Coronavirus | U.K. PM Boris Johnson cautiously welcomes ‘loud toot’ of the vaccine bugle

The country has pre-ordered 40 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine — enough for about a third of the U.K. population, taking into account that two doses each are required.

U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Monday struck a note of caution as he welcomed the promising results from the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine and warned that the new possible vaccine against COVID-19 has cleared only one significant hurdle and there are several more to go.

Addressing a briefing from 10 Downing Street in London, Mr. Johnson urged the British public not to slacken their resolve as it is still very, very early days , even as he confirmed that the U.K. had pre-ordered 40 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine — enough for about a third of the U.K. population, taking into account that two doses each are required.

“We have talked for a long time, or I have, about the distant bugle of the scientific cavalry coming over the brow of the hill, and tonight that toot of the bugle is louder. But it is still some way off. And we absolutely cannot rely on this as a solution,” he said.

He reiterated that it is crucial not to overdo things and follow the lockdown rules strictly until December 2, after which England is set to revert to a tiered lockdown system.

“We cannot let our enthusiasm (about a vaccine) run away with us. It is more vital now than ever that we follow the basics,” Mr. Johnson said.

England’s deputy chief medical officer Prof. Jonathan Van-Tam, who joined Mr. Johnson at the briefing, said he was “hopeful” that the first vaccine could be seen by Christmas after Pfizer’s announcement earlier on Monday that its vaccine candidate has proven 90% effective in a large trial.

“This is a very important scientific breakthrough. I am certain of that. I am hopeful because of all that, but not yet certain that we could begin to see some vaccine by Christmas I think we have to be optimistic but we have to wait and see how vaccine manufacture goes,” said Prof Van-Tam.

Alas, the death figures are tragically rising, running at an average of over 300 a day — sadly double where they were 24 days ago. The number of COVID-19 patients in hospital has risen from just over 10,000 two weeks ago to nearly 13,000 on November 5, and we are heading towards the levels of the previous peak, said Mr. Johnson, as the experts ran through the statistics with him.

The main focus of Monday’s briefing was on the mass testing rolled out in Liverpool on Friday, which Mr. Johnson said were being widely taken up in the city and urged others to also come forward and get tested for your friends, for your relatives, for your community .

He confirmed that the government is going beyond the city-wide pilot and sending out hundreds of thousands of rapid lateral flow tests to local authorities right across England and other parts of the United Kingdom.

“We’re also working with universities to establish, as soon as possible, similar mass testing capacity for students up and down the country,” Mr. Johnson added.

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