The Government has launched a Antivirals Taskforce to 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 also 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.

The new taskforce will sit alongside the government’s existing Therapeutics Taskforce, which will continue its 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.

Ensure antivirals are available for deployment as quickly as possible

Sir Patrick Vallance, Government Chief Scientific Adviser, said: "The speed at which vaccines and therapeutics such as dexamethasone have been identified and deployed against Covid-19 has been critical to the pandemic response.

"Antivirals in tablet form are another key tool for the response. They could help protect those not protected by or ineligible for vaccines. They could also be another layer of defence in the face of new variants of concern. The taskforce will help ensure the most promising antivirals are available for deployment as quickly as possible."

On 16 June, the government-funded RECOVERY trial became the first to identify the benefits of dexamethasone in reducing mortality by 20% in patients requiring oxygen support and 35% for ventilated patients, following a readout from the RECOVERY trial and later supported by the WHO and REMAP-CAP.

Dexamethasone has since shown to have saved 22,000 lives in the UK so far and an estimated million worldwide.

More recently, the REMAP-CAP trial demonstrated the benefits of tocilizumab and sarilumab, as well as the RECOVERY trial, which found tocilizumab reduced the relative risk of death for patients on oxygen by 14%, when administered in addition to dexamethasone.