UK can 'turn the tide' on coronavirus within 12 weeks, says Boris Johnson

The UK can "turn the tide" on the coronavirus pandemic within 12 weeks, the Prime Minister has said, but only if the public sticks to advice from the Government.

Boris Johnson said he is "absolutely confident" that with a collective effort in social distancing, Britain will be able to slow the spread of deadly Covid-19.

He made the announcement in his daily coronavirus press conference, however unlike on other occasions, there was no talk of the government implementing any major new measures.

This time it seems, he wanted to use the press conference to reveal more encouraging news about the virus.

He said scientists in the UK expect to start trials for the first Covid-19 vaccine within a "month".

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He also said the health service was "getting better at testing" and would soon ramp daily testing "from 5,000 a day, to 10,000 to 25,000 and then up at 250,000".

He added: "To give you an idea of what is coming down the track, we're in negotiations today to buy a so-called antibody test, as simple as a pregnancy test which can tell whether you have had the disease and it's early days, but if it works as its proponents claim, then we will buy literally hundreds of thousands of these kits as soon as practicable.

"Because obviously it has the potential to be a total gamechanger."

However, Chief Medical Adviser Professor Chris Whitty warned that antibody tests currently on the market may not be the "right ones and that needs to be tested out".

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Mr Johnson said he was "conscious" of the "huge" public effort and thanked the public complying with government advice, but urged them to continue.

"I think, looking at it all, that we can turn the tide within the next 12 weeks and I'm absolutely confident that we can send coronavirus packing in this country.

"But only if we all take the steps that we've outlined, that is vital, that's how we're going to reduce the peak and once we've achieved that and I think that we will, if we take the steps I've said, then the scientific progress that we've been making will really start coming into play."

He said the public was playing a "crucial" role by following advice which he says is "saving literally thousands of lives".

The Prime Minister revealed another piece of good news in the press conference; the first British patient had been put in a randomised trial for a treatment for coronavirus.

But Prof Whitty warned there will be a "lag" before the public's efforts to stem the spread of Covid-19 will result in a slowing of case numbers and said for now they will "continue to go up".

The Prime Minister also stressed that London is "under pressure" due to a higher number of coronavirus cases than elsewhere in the country.

It is though the capital is around three weeks ahead of the rest of the country in the development of the virus.

Mr Johnson also warned this pressure is "going to go up".

"The first thing that will get under the greatest pressure will be intensive care and respiratory care system, that's the first point of real pressure on the NHS that's going to be happen," the PM said.

"And to be clear: even if everybody does all the things we hope and really, really would ask that they will do, the numbers will continue to go up over the next two weeks because there's a lag until things start to improve."

He also urged employers not to sack their staff, if they have taken a hit due to the virus spreading in the UK.

"I say to business, stand by your employees, stand by your workers, because we will stand by you," Mr Johnson said.

He said Chancellor Rishi Sunak would give employers more info on what that actually means on Friday.

Coronavirus: Everything you need to know

Asked about rising redundancies, Mr Johnson said: "It's very, very important everybody understands that we will stick by businesses and I hope that businesses will stick by their employees.

"This country is going to bounce back, we're going to need some fantastic companies remaining to bounce back as well and it's absolutely vital that everybody understands that now."

The Prime Minister said future Downing Street press conferences on the pandemic could be conducted "remotely" rather than by bringing journalists into No 10.

"We may have to find some way of getting them done in a way that doesn't look to everybody else as though we are not following the advice that we give the public," he said.

"I know that you are all sitting a long way away from each other, but it may be that we need to do more social distancing."