Government's chief scientific adviser: 'We'd be lucky to get coronavirus vaccine within a year'

The Government's Chief Scientific Adviser has said a vaccine for the coronavirus is likely to be more than a year away.

Speaking on ITV's Peston, Sir Patrick Vallance said: "A vaccine that can be used generally - we'd be very lucky to get one within a year."

Sir Patrick added that if a vaccine was found it would most likely be used "to protect the most vulnerable first" before being extended to others.

The Prime Minister's scientific adviser said children experience a 'very mild illness' from the new virus. Credit: PA

Since the outbreak of the coronavirus in China at the end of last year, the new viral pneumonia has spread worldwide with at least 70 countries reporting cases.

More than 93,000 people have now been infected across the globe, while the UK saw a jump of more than 30 cases in just 24 hours on Wednesday to bring the total number of coronavirus cases to 87.

On Wednesday, officials in Italy - which has seen the largest outbreak of the virus in Europe - announced the closure of schools across the country until 15 March in a bid to control the spread.

Speaking on ITV's Peston, scientific adviser to the prime minister, Sir Patrick Vallance, said children experience a "very, very mild illness" if they contract the coronavirus.

Sir Patrick - who chairs the scientific advisory group - said the new coronavirus posed no greater threat to children with asthma than any usual respiratory tract infection.

Students in Indonesia have their temperatures checked amid the coronavirus outbreak. Credit: AP

He said the a number of measures were being modelled in case the virus spreads more widely in the UK.

"These are all measures which we've modelled and we look at to see which is the most likely impact to have and at what stage you need to get these measures implemented and in what combination.

Sir Patrick added: "School closures is one of the things people look at, it's not the most obviously or necessarily the way in which you'll get the most change."

NHS workers are carrying out rehearsal exercises for the eventuality of a further outbreak. Credit: PA

Health Secretary Matt Hancock has previously said there are "several weeks" before the coronavirus outbreak in the UK could cause school closures.

Though a number of schools have already taken measures to contain the potential spread by closing for deep cleans to take place, or asking students to self-isolate.

Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon - also speaking on ITV's Peston - said the closure of schools was not something her government would rule out in response to the coronavirus.

Scotland has three confirmed coronavirus cases but Ms Sturgeon said she expected that number to "rise significantly in the days to come".

With some of the coronavirus cases confirmed in Britain already given the all clear, Sir Patrick said "you would expect" individuals to build up an immunity to the new virus.

"It's much too early, and we don't have enough information from patients yet, and we don't have the right tests yet.

"But you would expect with this virus, as with other similar coronavirus and other similar infections, that you would get an immunity and that most people would end up with some immunity that would last for some period."

Fans watching the FA Cup fifth round wear protective masks amid the outbreak. Credit: PA

Questioned on how the the scientific advisory group for emergencies guides the government on health choices, Sir Patrick said the economic impact of decisions was not considered by his department.

It comes after financial markets suffered in the wake of the outbreak, with more than £200 billion wiped off the value of shares on the London FTSE 100 at the end of February.

But Poppy Trowbridge, a former government special adviser told ITV's Peston the threat to markets from outbreaks has been seen before.

Ms Trowbridge said: "Previous pandemics have all forecast global recession and it's not happened.

"Businesses of course want public safety protected first and foremost and then what they will do is put in place their own business continuity planning and that will help mitigate the costs."

  • Nicola Sturgeon says more needs to be done to support businesses impacted by the outbreak:

On Wednesday the prime minister announced that UK workers affected by the Covid-19 outbreakwill be entitled to sick pay from the first day they are off work - a move Scotland's First Minister said she welcomed.Nicola Sturgeon added, however, that more needed to be done.

"I don't think yet collectively we have gone far enough.

"I've certainly asked for work to be done within the Scottish government to look at the advice we give businesses, the support we give businesses."