Devon’s Director of Public Health has said it is absolutely vital news there could be a Covid-19 vaccine on the horizon isn’t taken as a green light to relax efforts in halting the spread of coronavirus.

On Monday (November 9), early results from the vaccine being developed by pharmaceutical companies Pfizer and BioNTech showed it could prevent more than 90 per cent of people from getting Covid.

The companies now plan to apply for emergency approval to use the vaccine by the end of November and a limited number of people may get the vaccine this year, while the UK has already ordered 40 million doses – enough to vaccinate up to 20 million people as each person will need two doses for it to work effectively.

Dr Virginia Pearson, director of Public Health Devon, said the news a vaccine may be available sooner rather than later is exceptionally good news.

But she added: “It is however still early days, and while the announcement yesterday is tremendously positive, there is still a lot of work to do nationally before a programme of mass vaccination is possible, but the NHS is currently putting in place plans to deliver a Covid vaccine to priority groups.

Dr Virginia Pearson.Dr Virginia Pearson.

“While the announcement is positive, it is absolutely vital that we do not take this it as a green light to relax our efforts in halting the spread of coronavirus. It is imperative therefore that we continue to make every effort to follow the national public health advice, to the letter.

“That means, maintaining social distance, wearing face coverings when out and in enclosed spaces where social distancing is difficult, and washing our hands properly and regularly.

“We are in week two of the current national lockdown restrictions. For these restrictions to halt the rising number of positive cases, we must all follow the current rules, and only to venture out for the permitted reasons, but otherwise to minimise social contact as much as possible.

“Once out of the current national lockdown, we do not want additional restrictions in Devon. To avoid that, we need to remain absolutely alert to ongoing risk, at all times and in all situations.”

And while mass coronavirus testing will be rolled out across 66 local authorities, Devon is not set to be one of the authorities to initially receive the tests.

Lateral flow tests, with a turnaround time of under an hour, have been available since Friday for people who live and work in Liverpool and do not have symptoms.

Speaking on Sky News on Tuesday (November 10), Health Secretary Matt Hancock said 66 local authorities had already expressed an interest in the tests.

But a spokesman for Public Health Devon said that the county currently doesn’t qualify as they will be rolled out in the areas with higher infection rates first.