Western Morning News

UK falling short on testing but vaccine trial to start soon

- DAVID HUGHES Press Associatio­n

LESS than half of the available coronaviru­s testing capacity has been used according to the latest figures, leaving the Government facing an uphill battle to meet its 100,000 a day target.

But Health Secretary Matt Hancock announced that human trials led by the University of Oxford will begin tomorrow.

Downing Street insisted Boris Johnson – who is continuing his recovery from Covid-19 – had full confidence in Mr Hancock but the Government has come under fire over both its testing programme and the availabili­ty of vital equipment for health staff.

The Government remains committed to the goal of carrying out 100,000 tests a day by the end of the month, but fewer than 20,000 were conducted in the 24 hours to 9am on Monday.

That is despite there being capacity for 39,250 tests to have been carried out over the same period.

The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said the Government was “absolutely standing by the target”.

“We are increasing capacity, clearly we need to make sure that capacity is being used and that’s what we are working on,” he said.

Some 19,316 coronaviru­s tests were carried out in England, Wales and Scotland in the 24 hours up to 9am on Monday.

Asked about the gap in testing capacity and tests conducted, the PM’s spokesman said: “Ministers have been very clear that any spare capacity should be used to test NHS and social care staff and their families.”

Mr Hancock, who is under fire over his 100,000-per-day testing target and a lack of protective equipment for health and care staff, said it was clear that the “best way to defeat coronaviru­s is through a vaccine”.

At yesterday’s daily press briefing, he praised the “rapid progress” being made into vaccines by scientists at Oxford and Imperial College London.

Oxford, where the team is being led by Professor Sarah Gilbert, has said it hopes to have at least a million doses of its vaccine ready in September, while Imperial hopes to start clinical trials in June.

Mr Hancock said the UK is at the “front of the global effort” to find a vaccine that is effective against coronaviru­s.

“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,” he said.

“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.”

Mr Hancock pledged £22.5 million to Imperial, while Oxford will be granted £20m to fund its clinical trials.

Mr Hancock said the process of finding a vaccine would involve “trial and error” but he has told UK scientists he would “back them to the hilt and give them every resource they need” to succeed.

“After all, the upside of being the first country in the world to develop a successful vaccine is so huge that I am throwing everything at it,” he said.

 ??  ?? > Health Secretary Matt Hancock announces the vaccine trial at yesterday’s Downing Street briefing
> Health Secretary Matt Hancock announces the vaccine trial at yesterday’s Downing Street briefing

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