Human vaccine trials set to begin as health chiefs warn of ‘second wave’ of Covid-19 deaths if lockdown rules are flouted

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Trials of a vaccine that could protect against Covid-19 are to begin in the UK.

Work on the vaccine, developed by clinical teams at the University of Oxford’s Jenner Institute and Oxford Vaccine Group, began in January. Now a study involving up to 510 healthy volunteers aged between 18 and 55 is to get under way.

The study is taking place in Oxford and Southampton, with three further sites likely to be added.

The UK now joins only the US, with two studies, and China in beginning human trials.

However, health and science officials have warned that there are “no guarantees” a working vaccine will be found despite the Government’s creation of a Vaccine Taskforce.

Government announce Covid-19 vaccine taskforce

England’s chief Sir Patrick Vallance is among those to caution that developing a new virus presents “challenges.”

“All new vaccines that come into development are long shots. Only some end up being successful,” he told the Downing Street press briefing on Friday.

Elsewhere, England’s deputy chief medical officer has warned that the UK risks a second wave of coronavirus deaths if social distancing warnings are not heeded.

Dr Jenny Harries said the relatively low increase in hospital deaths – up by 596 from 15,464 as of 5pm on Saturday – is “positive news”.

Coronavirus in numbers: UK hospital death toll rises to 16,060

But she cautioned against reading too much into the figures, saying they reflected the usual drop in cases confirmed at weekends.

Asked during Sunday’s Downing Street press briefing whether the UK is “past the peak” of coronavirus, Dr Harries said: “We could jump to all sorts of positive conclusions about that but we shouldn’t.

“I do think it is fair to say that we do know from the hospital data that we are starting to plateau across.”

She added: “If we don’t keep doing the social distancing, we will create a second peak and we definitely won’t be past it so this is no reason to consider that we have managed this.

“But I do think things look to be heading in the right direction.”

Education Secretary: I want to open schools but UK isn't ready yet

It comes after Education Secretary Gavin Williamson ruled out opening schools over the summer to ease the strain on children and parents caused by weeks of lockdown.

Mr Williamson also rebuffed criticism that Boris Johnson missed five Cobra meetings as coronavirus began to tighten its grip on China and much of continental Europe.

He said: “The Prime Minister from the moment that it became clear that there were challenges in terms of coronavirus developing in China has absolutely been leading our nation’s effort to combat the coronavirus, making sure that resources or money is not a concern for any department, especially the health service.”

Michael Gove described as “grotesque” the idea that Boris Johnson had skipped crucial planning sessions following a report in The Sunday Times, while a Government spokesman said the article contained “a series of falsehoods and errors”.

Gove denies virus lockdown exit plan as he staunchly defends PM

In other developments:

– Mr Gove denied suggestions the Government has drawn up plans for a three-tiered relaxation of lockdown measures;

– A delivery of 84 tonnes of personal protective equipment (PPE) for front-line workers has been delayed;

– Sir Jeremy Farrar, a member of the Government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage), said he is “optimistic” about finding a vaccine for Covid-19;

– But Professor Sarah Gilbert, Professor of Vaccinology at Oxford University, who is leading a team developing a Covid-19 vaccine, said nobody can be sure it is possible to find a workable vaccine;

– Mr Gove said Mr Johnson is “in cheerful spirits” as he continues his recovery from coronavirus;

– The fundraising campaign for 99-year-old Captain Tom Moore has passed £26 million in donations;

– The Duke of Sussex thanked NHS workers and volunteers in the fight against Covid-19, saying he is “incredibly proud” of the British public’s response to the pandemic.

