Indian drugmaker Wockhardt has been engaged to supply millions of doses of vaccines from its CP Pharmaceuticals site on Wrexham’s industrial estate and the Prime Minister paid the factory a visit this afternoon.
It will carry out the “fill-and-finish” stage of the manufacturing process of AstraZeneca’s Oxford-partnered Covid-19 shot, which involves dispensing bulk vaccine into vials ready for distribution.
Mr Johnson also launched the £20m Medicines and Diagnostic Manufacturing Transformation Fund during his visit this afternoon, in a bid to strengthen the UK’s response to future pandemics.
Today Welsh Government First Minister, Mark Drakeford, announced pubs, bars, restaurants and cafés in Wales will be forced to stop selling alcohol and to shut by 6pm in a new round of restrictions.
The new regulations that come into force from 6pm on December 4 will also see cinemas, bowling alleys and other indoor entertainment venues forced to shut their doors until they are reviewed on December 17.
The Prime Minister took some time to answer questions on the current outbreak and gave his thoughts on Mr Drakeford’s announcement.
Q: When can communities such as Wrexham expect to see a full rolling out of the vaccine particularly to those who are at the highest risk of the effects of Covid-19?
PM: “We are still waiting for the MHRA to give the green light – they have to give full approval to the Oxford AZ vaccine. We are hoping that will be soon, but I can’t guarantee that we will have it all and I can’t guarantee the timescale.
“There are two big ifs. If they get approval in the next few days and if there are no problems with production, then it could be ready very soon, but other than I wouldn’t want to say.
“It would be the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation that will decide who gets it first and how it’s going to work, they are looking at protecting the most vulnerable groups, including care homes, NHS, schools, universities, there is quite a sensible list starting with the elderly and the most vulnerable.
Q: When can we expect life to go back to normal, some have said Easter, other scientists have said next winter?
PM: “Christ Witty and Partick Vallance have been advising the government for a long time now and they haven’t always been the biggest optimists about where we are.
“They are both as convinced as I have heard them that things will be close to normality – life will be much better – by Easter.
“And I think there’s a possibility – and I wouldn’t put it stronger than that – that if things go well and we get substantial amounts of vaccine into people’s arms and mass testing really starts to work in the way that it worked in Liverpool, you might find that we can start to drive the R rate down and drive the incidence of the disease down faster than that.
“Areas that are in high tiers now, will be able to come out of them progressively as we get rates of transmission down. Liverpool has shown the way and lots of areas are working with us to achieve that and we are very keen to make that happen in Wales as well.”
Q: First Minister Mark Drakeford announced today pubs, bars, restaurants and cafes in Wales will have to stop selling alcohol and shut by 6pm on December 4, in a new round of restrictions, what are your thoughts on this and do you agree with the move?
PM: “I think that you have to look at different situations in different areas – that’s why we follow a one UK approach for most things, for example for Christmas, except for a few details, but basically it has been the same general approach.
“I think that different places will obviously be wanting to put in slightly different measures to tackle, what they see as the particular needs of local communities and all I would say to people is follow the guidance wherever you are, listen to what people are advising and that’s the way we will get it done together.
“I think it is very tough on hospitality across the whole country, we want to look after that industry and help them bounce as strongly as possible. That’s why the faster we can roll out a vaccine, the faster we can do community testing, the better it will be for that industry as well.”
Q: There is a border of sorts between England and Wales, you can only cross if you have a reasonable excuse, there are still reports of people coming across the border from England to go shopping. What do you think of the border issue and what would you say to people who may consider crossing over, without a reasonable excuse?
PM: “I don’t think of it in that way, I tend to think of people just not really leaving a high tier 3 area to cross from one area into another, unless they have a really very good reason – you just follow the guidance.
“It’s there to help everybody and we want to protect our loved ones over Christmas, we want to get this right. We have made a huge amount of progress together in the last few weeks – let’s not throw it away.
“Wales had its firebreak, we are coming out of national restrictions now in England, everybody across the UK is trying to achieve the same thing. Let’s not blow it.”