Britons who test positive for COVID-19 or are exposed to the virus could be sent antiviral tablets to take at home – as the prime minister aims to bolster the UK’s defences against another wave of infections this year.
Boris Johnson on Tuesday launched a government taskforce – modelled on the group that secured UK access to COVID vaccines – to identify the most promising new antiviral medicines.
The taskforce will be charged with supporting the development of new antiviral treatments through clinical trials to ensure they can be rolled out to patients as early as the autumn.
Speaking at a Downing Street news conference, the prime minister said the action was intended as a “further line of medical defence” against coronavirus.
“This means, for example, that if you test positive there might be a tablet you could take at home to stop the virus in its tracks and significantly reduce the chance of infection turning into more severe disease,” he added.
“Or if you’re living with someone who has tested positive, there might be a pill you could take for a few days to stop you getting the disease yourself.”
The government’s aim is to have at least two effective treatments this year – either in a tablet or capsule form – that the public can take at home following a positive COVID test or exposure to someone with the virus.
It is hoped the drugs could help combat any future rise in infections and limit the impact of new COVID variants, especially over the winter flu season.