Doctor spearheading search for coronavirus vaccine says it’s most frightening he’s ever encountered

A doctor spearheading the search for a coronavirus vaccine has today said it is the most frightening thing he has ever encountered – as a second Briton is confirmed dead and number of UK cases rises to 163.

Dr Richard Hatchett, the boss of the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations, said we need to be prepared to go to war on the virus as he reveals it could take between 12-18 months to develop a vaccine and cost £1.5m ($2bn).

It comes as Boris Johnson today urged Britons to brace for ‘substantial disruption’ that could last months as he pumped £46million into a coronavirus vaccine and testing kits.

The number of coronavirus cases in the UK has now tripled in the space of three days, with just 51 confirmed on Tuesday. Forty-seven cases were announced today – the UK’s largest daily toll. 

And travellers were today left fearing they may have unknowingly caught the coronavirus after two baggage handlers at London Heathrow tested positive for the killer infection – raising concerns the virus could have passed onto passengers’ luggage, where it could survive for up to three days.

Speaking to Channel 4 News, Dr Hatchett said: ‘I’ve been working on epidemic preparedness for about 20 years and completely dispassionately without elevating the temperature or speaking hyperbolically. 

‘This is the most frightening disease I’ve ever encountered in my career, and that includes Ebola, it includes MERS and it includes SARS.  

‘I think the most concerning thing about this virus is the combination of infectiousness and the ability to cause severe disease or death.’

Dr Richard Hatchett (pictured), the boss of the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations, said we need to be prepared to go to war on the virus

Dr Richard Hatchett (pictured), the boss of the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations, said we need to be prepared to go to war on the virus

Dr Richard Hatchett (pictured), the boss of the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations, said we need to be prepared to go to war on the virus

Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson washes his hands during a visit to the Mologic Laboratory in the Bedford technology Park, north of London today

Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson washes his hands during a visit to the Mologic Laboratory in the Bedford technology Park, north of London today

Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson washes his hands during a visit to the Mologic Laboratory in the Bedford technology Park, north of London today

The number of coronavirus cases in the UK has now tripled in the space of three days, with just 51 confirmed on Tuesday. Forty-seven cases were announced today – the UK’s largest daily toll.

Travellers have been left fearing they may have unknowingly caught the coronavirus after two baggage handlers at London Heathrow were among those who tested positive for the killer infection. 

Dr Hatchett added: ‘We have seen very lethal viruses, we have seen certainly Ebola or Nipah or any of the other diseases that CEPI, the organisation that I run, works on. 

‘These viruses have high mortality rates, I mean, Ebola’s mortality rate in some places is greater than 80%. But they don’t have the infectiousness that this virus has. They don’t have the potential to explode and spread globally.’

He said we had not seen a virus like it since the 1918 Spanish flu which is estimated to have killed between 50 million and 100 million people.

Dr Hatchett said coronavirus has the ‘potential to cause a global pandemic if we’re not already there’.

He added: I do think the virus has demonstrated that it has a lethality that is likely many fold higher than normal flu.’

A further 47 coronavirus cases have been diagnosed in the UK today ¿ 36 in England and 11 in Scotland ¿ bringing the total to 163 from just 51 on Wednesday

A further 47 coronavirus cases have been diagnosed in the UK today ¿ 36 in England and 11 in Scotland ¿ bringing the total to 163 from just 51 on Wednesday

A further 47 coronavirus cases have been diagnosed in the UK today – 36 in England and 11 in Scotland – bringing the total to 163 from just 51 on Wednesday

Prime Minister Boris Johnson is pictured at a laboratory in Bedford as he announces a major Government investment in efforts to produce a vaccine

Prime Minister Boris Johnson is pictured at a laboratory in Bedford as he announces a major Government investment in efforts to produce a vaccine

Prime Minister Boris Johnson is pictured at a laboratory in Bedford as he announces a major Government investment in efforts to produce a vaccine

It comes as a funding boost – which is coming from the UK’s international development aid budget – brings the British Government’s commitment up to a total of £91million. 

However, Mr Johnson warned that even with the extra resources a vaccine will not be ready for another year.

