Prime Minister tours vaccine manufacturing centre construction site

Boris Johnson’s Government has been tussling over difficulties with testing and fresh measures to control the re-emergence of coronavirus this week.

But on Friday, the Prime Minister gave himself a moment to think about the long-term strategy for bringing an end to the pandemic in the UK.

He paid a visit to the site which, when complete, will be responsible for ensuring the majority of the population can get back to normal by mass-producing a vaccine for the deadly virus.

Mr Johnson is not known for being shy about being photographed in a hard hat, boots and a hi-viz vest, but in normal circumstances such appearances are to see how more mundane infrastructure projects, like road and rail upgrades, are getting on.

Boris Johnson visits VMIC
Boris Johnson visits VMIC

But his visit to the Vaccines Manufacturing Innovation Centre construction site near Oxford saw him speak face-to-face with the scientists who will be responsible for producing the vaccine en masse.

The Prime Minister, his every footstep followed by a personal protective equipment-wearing press pack, told the scientists: “In an ideal world, we would have this running right now.”

With coronavirus cases rising across the country again – and Mr Johnson confirmed to reporters a second wave of infections is now being witnessed in the UK – the Conservative Party leader knows as well as anyone that a vaccine cannot come soon enough.

Before speaking with those who will take over the building once it is complete, Mr Johnson, wearing a grey suit and purple and blue tie underneath his site gear, met the construction workers who are responsible for the build.

They told him how they were likely to be done by “mid next year”.

Boris Johnson visits VMIC
Boris Johnson visits VMIC

The Government has invested more than £90 million in order to accelerate its build, meaning it should be producing vaccines by the summer – and Downing Street has assured that a smaller facility nearby should be able to make the immunity medicines before then.

Mr Johnson used his interview with broadcasters following his tour to stress that the “last thing anybody wants” is a second lockdown like that imposed by the Government in the spring.

And while he said those very words, he was stood on the site that could be the UK’s passport to a life without social restrictions and finally lift the fear of further local and national lockdowns.