Health

Coronavirus: UK donates £20m to speed up vaccine

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The government has donated £20 million towards a break-neck plan to produce a vaccine to combat the deadly new coronavirus.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said the money would help the UK lead the way in developing a new inoculation.

It comes as the death toll in China increased to 361 with the total number of cases there now above 17,000.

Meanwhile 11 Britons flown back from Wuhan – the outbreak's epicentre – have begun two weeks in quarantine.

The additional evacuees – who travelled from China via France – joined 83 people already in group isolation at Arrowe Park Hospital in Wirral.

'Unprecedented' timescale

The government's £20m investment will go to CEPI – the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations – a global body aiming to fast-track a vaccine within six to eight months.

CEPI chief executive Dr Richard Hatchett said such a tight timescale was "unprecedented".

If the biologists are successful, more time would still be required to test the vaccine more widely and secure sign-off from medical regulators before it could be distributed across the world.

"This is an extremely ambitious timeline – indeed, it would be unprecedented in the field of vaccine development," Dr Hatchett said.

"It is important to remember that even if we are successful – and there can be no guarantee – there will be further challenges to navigate before we can make vaccines more broadly available."

The UK's money will help fund the efforts of Dr Kate Broderick, a 42-year-old Scot based in California, who is working to create a coronavirus vaccine.

"We hope to get the final product into human testing by early summer," Dr Broderick, a molecular geneticist who works for the pharmaceutical company Inovio, told the BBC last week.

The coronavirus outbreak has been categorised as a global health emergency by the World Health Organisation, with cases confirmed in several countries including Canada, Australia, Germany and Japan, as well as in the UK.

Two people, a University of York student and one of their relatives, became the first people to test positive for the new strain in the UK and are being treated at a specialist unit in Newcastle.

'All wearing masks'

Meanwhile those isolated at Arrowe Park have spoken of their experiences as they continue their quarantine in a nurses' accommodation block.

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Lecturer Yvonne Griffiths, 71, from Cardiff, said she had been put in a shared flat with four separate rooms, a kitchen and a lobby area, where food and drinks were delivered.

Speaking on her third day in quarantine, she said she had "some interaction" with the others in her flat.

"People go [to the lobby] to collect things and also pick up food and some people will stand having their food together, but all wearing masks," she said.

"Obviously you have to put your mask down a little for you to eat."

Announcing the investment into stemming the spread of the virus, Mr Hancock said: "VaRead More – Source

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