Pills to Reduce COVID Symptoms to be Available by Autumn
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has announced that a COVID pill, which can be taken at home, will be made available by Autumn 2021. Speaking at the Downing Street briefing yesterday, the Prime Minister stated that the new COVID pill aims to treat individuals who have been tested positive for COVID-19 or have been exposed to someone who has.
The COVID pill will come in capsule or tablet form and looks to reduce symptoms and prevent the development of coronavirus at home, preventing the need to seek hospital treatment. Whilst there is currently no treatment in place, Mr Johnson stated that an antivirals task force would commence trials shortly with the hope of an effective pill being released later this year. Mr Johnson said that the new COVID pill would ‘supercharge’ the UK to fight against new COVID strains.
The Prime Minister acknowledged that the success of the UK’s coronavirus vaccination programme exemplifies what can be done when the brightest minds come together and is confident that an effective COVID pill can be established this year.
So far, the UK has successfully identified effective treatments for combating COVID-19, such as the use of dexamethasone, as well as anti-inflammatory drugs sarilumab and tocilizumab.
UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock stated, “in combination with our fantastic vaccination programme, medicines are a vital weapon to protect our loved ones from this terrible virus.” Mr Hancock highlighted that the launch of the new COVID pill would be a ‘vital tool’ in battling further infections, particularly during the upcoming flu season.
Whilst coronavirus infections in the UK are currently on the decline, the Prime Minister noted the soaring cases overseas and that a third wave of infections could be possible in the UK later this year. Despite the warning, Mr Johnson indicated that the roadmap for easing restrictions would continue as scheduled.
Professor says a third wave of infections in UK is unlikely
According to Philip Thomas, a professor of risk management at Bristol University, a third wave of infections in the UK is questionable as immunity to coronavirus is likely to develop over the summer due to the vaccine rollouts.
Professor Thomas’ verdict follows comments from the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) warning that a third wave of infections and coronavirus related deaths could be possible over the summer. SAGE’s forecast has been branded as ‘pessimistic and full of bleak foreboding’ by Professor Thomas, claiming that there is no reason why restrictions cannot be fully lifted on 21st June as initially planned.
By June, it is thought that most of the UK population will have received the first dose of a COVID vaccine, leading to better protection against COVID-19 and greater immunity. As a result, Professor Thomas stated that there is no justification for continuing with further restrictions.
The current decline in daily coronavirus infections in the UK, paired with rapid vaccination rollout, is helping buoy the British pound (GBP) currency once again.
British Pound reaches six weeks high against US dollar
The British pound (GBP) had struggled to gain momentum against its major currency rivals over recent weeks due to delays in the UK’s vaccination programme. However, during yesterday’s trading sessions, the British pound to US dollar (GBP/USD) exchange rate reached a six-week high, reaching just above the USD 1.40 resistance level.
The UK’s economic outlook has gradually improved due to the reopening of non-essential businesses on 12th April, the resumption of vaccination rollouts, and declining coronavirus cases.
Jeremy Thomson-Cook, Chief Economist at Equals Money, stated that the recent rise in pound Sterling (GBP) “all points to a sugar hit of spending in the short term which we think the market will jump on in the short term to bolster the pound.”
The British pound (GBP) is also benefiting from recent UK unemployment data, which revealed an unexpected drop between December – February, falling to 4.9%. Economists had predicted that given the UK was amid its third national lockdown; figures would rise to 5.1% from 5.0%.
The direction of the UK currency will likely be impacted further by the release of UK inflation data and retail sales data this week. As the UK continues its battle against COVID-19, significant travel developments are to be made within the EU.
France to begin testing COVID travel certificate
France is set to become the first European Union (EU) member state to trial digital COVID travel certificates as part of a scheme which the bloc hopes will allow for more accessible travel within the EU.
The new digital travel certificate will be displayed on the TousAntiCovid health app, where individuals can also upload negative COVID-19 test results. The digital certificates are being trialled on French flights to Corsica from 29th April, with the process rolled out to events such as concerts and festivals if it proves to be successful.
Didier Reynders, The European commissioner for justice, stated that he expects the digital travel certificate to be rolled out across the EU by 21st June. The rollout of the certificate is particularly urgent for southern EU member states, whose economies have been devastated by a lack of tourism caused by travel bans.
The travel certification is not being referred to as a vaccine passport to avoid discriminating against those who have not yet been vaccinated. The EU has highlighted that whilst the certificates will make travel easier; it must not be a prerequisite for free movement.
The introduction of the travel certificate within the EU means that travellers will not need to quarantine on arrival to new countries, using the app to evidence their vaccination or negative COVID tests.
Those vaccinated in France from this week will receive an email or text message, which will direct them to a certified online document that can be downloaded and printed or displayed within the TousAntiCovid health app.
Whilst preparations are being made to ease travel within the EU, the US has issued new travel warnings this week.
Concerns for US travel corridor in the UK
From the 17th May, the UK is set to resume holidays abroad, introducing a traffic light system allowing individuals to travel to low risk ‘green list’ countries. The US was intended to make the green list; however, new US travel warnings have cast a shadow over these developments.
This week, the US State Department said it was raising the alert level for numerous countries this week, factoring the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) coronavirus data into its ratings. The State Department’s ‘do not travel’ list now includes 80% of all countries, leaving it unlikely that the US will form a travel corridor with the UK in time for 17th May.
Countries currently permitted to welcome vaccinated Americans include Iceland, Croatia, Greece and Israel. However, the State Department continues to advise all Americans to reconsider travel abroad, with health risks still prevailing as COVID cases continue to rise globally.
In the UK, with the date for the easing of travel abroad fast approaching, it remains uncertain which countries will make the ‘green list’. Uncertainty has risen due to the recent COVID variant found in India, which has become the latest country added to the ‘red list’. Johan Lundgren, CEO of EasyJet, believes that most major European countries will be classed as low risk.
This week, Greece reopened the country to tourists, having been significantly impacted by COVID-19, with tourism generating a fifth of Greece’s gross domestic product (GDP) and one in five jobs.
Hotels and resorts within Greece have been rapidly preparing for an influx of tourists over recent months, anticipating that there will be substantial numbers of travellers from 17th May.
The Greek Government has stated that the country is better placed to welcome tourists this year due to coronavirus vaccines and mass testing. As countries step closer towards herd immunity, the future of travel across Europe is undoubtedly becoming more optimistic.