London, May 18 (PTI) The UK is in a position to move to the next level of its COVID-19 response and further lift the lockdown measures in place in careful steps, UK Business Secretary Alok Sharma has said.
The Indian-origin minister said the country had succeeded in keeping the rate of infection, so-called R rate, and therefore on track to hit Level 3 in its five-level strategy to ease out of the lockdown set by the government.
“The alert level is based primarily on the R value and the number of coronavirus cases. And in turn, that alert level will determine the level of social distancing measures in place – the lower the level, the fewer the measures; the higher the level, the stricter the measures,” Sharma said during the daily Downing Street briefing in London on Sunday evening.
“Throughout the period of lockdown, which started on March 23, we have been at Level 4. Thanks to you, people across the country, we have collectively helped to bring the R level down. And we are now in a position to begin moving to Level 3, in careful steps,” he said.
The minister unveiled a new 93-million pounds investment to accelerate the UK’s first Vaccines Manufacturing Innovation Centre, which is set to be completed by next year.
While the centre is being built, the government will establish a rapid deployment facility thanks to a further investment of 38 million pounds to begin coronavirus vaccine manufacturing at scale within months, ready in time for when a vaccine is discovered.
“This facility will support efforts to ensure a vaccine is widely available to the UK public as soon as possible. In total, the government has now committed over a quarter of a billion pounds towards developing a vaccine in the UK,” he said.
While there are currently no drugs in the world that have been clinically proven to treat coronavirus, he said the UK government is working with scientists and medical experts to identify promising candidates.
“In spite of the tireless effort of our scientists, it is possible that we may never find a successful coronavirus vaccine. So we also need to look at other drug treatments and therapeutics for those who get the virus,” he said.
His announcement came as the official figures confirm that of those who tested positive for coronavirus across hospitals and all other settings in the UK, 34,636 have now died of the deadly virus in the country. PTI AK RUP RUP