As of this morning - Thursday 19th March - the current recorded case count for COVID-19 (coronavirus) in the UK has hit 2,626, with 104 deaths and 65 recoveries.

As defence secretary Ben Wallace has announced a new military force ready to support public services as required during the crisis, pharma companies are continuing to pitch in with help where they can.

Roche has now announced the initiatiation of a Phase III clinical trial of Actemra/RoActemra (tocilizumab) in hospitalised patients with severe COVID-19 pneumonia.

The pharma giant says that it is working with the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) to initiate the randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled study, to evaluate the safety and efficacy of the drug in combo with standard of care.

This is the first global study of Actemra/RoActemra in this setting and is expected to begin enrolling as soon as possible in early April with a target of approximately 330 patients globally, including the US.

Roche has confirmed that primary and secondary endpoints include clinical status, mortality, mechanical ventilation and intensive care unit (ICU) variables.

The trial is in order to “better establish the potential role for Actemra/RoActemra in fighting this disease," said Levi Garraway, Roche’s chief medical officer and head of Global Product Development. “In these unprecedented times, today’s announcement is an important example of how industry and regulators can collaborate quickly to address the COVID-19 pandemic, and we will share the results as soon as possible.”

The news comes as a survey has revealed that  51% of millennials think fewer than half (40% or less) of the UK population will become infected, despite Government warnings this figure could rise to as much as 80%.

The findings, published by OVID Health and Deltapoll, focuses on how different generations are responding to the outbreak of COVID-19, and reveals that many millennials are not heeding official Government advice to wash their hands more regularly to slow the spread of the virus.

Further to the findings, the companies claim that one in five (21%) of 18-24-year olds have stockpiled food or other items; compared to only 11% of those aged 65+.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) urges the public to stay aware of the latest information on the COVID-19 outbreak, with information available through your national and local public health authority.

Wash your hands frequently:

Regularly and thoroughly clean your hands with an alcohol-based hand rub or wash them with soap and water.

Maintain social distancing:

Maintain at least one metre (three feet) distance between yourself and anyone who is coughing or sneezing.

If you have fever, cough and difficulty breathing, seek medical care early:

Stay home if you feel unwell. If you have a fever, cough and difficulty breathing, seek medical attention and call in advance. Follow the directions of your local health authority.