Boris Johnson has said the UK “can turn the tide” on the coronavirus outbreak over the next 12 weeks as he sought to strike an upbeat note in his daily Downing Street press conference.
The Prime Minister said he is “absolutely confident we can send coronavirus packing in this country” provided people follow government social distancing advice, such as staying away from restaurants and pubs.
He urged members of the public to heed advice like staying at home if ill or if somebody in their household is ill.
“I know it’s tough, I know it’s difficult… but please, please follow the advice,” the PM said.
Johnson also said the UK Government is in negotiations to buy a so-called antibody test, which he described as “as simple as a pregnancy test” and which can tell if you have previously had Covid-19 and have immunity to it.
Describing the test as a potential “game-changer”, the Prime Minister said: “It’s early days, but if it works as its proponents claim, then we will buy literally hundreds of thousands of these kits as soon as practicable.”
He further revealed that the first British patient had been put in a randomised trial for a coronavirus treatment.
The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in the UK has risen to 3269, up 643 in a day, with 144 deaths – a rise of 40.
Speaking in his daily No 10 briefing alongside England’s chief medical adviser and the UK’s chief scientific adviser, Johnson thanked the public for the “huge efforts” they have taken in complying with the advice aimed at tackling Covid-19.
He said: “I’m conscious as the days have gone by that people will want to know how long we’re expecting them to keep it up.
“I think, looking at it all, that we can turn the tide within the next 12 weeks and I’m absolutely confident that we can send coronavirus packing in this country.
“But only if we all take the steps that we’ve outlined, that is vital, that’s how we’re going to reduce the peak and once we’ve achieved that and I think that we will, if we take the steps I’ve said, then the scientific progress that we’ve been making will really start coming into play.”
With the UK having been criticised for not increasing testing capacity sooner, Johnson said plans were in place to ramp up testing from the current 5000 a day, to 10,000 a day and then 25,000 tests a day in time.
He added that scientists are hoping to start trials for a potential vaccine within a month.
The Prime Minister continued: “That knowledge of where the virus is will make a huge difference to our management of the disease and our ability to reduce disruption and economic difficulty.
“It’s by this combination of ruthless, determined, collective action and scientific progress that we’re already seeing that we will succeed.
“And I know how difficult it may be or it may seem right now, but if we do this together, we will save as I say many, many thousands of lives.”
Johnson also confirmed Chancellor Rishi Sunak will lay out a further package of emergency economic measures on Friday, this time aimed at workers.
He said: “I say to business, stand by your employees, stand by your workers, because we will stand by you.”
It comes as the Queen issued a message to the nation which says the UK is “entering a period of great concern and uncertainty”, adding that “our nation’s history has been forged by people and communities coming together to work as one”.