Europe takes it's first steps out of Coronavirus lockdown

1/19

People queue at a hardware store during a partial reopening after the Austrian government eased lockdown restrictions

Reuters

2/19

A worker checks the temperature of a customer at the entrance of a supermarket in Itay

Reuters

3/19

Customers hold flowers in front of a DIY store in Graz, Austria, after it re-opened on April 14, 2020, following a "shutdown" in a measure to limit the spread of the new coronavirus

APA/AFP via Getty Images

4/19

People wearing protective face masks and gloves walk in the streets as the Italian government allows the reopening of some shops while a nationwide lockdown continues following the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Venice, Italy,

Reuters

5/19

People queue to enter a hardware store during a partial reopening after the Austrian government eased restrictions following the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in Eisenstadt, Austria

Reuters

6/19

Camilla Cocchi wears a face mask and gloves as she sorts out clothing in her children's clothes shop after it was allowed to reopen following lockdown measures to contain the spread of Covid-19, in Rome

AP

7/19

A man wearing a face mask shops in a hardware store during a partial reopening after the Austrian government eased restrictions following the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in Eisenstadt, Austria

Reuters

8/19

"Respect the 2 meters distance" banner is seen at a fish stand as the Italian government allows the reopening of some shops while a nationwide lockdown continues following the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Venice, Italy,

Reuters

9/19

Customers wearing face masks push shopping carts in front of a DIY store in Vienna, Austria, after it re-opened on April 14, 2020, following a "shutdown" in a measure to limit the spread of the new coronavirus

APA/AFP via Getty Images

10/19

A worker checks the temperature of a customer at the entrance of a supermarket, as the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) continues, in Turin, Italy

Reuters

11/19

Customers line up in front of a DIY store in Graz, Austria

APA/AFP via Getty Images

12/19

Gianfranco Mandas wears a face mask as he sorts out clothing in his children's clothes shop after it was allowed to opens following restriction measures to contain the spread of Covid-19, in Rome

AP

13/19

Customers wearing face masks push shopping carts in front of a DIY store in Vienna, Austria, after it re-opened on April 14, 2020, following a "shutdown" in a measure to limit the spread of the new coronavirus

APA/AFP via Getty Images

14/19

Customers queue at the Trastevere market, as new restrictions for open-air markets are implemented to prevent the spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Rome, Italy,

Reuters

15/19

Customers wearing face masks push shopping carts in front of a DIY store in Vienna, Austria, after it re-opened on April 14, 2020, following a "shutdown" in a measure to limit the spread of the new coronavirus

APA/AFP via Getty Images

16/19

A man wears a protective face mask and gloves at the newsstand as the Italian government allows the reopening of some shops while a nationwide lockdown continues following the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Venice, Italy

Reuters

17/19

People wearing face masks work in a hardware store during a partial reopening after the Austrian government eased restrictions following the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in Eisenstadt, Austria

Reuters

18/19

Customers queue at the Trastevere market, as new restrictions for open-air markets are implemented to prevent the spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Rome, Italy

Reuters

19/19

A general view of the parking area of a hardware store during the partial reopening of shops after the Austrian government loosens its lockdown restrictions during the global coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in Vienna

Reuters

1/19

People queue at a hardware store during a partial reopening after the Austrian government eased lockdown restrictions

Reuters

2/19

A worker checks the temperature of a customer at the entrance of a supermarket in Itay

Reuters

3/19

Customers hold flowers in front of a DIY store in Graz, Austria, after it re-opened on April 14, 2020, following a "shutdown" in a measure to limit the spread of the new coronavirus

APA/AFP via Getty Images

4/19

People wearing protective face masks and gloves walk in the streets as the Italian government allows the reopening of some shops while a nationwide lockdown continues following the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Venice, Italy,

Reuters

5/19

People queue to enter a hardware store during a partial reopening after the Austrian government eased restrictions following the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in Eisenstadt, Austria

Reuters

6/19

Camilla Cocchi wears a face mask and gloves as she sorts out clothing in her children's clothes shop after it was allowed to reopen following lockdown measures to contain the spread of Covid-19, in Rome

