-Life beyond lockdown and the new normal in the UK
The global death toll from the novel coronavirus has exceeded 314,000, with nearly 4.7 million confirmed cases and over 1.72 million recoveries, according to a running tally by US-based Johns Hopkins University.
The UK government has launched a strategy to ease the lockdown last Wednesday. Now the government is allowing the public to see one other person to have a picnic or sunbath in the park while being mindful of social distancing. Life as we know it is set to change drastically with the British public expected to follow what is destined to be new normal in living socially distanced lives.
On Sunday, British Business Secretary Alok Sharma announced a wave of new investments to accelerate development and mass production of a COVID-19 vaccine, as British Prime Minister Boris Johnson told members of his party that he wanted the country to return to normal by the end of July.
Speaking at the daily media briefing, Sharma confirmed that 34,636 people had died from coronavirus across the UK, a rise of 170 in the last 24 hours.
“We need to find a safe, workable vaccine,” Sharma said.
He explained that all participants in phase one of the Oxford University clinical trial had received their vaccine doses earlier in the week, and are now being monitored. Imperial College London’s vaccine will move into clinical trials by mid-June.
Sharma said the government had previously invested £47 million ($56.7 million) in both vaccine projects and was now investing a further £84 million. The fresh wave of investment would be used to accelerate and mass-produce the Oxford vaccine, and if it proves successful, there should be enough doses for the immediate dispersal to the British people.
He also said Oxford University had finalized a global licensing deal with AstraZeneca for manufacturing the virus. If the trials are successful, they will make 30 million vaccine doses for Britain by September, and 100 million doses in total. They will also make the vaccine available to developing countries “at the lowest possible cost.”
Sharma announced a further £94 million investment in the Vaccines Manufacturing Innovation Center to be based in Oxfordshire. The center will open in summer 2021, a year ahead of schedule, and be able to produce enough vaccines for the entire British population within six months.
Until then, the government will build a rapid deployment facility, costing £38 million, and will begin manufacturing at scale from the summer.
The wave of government spending on vaccines comes as local media reported on Sunday that Johnson told his Conservative Party colleagues he aims to return the country to near-normality by July.
Speaking to 100 of his MPs via video-link, he said he would take “grandmother steps” to easing the lockdown.
An MP who was on the call told the Sun: “Boris told us he is determined that the country should be as close to normality again before the end of July. But he was clear it all depends on the country meeting the conditions set for tackling the virus.
The economy shrank by 2% in the first three months of 2020, as coronavirus forced the country into lockdown and The Bank of England is expecting the economy to shrink by 14% by the end of the year.