It comes as Number 10’s top scientist today admitted the killer virus is spreading in the UK – the World Health Organization says it has been for several days. 

Meanwhile, the government has been stepping up its response amid fears it is now only a matter of how long before a mass outbreak in this country.

Families are being urged to consider how they will cope if they need to go into quarantine at home, or keep vulnerable friends and relatives away from the danger of infection.   

Drug made out of the BLOOD of recovered patients is developed in hunt for a vaccine 

Scientists are getting closer to being able to treat the coronavirus using blood from patients who have recovered.

A drug-maker in Japan is already developing a drug using parts of the immune system taken from people who have caught the virus and recovered from it.

The treatment works, in theory, by putting disease-fighting proteins from recovered patients into people still battling the illness.

The sick patients’ bodies can then use these proteins – called antibodies – as if they were there own, instead of having to make them from scratch.

It has been used to tackle Ebola in the past but it could take more than one recovered patient to treat a single sick person, so will not be used for everyone.

Chinese hospitals have said they are using the therapy already but only on their own patients – there is no mass-produced drug or supply of it.  

The Japanese pharmaceutical company Takeda is working on developing the immune system therapy, Stat News reported.

It is called ‘plasma-derived therapy’ because it will be based on the blood plasma of people who have recovered from the coronavirus.

Plasma is the liquid which carries blood cells, nutrients and hormones through the blood vessels, and makes up around half of all blood.

It also carries antibodies, which are proteins the body makes to destroy bacteria or viruses when they cause an infection.

If somebody has never been exposed to a virus or bacteria before – as is the case for everyone who catches the coronavirus – they do not have any antibodies and they become ill during the time it takes their body to make them.

Injecting them with antibodies from someone who has already made them saves time and helps the patient to fight off the illness faster.

The World Health Organization said plasma-derived therapy was a ‘very important area’ and Dr Greg Poland, from the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota, said it was ‘definitely worth trying’.

Speaking on a visit to a research lab in Bedfordshire, Mr Johnson said: ‘It looks to me as though there will be a substantial period of disruption when we have to deal with this outbreak.

‘How big that will be, how long that will be, I think, is still an open question.

‘But, clearly, it is something we are going to have to deal with for quite a while in the UK.’ 

Scientists at Imperial College London, and at pharmaceutical companies in the US, have revealed they’re planning to start human trials as early as next month.

But the Government’s chief scientific adviser, Sir Patrick Vallance, said one won’t be ready before the current global outbreak is over. 

The money will also go towards developing on-the-spot tests for the coronavirus, which will allow people to be tested at home, saving time and NHS resources. 

Global human trials of eight possible vaccines could start later this year, but firms would then face the task of mass-producing and distributing them.

Public Health England has developed methods of testing for coronavirus, but more rapid tests are needed as these currently rely on samples being sent to a lab.

At present it takes more than a day for someone’s test result to be confirmed and they have to be analysed in high-profile laboratories. Tests have to be done multiple times to avoid false positives. 

The package announced by the PM comes under the ‘research’ phase of the Government’s four-stage ‘battle plan’ to contain, delay, mitigate and research coronavirus.

Downing Street said the UK’s investment into COVID-19 vaccine research is now worth £65 million, with £91 million in total for international work to stop the spread of the virus.

Chief scientific adviser to the Government, Sir Patrick Vallance, admitted there isn’t time to make and distribute a vaccine during this outbreak, but that developing one would be useful for the future.

Some scientists expect the virus to become a regular fixture in human health – potentially a seasonal illness like flu – now that it has spread so widely.     

Sir Patrick said: ‘Rapid testing is going to be key to managing this outbreak, but ultimately vaccines are going to provide the long-term protection we need.

‘The UK has some of the world’s leading scientists and this money will help in our fight to tackle this new disease.’

But, speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, he added: ‘I don’t think we will get the vaccine for this outbreak.

‘I don’t think we’ll get something in time or at scale for this outbreak.’

Discussing the new cases in an interview with Sky News he added: ‘This is a global epidemic and we would expect to see more cases in the UK. This is the start of an outbreak clearly. 

‘We are in the position now where we have got person-to-person transmission of this in the UK and therefore we can expect more cases.

