(Photo: REUTERS/Carl Recine)

The government has launched a new ‘Antivirals Taskforce’ to identify treatments for patients who have been exposed to Covid-19 to stop the infection spreading and speed up recovery time.

The taskforce will search for the most promising novel antiviral medicines that can be taken at home and support their development through clinical trials to ensure they can be rapidly rolled out to patients as early as the autumn.

The taskforce will then look at opportunities to onshore the manufacture of antiviral treatments.

The 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-19 test or exposure to someone with the virus.

“This will be another vital tool to combat any future increase in infections and limit the impact of new variants, especially over the flu season later this year,” the Department of Health and Social Care said.

New Antivirals Taskforce could identify and deploy innovative Covid-19 treatments as early as autumn

Treatments could be taken at home after a positive test or exposure to Covid-19 to reduce transmission and speed up recovery.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said: “The success of our vaccination programme has demonstrated what the UK can achieve when we bring together our brightest minds.

“Our new Antivirals Taskforce will seek to develop innovative treatments you can take at home to stop Covid-19 in its tracks. These could provide another vital defence against any future increase in infections and save more lives.”

Health secretary Matt Hancock said: “The UK is leading the world in finding and rolling out effective treatments for Covid-19, having identified dexamethasone, which has saved over a million lives worldwide, and tocilizumab.

“In combination with our fantastic vaccination programme, medicines are a vital weapon to protect our loved ones from this terrible virus.

“Modelled on the success of the vaccines and therapeutics taskforces, which have played a crucial part in our response to the pandemic, we are now bringing together a new team that will supercharge the search for antiviral treatments and roll them out as soon as the autumn.

“I am committed to boosting the UK’s position as a life science superpower and this new taskforce will help us beat Covid-19 and build back better.”

The antivirals could be used alone or in combination with one another in order to increase effectiveness and reduce the risk of further mutations.

The new taskforce will sit alongside the government’s existing Therapeutics Taskforce, which will continue its vital work to identify and supply treatments found to be effective in clinical trials, for all stages of a patient’s exposure and response to Covid-19.

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