November 26, 2020

COVID-19: Self-isolating Boris Johnson says vaccine could be distributed perhaps before Christmas – Sky News

https://news.sky.com/story/covid-19-self-isolating-boris-johnson-says-vaccine-could-be-distributed-perhaps-before-christmas-12133714

Boris Johnson has declared himself “fit as a butcher’s dog” as he self-isolates, while also raising the prospect of a COVID-19 vaccine being distributed “perhaps before Christmas”.

The prime minister is currently self-isolating after meeting with a Conservative MP who later tested positive for coronavirus.

Mr Johnson’s need to quarantine comes in a critical week for post-Brexit trade negotiations, with a deal still yet to be agreed between the UK and EU ahead of the end of the transition period on 31 December.

The prime minister had also hoped to use the next couple of weeks to make a series of announcements – including on coronavirus, education, the economy and climate issues – that Number 10 said would be a clear signal of his ongoing ambitions for the country.

WATFORD, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 04: Downing Street former special advisor Dominic Cummings (L) and Director of Communications Lee Cain (R) attend British Prime Minister Boris Johnson's press conference at the NATO summit at the Grove hotel on December 4, 2019 in Watford, England. France and the UK signed the Treaty of Dunkirk in 1947 in the aftermath of WW2 cementing a mutual alliance in the event of an attack by Germany or the Soviet Union. The Benelux countries joined the Treaty and in April 1949 expanded further to include North America and Canada followed by Portugal, Italy, Norway, Denmark and Iceland. This new military alliance became the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO). The organisation grew with Greece and Turkey becoming members and a re-armed West Germany was permitted in 1955. This encouraged the creation of the Soviet-led Warsaw Pact delineating the two sides of the Cold War. This year marks the 70th anniversary of NATO. (Photo by Adrian Dennis - WPA Pool/Getty Images)

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Two of the PM’s closest aided – Dominic Cummings (left) and Lee Cain – quit Number 10 last week

This has been viewed as Mr Johnson’s attempt at a “reset” of his premiership, following the departure of two of his closest aides from Downing Street last week following a bitter internal power struggle.

Prior to his self-isolation, the prime minister had been expected to front a Number 10 news conference on Monday, but Health Secretary Matt Hancock is now due to appear.

Despite his plans being disturbed, Number 10 stressed Mr Johnson intended to continue to speak to the country.

In a video posted to his Twitter account on Monday, the prime minister said he had been “pinged” by the NHS Test and Trace system.

He added: “It doesn’t matter that we were all doing social distancing, it doesn’t matter that I’m fit as a butcher’s dog, feel great – so many people do in my circumstances – and actually it doesn’t matter that I’ve had the disease and I’m bursting with antibodies.

“We’ve got to interrupt the spread of the disease and one of the ways we can do that now is by self-isolating for 14 days when you get contacted by NHS Test and Trace.”

The prime minister suggested his case proved NHS Test and Trace is “working well”, despite criticism of the £12bn programme.

He also said the UK now had “two gigantic boxing gloves with which to wallop our foe into submission”, amid the second wave of COVID-10 infections.

Mr Johnson outlined these as mass rapid testing for the disease and a vaccine “which I hope we’ll be able to start distributing to those who really need it perhaps before Christmas”.

Lee Anderson (R) posted a picture of him with the PM after their meeting on Thursday. Pic: Facebook/Lee Anderson

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Lee Anderson (R) posted a picture of him with the PM after their meeting on Thursday. Pic: Facebook/Lee Anderson

US pharmaceutical giant Pfizer and its vaccine partner BioNTech last week released initial results that suggested their jab was 90% effective at protecting people from COVID-19.

The government has asked the NHS, which will be supported by the Armed Forces, to be ready for the deployment of a vaccine from the start of December.

Speaking to Sky News’ Kay Burley, Mr Hancock described the roll-out of a vaccine as a “huge administrative challenge”.

“Even if that comes through as fast as it possibly could, the majority of people we’d expect to be vaccinating in the New Year even if we do manage to make progress this year,” he said.

“We are not there yet, we don’t yet have a vaccine signed off.”

But Mr Hancock said the expansion of mass testing “may be able to help” in allowing a Christmas “as normal as possible”.

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Hancock: PM is ‘well and full of beans’

Tory backbencher Lee Anderson developed COVID-19 systems and tested positive for the disease after meeting with Mr Johnson last Thursday, forcing the prime minister’s self-isolation.

A picture of the pair at the meeting showed neither Mr Anderson nor the prime minister wearing masks.

And Mr Hancock admitted he does not always wear a mask himself while in Number 10 because “the COVID-secure guidelines for that building don’t require it at all times”, adding: “Different workplaces have different rules according to what is appropriate there.”

The health secretary described Mr Johnson as “absolutely full of beans” and said he had “no doubt the prime minister will be able to drive the agenda forward and communicate with the public in the way that he does normally, but just differently because it will be by video conference and not face-to-face”.

Other Conservative MPs present at Thursday’s meeting with the prime minister are now also self-isolating.

The prime minister’s Twitter video was self-filmed without an opportunity for journalists to ask questions.