The UK government on Tuesday announced a 20 million pounds funding for a University of Oxford project working on developing a vaccine against the novel coronavirus, which is now ready for acceleration as it begins human trials from Thursday.
UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock told the daily Downing Street briefing that the Department for Health was "throwing everything" at trying to find a vaccine because it is a critical aspect of the COVID-19 pandemic fight and lifting the strict lockdown measures in place to curb its spread.
Another 22.5 million pounds is being made available to Imperial College London to support its phase-two clinical trials for them to begin the work on a very large phase three trial.
"Normally it would take years to get to this point," said Hancock. "The UK is at the forefront of the global effort -- we've put in more money than any other into the global search for a vaccine. Nothing about this is inevitable. Vaccine production is a matter of trial and error. But the UK will throw everything it has at trying to find one," he said.
The announcement came as Britain had another major daily leap in the hospital death toll from coronavirus, up by 823 to hit 17,337 on Tuesday.
But the Cabinet minister said the government's plan to control the rapid spread of the virus and prevent the state-funded National Health Service (NHS) from being overwhelmed is working as the number of hospitalisations with COVID-19 was showing a downward trajectory.
In reference to a major issue in the last few weeks of a critical shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE) for doctors and nurses on the frontlines of COVID-19 treatment, the minister said the supply problems are being addressed by actively engaging with thousands of companies, including 159 UK manufacturers.
"We are determined to get people the PPE they need. This is a 24/7 operation, one of the biggest cross-government operation I have ever seen," said Hancock.