‘This is now outbreaks in the community where we have got some individuals that we don’t know where it has come from.

‘That tells you that something is circulating, we are definitely in that phase.’

Sir Patrick Vallance, the Government's chief scientific adviser, said a vaccine would not be ready to use during the course of this outbreak (Pictured, Sir Patrick, right, with Boris Johnson and Professor Chris Whitty at a Government briefing this week)

Sir Patrick Vallance, the Government's chief scientific adviser, said a vaccine would not be ready to use during the course of this outbreak (Pictured, Sir Patrick, right, with Boris Johnson and Professor Chris Whitty at a Government briefing this week)

Sir Patrick Vallance, the Government’s chief scientific adviser, said a vaccine would not be ready to use during the course of this outbreak (Pictured, Sir Patrick, right, with Boris Johnson and Professor Chris Whitty at a Government briefing this week)

Mr Johnson visited a laboratory in Bedfordshire today to announce the funding boost

Mr Johnson visited a laboratory in Bedfordshire today to announce the funding boost

Mr Johnson visited a laboratory in Bedfordshire today to announce the funding boost

Mr Johnson said: 'We are ensuring the country is prepared for the current outbreak, guided by the science at every stage'

Mr Johnson said: 'We are ensuring the country is prepared for the current outbreak, guided by the science at every stage'

Mr Johnson said: ‘We are ensuring the country is prepared for the current outbreak, guided by the science at every stage’

The Government's investment will contribute to its 'research' phase of the coronavirus action plan Mr Johnson launched at Downing Street earlier this week

The Government's investment will contribute to its 'research' phase of the coronavirus action plan Mr Johnson launched at Downing Street earlier this week

The Government’s investment will contribute to its ‘research’ phase of the coronavirus action plan Mr Johnson launched at Downing Street earlier this week

CORONAVIRUS VACCINES ‘COULD START HUMAN TRIALS NEXT MONTH’ 

The first human trials of a coronavirus vaccine are expected to begin next month at a university in London and pharmaceutical company in the US.

Scientists at Imperial College in the English capital have been trialling their attempt at a vaccine on animals since mid-February.

And they could move onto human trials – the last phase of development before a drug can be used – as soon as April.

Meanwhile, US pharmaceutical companies Moderna and Inovio have also said they plan to start their own human trials next month.

The coronavirus, which causes a disease called COVID-19 and has infected more than 94,000 people around the world, cannot currently be cured or prevented.

People who catch it have to be isolated and wait for their body to fight off the illness, with medical help if they need it for symptoms or more serious infection.

A working vaccine could stop the bug in its tracks – some experts think it could become a permanent fixture in human society in the same way colds and flu are.

Imperial College has been working on its vaccine since the middle of January when Chinese scientists released the genetic information about the virus.

If low-level human trials are successful, the researchers will then move on to testing the vaccine in the real world where people are at risk of infection.

Passing all those tests could mean the vaccine is available to the public as early as next year.

US pharmaceutical company, Inovio, said it could have a million doses available by the end of the year and Moderna said it will also start human trials in April with aims of fast development.

Speaking on a podcast, Imperial College scientist Professor Robin Shattock said his team and others are creating vaccines ‘at a speed that’s never been realised before’.

He said: ‘Most vaccines would take five years in the discovery phase and at least one to two years to manufacture and get into clinical trials.

Mr Johnson spoke to scientists at the Mologic lab, which is ramping up efforts to provide more testing in people’s homes.

This will mean patients can receive treatment more quickly at home, reducing the risk of them passing the virus to others by going outdoors.

Any rapid diagnostic test could also be sent to other countries with no lab capability or whose medical facilities are not as advanced.

A new test will therefore be jointly manufactured in the UK and Senegal.

In a statement, Mr Johnson said: ‘Keeping the British people safe is my number one priority, and that’s why I’ve set out our four-part plan to contain, delay, mitigate and research coronavirus.

‘We are ensuring the country is prepared for the current outbreak, guided by the science at every stage. But we also need to invest now in researching the vaccines that could help prevent future outbreaks.

‘I’m very proud that UK experts – backed by government funding – are on the front line of global efforts to do just that.’

