POLITICS
18/10/2020 11:07 PM AEDT | Updated 19/10/2020 2:39 AM AEDT

Coronavirus Vaccine Should Available Early Next Year, Says Sage Scientist

But Jeremy Farrar warns of "tough" Christmas.

The “worst-case scenario” of 50,000 cases of coronavirus per day across the UK is “almost exactly where we are at”, professor Jeremy Farrar has claimed.

Speaking to Sky News’ Sophy Ridge On Sunday, he said Christmas will be “tough” this year and is unlikely to be a traditional family celebration if coronavirus infections continue to increase.

Farrar, who is a member of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage), said the UK faces a “very, very difficult” period over the next three to six months.

But the Wellcome Trust director said there is “light at the end of the tunnel”, as he believes a Covid-19 vaccine was “three to six months away”.

“I think in the first quarter of next year we will have vaccines - will have more than one vaccine,” he said.

“The ONS survey, which is the best data in the country at the moment, shows that 27,000 people are getting this infection every day. But that was until the 10th of October,” he said.

“Today it will be over 50,000, just as the CMO (chief medical officer) Chris Whitty and (the government’s chief scientific adviser) Patrick Vallance suggested some three weeks ago.

“It would be at 50,000 new cases across the country every single day, and that’s almost exactly where we are.”

Farrar added: “The reasonable worst-case scenario that Sage articulated has now been broached, it is worse than the situation Sage advised on three or four weeks ago. So that’s the scenario we are in today.”

Farrar said a short national lockdown known as a circuit-breaker is needed to reduce transmission rates, as previously recommended by Sage last month.

He said: “Christmas will be tough this year. I don’t think it’s going to be the usual celebration it is and all families coming together, I’m afraid.

“I think we have to be honest and realistic and say that we are in for three to six months of a very, very difficult period.

“The temperatures drop, we are all indoors more often, we have the other infections that come this time of year.

“It’s much better for us to be upfront and honest now, and say we are in for a really difficult time, but there is light at the end of the tunnel.”

He said the “best time” to have introduced the temporary lockdown would have been around September 20, but added “it was never too late”.

He said: “The second best time to do this is now, and the worst time to do this is at the end of November when things would have really got considerably worse.

“So it’s never too late, it’s better to do it now than in a month’s time.”

Meanwhile, Dr Alison Pittard, dean of the Faculty of Intensive Care Medicine in London, later told the programme that doctors’ evolving understanding of the virus has dramatically upped the survival rate.

She said doctors’ haste to mechanically ventilate patients at the start of the pandemic might have contributed to the higher rate of death in spring compared to now.

At the start of the pandemic, just 66% of people in hospital with coronavirus survived, compared to 84% in August.

Dr Pittard said: “Initially we used to put patients straight on to mechanical ventilation – so we would bring them to intensive care, sedate them and put them on ventilators.

“But we have slowly started to realise that perhaps we could manage some patients without doing that.”

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