PM suggests regime of mass testing and social distancing can ‘send virus packing’
Boris Johnson has raised the prospect of mass testing for coronavirus and social distancing allowing the UK to return to some form of normality by the summer, while stressing that tougher measures such as shutting down cities remained a possibility.
The next 12 weeks could “turn the tide of this disease”, Johnson told the daily Downing Street press conference on the pandemic, saying it was possible to “send coronavirus packing in this country, but only if we all take the steps we have outlined”.
Flanked by his chief scientific adviser, Patrick Vallance, and chief medical adviser, Chris Whitty, Johnson did not announce any new measures to keep people separated and slow the spread of the virus, such as a much reported plan to severely restrict movement in London.
“We’re guided very much by the science and whether we think the advice we have given is working,” Johnson said, when asked whether new restrictions could be introduced. But, he added, if current measures were not working, “nothing is ruled out”.
Striking a notably, if cautiously, optimistic note, Johnson said: “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.”
The PM based his assessment on experimental treatments for the virus, saying the first UK patients had that day been part of a randomised test for one drug, and also the possibly rapid rollout of an antibody test “as simple as a pregnancy test”, which could determine if someone has had the Covid-19 virus.
“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,” Johnson said, saying hundreds of thousands of the tests could be bought.