Speaking to reporters, Mr Johnson added: ‘What we are announcing today is a £46 million package of investment in UK science which will in time deliver a vaccine – some say in about a year – but also help us to have rapid test kits that anyone can use quickly and effectively to tell whether they have coronavirus.’

The UK has committed to spending 0.7 per cent of national income – around £14billion a year – on foreign aid.

But many Tory MPs believe the funding should be targeted at home, and complain that fixing the level of spending encourages waste.

There are international rules that dictate what can be classed as aid spending, but the government believes developing a vaccine falls within them.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock last night faced demands to say how the government plans to stop coronavirus panic buying – as members of the public told him it is a real problem.

The Health Secretary tried to reassure the public on BBC Question Time after an audience member complained that supplied of toilet roll, pasta and paracetamol were running short in supermarkets.

But Mr Hancock appealed for people not to engage in ‘herd behaviour’ and insisted the government is ‘absolutely confident’ there will be no shortages of food or essential items.

There are mounting fears of a major outbreak in the UK as the number of cases continues to grow. 

Experts have warned the virus is now being transmitted between Britons, with the government’s focus shifting to delaying the spread rather than preventing it altogether. 

On the flagship programme last night, a woman voiced her concerns about the situation in the shops, asking ‘how do we stop shortages?’ 

Mr Hancock said: ‘There is absolutely no need for individuals to go around buying more than they need.

‘And in fact, part of the response of this has to be about us coming together.We are, after all, a herd. It’s the biology that is causing the problem.

‘Obviously, the very, very strong advice from the scientists, the medics, is that people should not go about buying more than they need.’

However, the woman interrupted to say that panic buying was really happening, saying she had been to the supermarket and found no dry pasta or toilet rolls.

‘People are panic buying,’ she said. ‘There is no paracetamol that you can get in the supermarkets.’

However, Mr Hancock replied: ‘I understand that but what I will say is the Government has supplies of the key things that are needed and within the food supply we are absolutely confident that there won’t be a problem there.

‘And crucially we are working with the supermarkets to make sure that if people are self-isolating then they will be able to get the food and supplies that the people need.’

Government risks causing even more panic buying as it tells people to stock up and ‘plan ahead’ in case they have to self-isolate for weeks despite pleading with people to stop hoarding

Britons are being told to ‘plan ahead’ in case they are told to self-isolate amid the coronavirus outbreak.

Public Health England (PHE) is urging members of the public to stock up on enough supplies and food to last them during a potential two-week quarantine.

Health bosses say people should be prepared to be asked to self-isolate as the Government moves into the ‘delay’ phase of its four-stage battle plan.  

But critics say the advice sends ‘mixed messages’ and risks fuelling more panic-buying – which the Government has been discouraging all week. 

There are mounting fears of a major outbreak in the UK as the number of cases soared past triple digits to 163. At least one person has died from the virus on British soil. 

The new advice came just hours after Health Secretary Matt Hancock appealed for people not to engage in 'herd behaviour'

The new advice came just hours after Health Secretary Matt Hancock appealed for people not to engage in 'herd behaviour'

The new advice came just hours after Health Secretary Matt Hancock appealed for people not to engage in ‘herd behaviour’

Dried pasta has flown off the shelves and was in short supply at this Asda store in Southampton today, Friday

Dried pasta has flown off the shelves and was in short supply at this Asda store in Southampton today, Friday

Dried pasta has flown off the shelves and was in short supply at this Asda store in Southampton today, Friday

Shelves which normally stock hand gels and soaps are seen stripped bare at Asda in Chandler's Ford, Southampton ¿ companies producing the sanitisers say they are ramping up production because of 'exceptional demand'

Shelves which normally stock hand gels and soaps are seen stripped bare at Asda in Chandler's Ford, Southampton ¿ companies producing the sanitisers say they are ramping up production because of 'exceptional demand'

Shelves which normally stock hand gels and soaps are seen stripped bare at Asda in Chandler’s Ford, Southampton – companies producing the sanitisers say they are ramping up production because of ‘exceptional demand’

