UK COVID-19 deaths rise to 34,636 as new study launched to track spread of coronavirus
Another 170 COVID-19 patients have died in Britain as of Saturday afternoon, bringing the total coronavirus-related death toll in the country to 34,636, Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Alok Sharma said Sunday.
The figures include deaths in all settings, including hospitals, care homes and the wider community.
Chairing Sunday's Downing Street press briefing, Sharma told reporters that to conquer the disease "we need to find a safe, workable vaccine".
All phase one participants at the University of Oxford clinical trial have received their vaccine dose on schedule and are now being monitored. The Imperial College London vaccine will move into clinical trials by mid-June with larger scale ones planned for October, he said.
The government will invest an extra 84-million-pound (US$101.7-million) funding to help accelerate their work, said Sharma.
He said this money will be used to start mass producing the Oxford vaccine if the trials prove successful.
The Oxford University has confirmed a global licensing agreement with AstraZeneca, which will make 30 million vaccine doses available to Britain by September if the trials are successful, as part of an agreement for 100 million doses in total, said the secretary.
He also announced that the government is investing a further 93-million-pound (US$112.6-million) in the Vaccines Manufacturing Innovation Centre at Harwell in Oxfordshire, ensuring it opens in summer 2021 ahead of schedule.
Also on Sunday, the British government announced that it has launched the "UK Biobank study" to further track the extent of the novel coronavirus spread across the country.
Up to 20,000 people are being asked to take part in the study for at least six months. The participants will be chosen from existing, consented UK Biobank volunteers, as well as their adult children and grandchildren, according to the government.
Each month, participants will be asked to provide a sample of blood using a finger-prick device, and to complete a short questionnaire about any relevant symptoms they may have experienced. The de-identified samples will be returned to the UK Biobank for processing before being sent for validated antibody testing at the University of Oxford.
The first results from initial participants are expected to be available in early June, said the government.
"This UK Biobank study will build our understanding of the rate of COVID-19 infection in the general population and, importantly, it will add to our knowledge about the risk factors that mean the virus can affect individuals differently," said Health Secretary Matt Hancock.
"Alongside the ongoing ONS (Office for National Statistics) and Imperial College research, the results of this study will assist our virus modelling and inform future plans for managing the pandemic," he added.