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From Testing Mega Labs to Vaccine: Johnson May Make 'Critical Announcements' on UK Anti-COVID Fight

CC0 / / COVID-19 vaccine
 COVID-19 vaccine  - Sputnik International
Earlier on Monday, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson tweeted that he had been notified by the National Health Service's Test and Trace programme that he is required to enter self-isolation after coming into contact with a person who has tested positive for COVID-19.

Sky News has cited a UK government spokesperson as saying that British Prime Minister Boris Johnson would make a "series of critical announcements" later in the day, including those related to two new "mega labs" that are expected to double the country's daily coronavirus testing capacity.

The labs, which will open at Leamington Spa in the Midlands and at an unspecified site in Scotland in early 2021, may increase testing capacity by up to 600,000 per day. The planned opening comes amid reports that Britain severely lacks coronavirus tests as the existing labs have proven unable to meet rising demand.

Johnson's "critical announcements" are also expected to focus on how a potential COVID-19 vaccine would be distributed in the UK, amid reports that the first set of the drug could be administered to patients across the country in mid-December.

Kate Bingham, head of the government's vaccine task force, said earlier this month that the pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca has missed its target of delivering 30 million doses of its COVID-19 vaccine to the UK by September, and is expected to be able to hand over only 4 million doses by the end of the year. London is also considering using a vaccine developed by the pharmaceutical companies Pfizer and BioNTech, just one of 11 vaccines currently in the final stages of testing.

The British PM may also concentrate on how England will get through the winter when the second national coronavirus lockdown expires on 2 December.

Additionally, Johnson may touch upon trade deal negotiations with the EU "as we build back better from the coronavirus pandemic", according to the government spokesperson.

The announcements are due to be made hours after the prime minister tweeted that he was notified by the National Health Service (NHS)'s Test and Trace programme that he "must self-isolate" as he had been "in contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19".

"I have no symptoms, but am following the rules and will be working from No10 as I continue to lead the government's pandemic response", Johnson added.

On 27 March, the British PM announced that he had tested positive for COVID-19, after which he was hospitalised, as symptoms persisted. He was discharged from hospital on 12 April after undergoing treatment in an intensive care unit.

A chemist works at AstraZeneca's headquarters, after Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced Australians will be among the first in the world to receive a coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccine, if it proves successful, through an agreement between the government and the UK-based drug company AstraZeneca, in Sydney, Australia, 19 August 2020 - Sputnik International
What a Present! UK's Coronavirus Vaccine Could be Ready by Christmas, Health Secretary Says
Sky News, meanwhile, has reported that the prime minister's planned "critical announcements" will come as Johnson "tries to draw a line" under the recent resignations of his chief adviser Dominic Cummings and director of communications Lee Cain.

Johnson's spokesperson stressed late last week that the prime minister had not been distracted by the row and is "fully focused" on grappling with coronavirus-related issues.

The statement came as the UK remains in the grip of a second wave of COVID-19, with confirmed cases soaring to more than 1.3 million and the death toll climbing to 51,766, Europe's highest, according to the World Health Organisation's latest estimates.

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