Government Statement on COVID-19 (Coronavirus)

The NHS is well prepared to deal with incidents like the current Coronavrius outbreak. In addition, the Government has set out a clear path to ensure that the public is protected.

The Secretary of State for Health and Social Care has announced strengthened legal powers to bolster public health protections against coronavirus. The regulations have been put in place to reduce the risk of further human-to-human transmission in this country by keeping individuals in isolation where public health professionals believe that there is a reasonable risk that an individual may have the virus.

The UK is one of the first countries to have developed a world-leading test for the new coronavirus, and the NHS is ready to respond appropriately to any cases that emerge. Clinicians in both primary and secondary care have already received advice, covering the initial detection and investigation of possible cases, infection prevention and control, and clinical diagnostics. The Government has also provided £20 million to the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations to produce a vaccine to combat coronavirus. 

In terms of vaccines, I am encouraged that, through the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), we are prioritising work to support and authorise the development of a vaccine to tackle coronavirus. The MHRA authorises and inspects the clinical trials of new medicines in the UK and is on standby to ensure that any applications relating to coronavirus are dealt with swiftly.

On a global level, UK aid to the World Health Organisation (WHO) will help to prevent the spread of the virus in developing countries by supporting them to rapidly identify and care for patients with symptoms. Additional experts funded by UK aid will be deployed to the WHO to help coordinate the international response.

The Government recently launched a public information campaign setting out how everyone can take steps to minimise risk to them and their families. It cannot be stressed enough that we all need to ensure that we wash our hands and maintain hygene.

Unfortunately, it is clear that the virus will be with us for some time, but I know my ministerial colleagues and others are working around the clock to ensure the public is protected. In the meantime, it is imperative that we all keep ourselves updated with the latest medical advice coming from the NHS, relevant Ministers and other health organisations.  It is up to all of us to keep updated on relevant developments and take the necessary precautions to reduce our risk of catching and passing on this virus.