UK policies were the focal point this week, while the ‘usual suspects’ Novavax, AstraZeneca and Abbott again updated the market on their progress.

Back to work campaign

The working week ended with fiery debates on whether workers should be encouraged to go back to the offices since many people are concerned of being infected.

England is set to start a campaign next week, while Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland continue to promote working from home practices.

Senior Tory MPs have pressured Boris Johnson to give a clear message that it will be safe to do so with several businesses being concerned of the prospects of city centres.

Health secretary Matt Hancock instead flagged he cares more about how his cabinet employees are performing than where they are working.

Paid quarantine

Meanwhile, people on low incomes in areas with high rates of COVID-19 could be paid if they need to self-isolate and can’t work from home.

Eligible people who test positive with the virus will receive £130 for ten days of self-isolation, while other members of their household, who have to self-isolate for 14 days, will be entitled to a payment of £182.

Non-household contacts advised to self-isolate through NHS Test and Trace will also be entitled to a payment of up to £182, tailored to the individual length of their isolation period.

The programme will be trialled in Blackburn on September 1.

More job cuts

There were further job cuts this week with food-to-go chain Pret A Manger slashing 3,000 roles, Gatwick Airport 600 and Mini’s Plant Oxford another 400.

Energy giant Equinor is planning to chop 20% of roles in each country where it operates. In the UK, most roles are in Aberdeen, which has already been battered by previous oil crisis.

The Gambling Commission has also proposed redundancies as it aims to save £1mln, despite criticism it does not have enough funds to regulate the industry properly.

Novavax is optimistic

Novavax Inc (NASDAQ:NVAX) is reportedly expecting to submit its COVID-19 vaccine candidate before US authorities in December.

Chief executive Stanley Erck told Czech paper Hospodarske Noviny that it plans to produce some of the jabs in its Czech plant, so the country will be able to access it if it is approved.

On Monday the biotech enrolled the first volunteer for the Phase II of clinical trials in late August, expanding on Phase I by including older adults 60-84 years of age, with data expected in the fourth quarter.

Oxford too

The vaccine for COVID-19 being developed by Oxford University could be submitted to regulators as early as this year, a professor said.

“It is also just possible that if the cases accrue rapidly in the clinical trials that we could have that data to put before regulators this year, and then there would be a process that they go through in order to make a full assessment of the data,” Professor Andrew Pollard told the BBC.

But the priority is to “demonstrate a vaccine works and is safe, and then to go through the processes of regulators looking at that very carefully to make sure everything’s been done correctly.”

AstraZeneca begins trials on new treatment

AstraZeneca PLC (LON:AZN) began clinical trials for AZD7442, a new treatment using monoclonal antibodies.

AZD7442 is a combination of two monoclonal antibodies (mAbs) that the pharma giant hopes can prevent as well as treat the virus.

Produced in the laboratory, the mAbs are designed to replicate proteins made by the body that can stop the virus attaching to a cell and infecting it.

If it successfully passes this safety trial, the FTSE 100 firm will move onto larger late-stage Phase II and Phase III trials to evaluate efficacy as a potential preventative and treatment approach against COVID-19.

Abbott receives approval for fast test

Abbott Laboratories (NYSE:ABT) got the greenlight from the US Food and Drug Administration for its rapid test, capable of proving results within 15 minutes.

Granted for emergency use, it will be sold at US$5 per kit.

The med-tech giant intends to ship around 1mln tests a day and plans to ramp up to a rate of 50mln tests per month from the beginning of October.

The test kit is described as ‘highly portable’, about the size of a credit card, and the company is in parallel launching a complementary mobile app for iPhone and Android, called NAVICA.