Soup shelves had been cleared in a Sainsbury's branch in Crayford, London, today

Soup shelves had been cleared in a Sainsbury's branch in Crayford, London, today

Soup shelves had been cleared in a Sainsbury’s branch in Crayford, London, today

This Sainsbury's store in Crayford, south-east London, had been all but stripped of toilet roll supplies as Britons admit to panic-buying essentials for fear of a demand and supply crisis if there's an outbreak

This Sainsbury's store in Crayford, south-east London, had been all but stripped of toilet roll supplies as Britons admit to panic-buying essentials for fear of a demand and supply crisis if there's an outbreak

This Sainsbury’s store in Crayford, south-east London, had been all but stripped of toilet roll supplies as Britons admit to panic-buying essentials for fear of a demand and supply crisis if there’s an outbreak

Coronavirus patients are told to recover at HOME: People who have just mild symptoms will not be hospitalised

Coronavirus patients are no longer all being admitted to hospital, British health officials have confirmed.

Anyone confirmed to have the virus who is not seriously unwell or at risk of becoming more dangerously infected can recover at home.

At least 45 people out of the 116 confirmed in the UK have already been instructed to stay in their own houses and wait for their illness to blow over. 

Until the new rule was drafted – it is not clear when it began – all confirmed patients had to be taken to a specialist hospital unit in one of five locations around the country, some hundreds of miles from their hometowns.

An extra 29 cases of the coronavirus have been diagnosed in the UK today, bringing the total to 116 – 105 in England, six in Scotland, three in Northern Ireland and two in Wales.

Officials said it was ‘perfectly reasonable’ for people to recover at home because COVID-19 is a ‘mild illness’. 

Chief medical officer for the government, Professor Chris Whitty, said that most people with minor cases of the virus will no longer be hospitalised.

Instead they will be asked to stay at home, where they pose less of a risk to other people. 

On its website, PHE said people should ‘consider how you or your family would manage if you had to self-isolate for a couple of weeks’. 

It set out a series of questions people should ask themselves, including: ‘Do you have friends or neighbours who could bring food to your house or run errands, or could you do online shopping?

‘Could you talk to your employer about opportunities to work from home if this became necessary?’

People who are elderly or ‘vulnerable to severe symptoms’, were also told to think how they would manage and whether they could work from home.

The website asks people to think about friends, family or neighbours who might need extra help.

It said: ‘Everyone has a part to play, and we’re asking people to think about what they do in a typical week, how they could limit contact with others if asked to, and how they could help people in their community, who might need support if certain social-distancing measures were put in place.

‘This might include helping older relatives and neighbours to get some food in, so that they would have supplies for a week or so if required, ensuring someone would be available to go shopping for them, or arranging for online delivery if they needed it.’ 

Leading infectious diseases expert Paul Hunter, a professor at the University of East Anglia, said on the face of it the advice seemed to ‘send mixed messages’.

But he said that it may well be a ‘sensible precaution’ particularly for vulnerable and elderly people who have not been given strong guidance about what to do in the event of an outbreak.

He told MailOnline: ‘If this is a real change in policy it follows on from quite a few statements from governments and others (probably including myself) about the importance of not panic buying.

‘However, the phrasing used in the document is, “This might include helping older relatives and neighbours to get some food in, so that they would have supplies for a week or so if required, ensuring someone would be available to go shopping for them or arranging for online delivery if they needed it”.

‘So this does not seem to be a real change in advice to the general public but a sensible precaution for particularly vulnerable elderly people who would certainly struggle to cope in a tight self-isolation situation.

A commuter on the London Underground wears a gas mask on Friday morning as the capital was gripped by coronavirus fears after the UK's first death

A commuter on the London Underground wears a gas mask on Friday morning as the capital was gripped by coronavirus fears after the UK's first death

A commuter on the London Underground wears a gas mask on Friday morning as the capital was gripped by coronavirus fears after the UK’s first death

A man on a train in a mask

A man on a train in a mask

A man on the underground wearing a gas mask coronavirus outbreak today

A man on the underground wearing a gas mask coronavirus outbreak today

Many people have taken to wearing face masks on public transport. One many was pictured wearing his headphones over the mask (left) while another was pictured on the tube this morning wearing the full face covering (right)

‘One of the important things about the epidemic that is, in my view, not being adequately addressed or at least communication is what do we do about the most vulnerable people in society? 

