Boris Johnson: 'No guarantee' of ever finding coronavirus vaccine

11 May 2020, 21:15

Boris Johnson has warned there may never be a vaccine for coronavirus
Boris Johnson has warned there may never be a vaccine for coronavirus. Picture: PA
Nick Hardinges

By Nick Hardinges

Boris Johnson has warned there is "no guarantee" of ever finding a coronavirus vaccine but that he believes the UK is at "the forefront" of developing one.

The prime minister was speaking during the government's daily coronavirus briefing from Downing Street on Monday evening at the later start time of 7pm.

Mr Johnson said he was encouraged by what he had heard coming out of Oxford University about the development of a cure for Covid-19.

However, he urged people not to become too dependent on the prospect of a vaccine because "even after 18 years we still don't have a vaccine for Sars."

The UK leader, whose latest lockdown measures have not been accepted by the governments of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, did however say Britain was leading the way on the world stage in delivering a cure.

The vulnerable will need to continue to shield

"I'm hearing some very encouraging things from what's going on at Oxford to achieve a vaccine," Mr Johnson said.

But he added: "This is by no means guaranteed. I believe I'm right in saying that even after 18 years we still don't have a vaccine for Sars.

"What I can tell you is that the UK is at the forefront of concerting international activity to try to deliver a vaccine."

Read more: Boris Johnson unveils new rules for life under lockdown

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However, the prime minister warned that the country could be living with coronavirus "for a long time to come" despite the government putting "huge sums" into finding a vaccine.

"If you ask me am I absolutely certain that we won't be living with this for a long time to come, I can't say that," he said.

"It may be that we have to become ever more flexible, ever more agile, ever smarter in the way that we tackle, not just this infection, but potentially future infections as well."

Coronavirus press conference (11 May 2020)

The government's chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance echoed the idea that a cure could never be guaranteed.

Speaking at the Downing Street daily briefing, which today saw more questions from members of the public and fewer from the media, he said: "It's a tough thing to do."

But he added that there were therapeutics and drug development programmes under way, adding: "I'd be surprised if we didn't end up with something."

Meanwhile, Mr Johnson announced 32,065 people have so far died in hospitals, care homes and the wider community combined after testing positive for coronavirus in the UK, as of 5pm on Sunday.

This is an increase of 210 from the 31,855 fatalities recorded the previous day.

Boris Johnson on new exercise rules

The government's new "stay alert" slogan could be seen on the prime minister's lectern at the briefing.

He also suggested that workers should begin getting in touch with their employers about how and when to get back to work.

When asked about rules regarding seeing friends and family in parks, he said people must only see one person at a time and must maintain social distancing measures.

The chief medical officer, Professor Chris Whitty, said the risk of catching coronavirus outdoors is considerably less than catching it indoors, hence the relaxing of the open-air rules.

He added there were three categories of businesses, those that are open, those that must remain shut, and those that can open if they respect social distancing.

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