POLITICS
03/05/2020 22:30 BST | Updated 04/05/2020 08:46 BST

Boris Johnson To Say It's 'Humanity Against The Virus' In Race For Covid-19 Vaccine

PM to speak at international conference after Michael Gove warns normality cannot fully return until Brits are immune.

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Boris Johnson will make a global plea for unity in the search for a Covid-19 vaccine, hours after one of his ministers warned social distancing measures cannot be fully lifted until one is found. 

The prime minister will use a global conference online urge countries to “pull together” and “share expertise” as leaders drive up funding for treatments, tests and vaccines.

Describing the challenge facing humanity as the “most urgent shared endeavour of our lifetimes”, he is expected to say: “We are in this together and together we will prevail.”

Monday’s online pledging conference – co-hosted by the UK and eight other countries and organisations – is expected to bring £6.6bn in funding. 

Scientists across the world are racing to find ways to make people immune from the potentially deadly disease or effective therapies that boost patients’ chances of survival. 

Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove underlined the urgency at the Downing Street press conference on Sunday, as he warned Britons they must accept “some degree of constraint” until they can be immunised. 

PA
Prime Minister Boris Johnson 

The UK has pledged to give £388m in aid funding for research into tests, treatments and vaccines – part of a £744m commitment to help end the pandemic and support the global economy.

“To win this battle, we must work together to build an impregnable shield around all our people and that can only be achieved by developing and mass producing a vaccine,” Johnson is expected to say. 

“The more we pull together and share our expertise, the faster our scientists will succeed.

“The race to discover the vaccine to defeat this virus is not a competition between countries but the most urgent shared endeavour of our lifetimes.

“It’s humanity against the virus – we are in this together and together we will prevail.”

The death toll in the UK reached 28,446 on Sunday and according to an analysis by John Hopkins University, around 244,000 people have lost their lives to the disease globally. 

Ministers believe tackling the virus globally is crucial to preventing a second wave of contagion and it will speed up the creation of vaccines, tests and treatment.

This week, the Cabinet will meet to discuss how to ease lockdown restrictions in a way that protects health but lessens the damage to the economy. 

Getty Images via Getty Images
 A general view of a sign outside of the University of Oxford Old Road Campus, which houses the Jenner Institute and is where the first human trials of a coronavirus vaccine developed by researchers at the University of Oxford 

Gove said the government will pursue a “phased approach” and warned there will be no new return to “the old normal” while there was no vaccine. 

Asked directly about the issue, he said: “Ultimately, unless and until we have a vaccine then I suspect that we are going to have to live with some degree of constraint because of the nature of the virus.

“But we obviously want to, wherever possible, and consistent with the measures on public health, restore people’s lives to as close to normal as possible.”

A new contact tracing app will begin trials this week on the Isle of Wight, with a view to the NHS rolling it out across the UK later this month, it has also been confirmed. 

Labour, meanwhile, has called on the government to “get ahead of the game” and unveil plans are for stockpiling face masks. 

Shadow minister Rachel Reeves has written to Gove urging him to demonstrate that the UK has sufficient quantities of masks and is able to distribute them if scientists recommend widespread use. 

On Friday, Johnson said that face coverings - which covers a broader range of products than masks - will be “useful” when lockdown restrictions are eased, though evidence has suggested their ability to protect people is weak. 

Reeves said: “The government was too slow to enter the lockdown, too slow to get vital protective equipment to NHS, social care and other key workers, and too slow on testing and tracing to help stop the spread of the coronavirus.

“We need to know what the plans are to stockpile face masks in readiness for any change in the scientific advice. This is an opportunity for ministers to get ahead of the game and demonstrate they have learned from their mistakes, and we stand ready to help them to achieve that.”