AP

7/19

A man wearing a face mask shops in a hardware store during a partial reopening after the Austrian government eased restrictions following the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in Eisenstadt, Austria

Reuters

8/19

"Respect the 2 meters distance" banner is seen at a fish stand as the Italian government allows the reopening of some shops while a nationwide lockdown continues following the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Venice, Italy,

Reuters

9/19

Customers wearing face masks push shopping carts in front of a DIY store in Vienna, Austria, after it re-opened on April 14, 2020, following a "shutdown" in a measure to limit the spread of the new coronavirus

APA/AFP via Getty Images

10/19

A worker checks the temperature of a customer at the entrance of a supermarket, as the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) continues, in Turin, Italy

Reuters

11/19

Customers line up in front of a DIY store in Graz, Austria

APA/AFP via Getty Images

12/19

Gianfranco Mandas wears a face mask as he sorts out clothing in his children's clothes shop after it was allowed to opens following restriction measures to contain the spread of Covid-19, in Rome

AP

13/19

Customers wearing face masks push shopping carts in front of a DIY store in Vienna, Austria, after it re-opened on April 14, 2020, following a "shutdown" in a measure to limit the spread of the new coronavirus

APA/AFP via Getty Images

14/19

Customers queue at the Trastevere market, as new restrictions for open-air markets are implemented to prevent the spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Rome, Italy,

Reuters

15/19

Customers wearing face masks push shopping carts in front of a DIY store in Vienna, Austria, after it re-opened on April 14, 2020, following a "shutdown" in a measure to limit the spread of the new coronavirus

APA/AFP via Getty Images

16/19

A man wears a protective face mask and gloves at the newsstand as the Italian government allows the reopening of some shops while a nationwide lockdown continues following the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Venice, Italy

Reuters

17/19

People wearing face masks work in a hardware store during a partial reopening after the Austrian government eased restrictions following the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in Eisenstadt, Austria

Reuters

18/19

Customers queue at the Trastevere market, as new restrictions for open-air markets are implemented to prevent the spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Rome, Italy

Reuters

19/19

A general view of the parking area of a hardware store during the partial reopening of shops after the Austrian government loosens its lockdown restrictions during the global coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in Vienna

Reuters

The country will enter its fifth week in lockdown on Monday, with continued clamour for a relaxation of measures that have shut schools and businesses, scaled back transport and closed parks and public spaces as Britons are advised to pay heed to social distancing guidelines.

Dr Harries defended the country’s approach to managing the spread of the virus.

She said: “We had and we still have a very clear plan – we had a containment phase and it was very successful.

“We had very strict quarantine regimes from high-risk areas, we followed up individual cases and families wherever that was possible.

“But once you end up with seeding and cases across the community, our focus has to be on managing the clinical conditions of those individuals.”

She cautioned against comparing UK figures with Germany, adding: “We are at different phases of the pandemic.”

Medical chief calls for a 'more adult conversation' about PPE supplies

Dr Harries said there needs to be “a more adult” conversation regarding lingering questions over the availability of PPE for front-line workers in hospitals and care homes, saying there was “a huge pull on services”.

She said: “I think we perhaps need to, rather than lumping all of the PPE together, which is not a homogeneous mix at all, we just need to think carefully through what has been achieved and the challenges which are acknowledged ahead.”

Mr Williamson said the Government will be responding to manufacturers about producing new PPE within the next 24 hours.

Delivery of urgently needed PPE for virus frontline delayed

He also used the press conference to outline a package of measures designed to help children being home-schooled.

Mr Williamson also apologised to children for the disruption to their lives.

In a direct address to the nation’s youngsters, he said: “I know how hard it must be and I’d like to thank you for making the adjustments that you’ve had to make.

“I know you will be missing your friends, your teachers, your lessons.

“I want you to know that you are such an important part of this fight, too, and I cannot thank you enough for all that you are doing.”

More about:

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Vaccine

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covid-19

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Coronavirus

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