‘How are we going to adequately care for elderly neighbours and relatives, what should these people do during the peak of the epidemic?’

The updated advice came just hours after Health Secretary Matt Hancock appealed for people not to engage in ‘herd behaviour’.

Speaking on Question Time on Thursday night, Mr Hancock insisted the Government is ‘absolutely confident’ there will be no shortages of food or essential items.

There are mounting fears of a major outbreak in the UK as the number of cases continues to grow.  

On the flagship programme last night, a woman voiced her concerns about the situation in the shops, asking ‘how do we stop shortages?’

 Mr Hancock said: ‘There is absolutely no need for individuals to go around buying more than they need.

Customers queue outside Boots in Salisbury, Wiltshire, this morning, amid reports that supermarkets and shops across the UK are running out of hand sanitiser

Customers queue outside Boots in Salisbury, Wiltshire, this morning, amid reports that supermarkets and shops across the UK are running out of hand sanitiser

Customers queue outside Boots in Salisbury, Wiltshire, this morning, amid reports that supermarkets and shops across the UK are running out of hand sanitiser

Costco in Croydon

Costco in Croydon

Costco in Croydon

Costco in Croydon

A back log of customers outside Costco in Croydon as shoppers were given hand sanitiser on entrance 

BRITONS WHO HAVE TRAVELLED TO ANY PART OF ITALY WHO FEEL ILL WILL BE TOLD TO SELF-ISOLATE

Public Health England has announced that Britons returning from the whole of Italy are to self-isolate if they develop symptoms of the deadly coronavirus.

Chief medical officer Professor Chris Witty told a press conference today that the current advice for those returning from northern Italy is to be extended to the whole of the country.

While confirming that the government was still in the phase of containing the virus, entering the delay process is the ‘direction of travel’ for the future, Professor Whitty said.

Since the coronavirus reached British shores, the government and health bodies have been in the ‘contain’ phase, trying to stop the infection’s ability to spread.

In recent days, with evidence of community transmission, it is thought that PHE could attempt to push a major epidemic back to the summer in the hopes of slowing the rate of infections. COVID-19, which has infected 115 in the UK, is thought to spread faster in the cold.

 ‘And in fact, part of the response of this has to be about us coming together. We are, after all, a herd. It’s the biology that is causing the problem.

‘Obviously, the very, very strong advice from the scientists, the medics, is that people should not go about buying more than they need.’

However, the woman interrupted to say that panic buying was really happening, saying she had been to the supermarket and found no dry pasta or toilet rolls.

‘People are panic buying,’ she said. ‘There is no paracetamol that you can get in the supermarkets.’

However, Mr Hancock replied: ‘I understand that but what I will say is the Government has supplies of the key things that are needed and within the food supply we are absolutely confident that there won’t be a problem there.

‘And crucially we are working with the supermarkets to make sure that if people are self-isolating then they will be able to get the food and supplies that the people need.’

But supermarkets today casted doubts on Mr Hancock’s assurances and said they had not discussed getting food to homes. 

An executive told the BBC: ‘Matt Hancock has totally made up what he said about working with supermarkets. We haven’t heard anything from government directly.’

He added that sales of cupboard basics such as pasta and tinned goods have ‘gone through the roof’.

PHE  also warned today that even those who are not asked to quarantine may in future need to use ‘social distancing’ measures such as not going to cinemas, pubs or sporting events.  

PHE said social distancing and more self-isolation will only be implemented ‘if scientists and experts, including the UK’s chief medical officers, decide they are necessary and proportionate’.

But it said people could be asked to stay home for up to 14 days. ‘If the virus is spreading quickly, we may ask whole households to self-quarantine, if anyone in the home has symptoms,’ it added.

PHE said most cases of Covid-19 will be treatable at home, adding that ‘being asked to self-isolate could be inconvenient, frustrating or boring, particularly if you have mild symptoms’.

However, it may be necessary to slow the spread of coronavirus, ‘protect people who are vulnerable and help the NHS manage capacity’.

The public is also urged to think about how it uses NHS services, and to only call 999 in a genuine emergency.

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