An entrance to the Royal Victoria Infirmary where two patients who have tested positive for the Wuhan coronavirus are being treated by specialist medical workers on January 31, 2020 in Newcastle upon Tyne, England. Two people in the same family have been diagnosed with the Coronavirus in the UK, which has killed at least 213 people in China. (Photo by Ian Forsyth/Getty Images)

Amid concerns over the ongoing novel coronavirus outbreak, the government has pledged £20m to develop new vaccines to combat the world’s deadliest diseases.

The new funding announced today will go to the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), a partnership between public, private, philanthropic, and civil society organisations launched in 2017 in response to the Ebola epidemic in West Africa.

It will support the development of new vaccines for epidemics including the novel coronavirus.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said: “Vaccines are our best defence against a host of deadly diseases including coronavirus. The UK is a hub of world-leading and pioneering research, and it is vital that we lead the way in developing new vaccines to target global threats with scientists from across the world.”

“The £20 million announced today will help our globally recognised vaccine development capabilities continue to develop new defences against emerging diseases including coronavirus,” he said.

Welcoming the UK’s support and funding, CEPI said the rapid global spread and unique epidemiological characteristics of the virus were deeply concerning.

“Our hope is that, with our partners, we can get an investigational vaccine from gene sequencing of the pathogen through to clinical testing in 16 weeks. The earliest stage of clinical trials (Phase I), to establish the safety of investigational vaccines, would take around two to four months,” CEPI CEO Dr Richard Hatchett said.

Nation-wide campaign

The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) also launched a UK-wide campaign to provide clear advice to the public on how slow the spread of Coronavirus and reduce the impact on NHS services.

While two cases of Coronavirus have already been confirmed in the UK, the Health Secretary further assured that the NHS is well prepared to manage these types of incidents.

Similar to the ‘Catch it, Bin it, Kill it’ campaign used for flu and norovirus, the latest campaign will also promote important hygiene practices, such as regularly washing hands and always sneezing into a tissue, to stem the spread of viruses.

“Lots of people are asking what they can do to help stop the spread of the virus. Basic hygiene such as washing our hands regularly and using tissues when we cough and sneeze can play an important role in minimising the spread of viruses like this. Today we have launched a UK-wide advertising campaign to help the public protect themselves and each other,” Hancock said in a separate statement.

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