing

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The Government is creating a new taskforce to spearhead the production of a coronavirus vaccine

Business Secretary Alok Sharma made the announcement at the daily Downing Street briefing on the crisis today, Friday, April 17.

He said the aim was to produce a vaccine 'as quickly as possible’ and the new team would report to him and Health Secretary Matt Hancock, supporting progress across ‘all stages’ of vaccine development, positioning the country as a global leader in production, and carrying out trials which were 'both rapid and well-supervised.'

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Mr Sharma said the Government had greenlit a further 21 research projects, which would receive £14million in funding, including backing for vaccine development at Imperial College in London.

Business Secretary Alok Sharma at today's Downing Street press conferenceBusiness Secretary Alok Sharma at today's Downing Street press conference
Business Secretary Alok Sharma at today's Downing Street press conference

And the Government was setting up the UK’s Vaccines Manufacturing Innovation Centre at Harwell to increase capacity, with backing from industry.

The Business Secretary warned producing a vaccine was ‘a colossal undertaking' and would take 'many months’.

While it was not possible to put a date on when a drug would be available, the Government was 'betting big' to increase chances of success.

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In the meantime, he urged people to continue to obey the lockdown restrictions, which were yesterday extended for another three weeks: "Now is not the time to let up."

Chief Scientific Officer Patrick Vallance said there was ‘unevenness’ in observing the lockdown across the country, especially in areas that had not seen many cases.

"Don't think because you have not seen it near where you are, that it may not be there," he said, urging everyone to follow the social distancing rules.

The number of new cases had continued to flatten and would be expected to start decreasing before long, he said.

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London had seen a gradual decrease in the number of people in hospital, with flattening across rest of the country, which is what would be expected as social distancing begins to have an effect.

Trials wee beginning to assess the effect of existing medicines on combating the virus but deaths would continue to occur: "I expect, unfortunately, this number to continue at plateau for a little while then to start to come down slowly after that.”

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