A TOP Bradford pharmacist who is leading the way on Covid-19 treatment trials has described the coming weeks as a "test of character" for the country.

Dr Mahendra Patel, the national BAME community and pharmacy lead for University of Oxford's PRINCIPLE trial, said there is a risk many people will "relax" for Diwali festivities, Christmas and the New Year period and the easing of lockdown.

The professor's worry is deepened further by the promising news of a coronavirus vaccine, something he feels could give a false sense of security despite the need for continued research and, eventually, a gradual programme of vaccination.

Dr Patel told the "The festivities we're about to embrace and the potential easing of lockdown and over the New Year celebration, Christmas, Diwali celebrations - it's that triple whammy now, if we go into a third peak.

"We should not be relaxing in any way. That could have an effect that we would not want to have in terms of coronavirus cases.

"Yes, the vaccine we've got it, but we're against the backlog.

"This is a real test of character. Whether you're celebrating Diwali or Christmas and the New Year, this is going to be a real test of character.

"We've got the vaccine, that is great news, but that is going to take a programme of activities to roll out and get to everybody. There is the treatment trial as well."

As the second wave lingers over the city, Bradford Teaching Hospital Trust said it is currently experiencing "a significant increase in pressure on our services".

According to the latest data, there are 146 confirmed and suspected COVID-19 patients currently inpatient trust-wide.

14 patients receiving care in ICU.

The PRINCIPLE trial, led by the University of Oxford, is evaluating whether treatment early on in the community can help people aged over 50 recover quickly from Covid-19 illness, without the need for hospital admission. It is trialling two well known anti-biotics.

It is hoped early treatment would prevent people from needing care in ICU, relieving pressure on the NHS.

To expand its reach, the PRINCIPLE trial has recruited the help of a number of independent pharmacies, 1500 branches of LloydsPharmacy and 750 branches of Well Pharmacy.

Dr Patel continued: "Who is the only premise open seven days a week and providing health care advice? It's the pharmacy. These are the foot soldiers we need to use more in terms of the resource and the network."

Anyone who would like to take part in the national PRINCIPLE trial should email principle@phc.ox.ac.uk or call the team on 0800 138 0880.

On the need for more BAME participants, Dr Patel said: "BAME communities are disproportionately affected and it is important to raise the awareness as much as possible among these communities, as well as the wider communities, with details of trials such as the PRINCIPLE trial which is the first national primary care trial in the TREATMENT of coronavirus. It is important to engage into such trials in order to help bring out the most safest and effective treatment."