Prime Minister Boris Johnson has told the nation that “we cannot delude ourselves COVID has gone away,” as scientists predicted another wave of coronavirus “at some stage”.
Mr Johnson said there was “nothing in the data” to suggest the government would have to deviate from its roadmap of relaxing restrictions in the next few weeks, and praised the rollout of the coronavirus vaccine so far.
He told a press conference on Tuesday: “The majority of scientific opinion in this country is still firmly of the view that there will be another wave of COVID at some stage this year. And so we must, as far as possible, learn to live with this disease as we live with other diseases.”
He indicated this could include bolstering defences with booster jabs.
He also announced the launch of a new Antivirals Taskforce which would be searching for “the most promising new medicines” and supporting their development.
The aim is to ensure any new treatments will be ready as early as Autumn.
“This means, for example, that if you test positive, there might be a tablet you could take at home to stop the virus in its tracks, and significantly reduce the chance of infection turning into more severe disease,” he said.
“By focusing on these new antivirals, we hope to lengthen the UK’s lead in medicines and in life sciences, and to give ever greater confidence to the people of this country that we continue on our path towards freedom.”
He said the recent reopening of pubs and hairdressers had been a “big step” and “has brought the first glimmerings of a return to normality”.
“Science is helping us to get back towards normality and I believe that antiviral treatments can play an important part. […] keep each other safe and see through our roadmap to reclaim our lives in full.”