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Boris Johnson wants to find a Covid-19 tablet that could help prevent serious illness

The British Prime Minister announced an antivirals taskforce that would help identify new medicines to treat Covid-19.

Image: PA

UK PRIME MINISTER Boris Johnson has said his government’s new antivirals taskforce will help identify new medicines for the treatment of Covid-19.

The Prime Minister told a Downing Street news conference that this could involve a tablet that would prevent people from getting seriously ill from Covid-19.

“This means, for example, that if you test positive for the virus that 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 serious disease,” he said.

“Or if you’re living with someone who has tested positive, there might be a pill you could take for a few days to stop you getting the disease yourself.”

Johnson said that the new taskforce could give confidence to people that the country could “continue on our path towards freedom” – adding that there was nothing in the current data to suggest that England could not proceed with the the next stage of unlocking under the roadmap as planned.

But he said that most scientists were “firmly of the view” that there would be a third wave of the disease at some point this year, due to soaring cases abroad.

“And so we must, as far as possible, learn to live with this disease as we live with other diseases,” Johnson said.

The taskforce

The British Government has set up a new taskforce to “supercharge” the search for antiviral medications for Covid-19, including at-home treatments to speed up recovery time for people who become infected with the virus.

They may also help to protect people who cannot take vaccines or those who are not fully protected after having the jab.

The team of experts hope to find and bring two treatments online this year.

This could mean that people with Covid-19, or those they have been in close contact with, could be offered antiviral medication – offered in tablet form – to stop the infection spreading and speed up recovery time.

The new Antivirals Taskforce, which is yet to appoint a chair, will search for the most promising potential antiviral medicines which can be taken at home.

The taskforce will support the development of the drugs through clinical trials and also look at manufacturing opportunities.

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Antiviral drugs are a type of medication used specifically for treating viral infections, and act by killing or preventing the growth of viruses.

“The success of our vaccination programme has demonstrated what the UK can achieve when we bring together our brightest minds,” said Johnson.

“Our new Antivirals Taskforce will seek to develop innovative treatments you can take at home to stop Covid-19 in its tracks.”

The UK’s chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance said: “The speed at which vaccines and therapeutics such as dexamethasone have been identified and deployed against Covid-19 has been critical to the pandemic response.

Antivirals in tablet form are another key tool for the response.

“They could help protect those not protected by or ineligible for vaccines.

“They could also be another layer of defence in the face of new variants of concern.”

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Press Association

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