A drug due to be trialled on selected NHS patients could be the “biggest step forward in the treatment of coronavirus since the crisis began”, the health secretary has said.

Matt Hancock, speaking at Tuesday’s daily coronavirus briefing, discussed the UK’s trial of anti-viral drug remdesivir.

He said there had been “promising early results” in some patients which showed their recovery could be shortened by four days.

The British trial was announced earlier on Tuesday after an ongoing global clinical trial, which started earlier in May, found that remdesivir cut the length of time people suffered symptoms from 15 days to 11.

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Research being carried out on remdesivir in Germany. (Getty)

The global trial involves about 1,000 patients from hospitals including the UK, US, France, Italy and China.

Remdesivir is an antiviral medicine that was originally developed to fight Ebola.

Innovation minister Lord Bethell said: “This shows fantastic progress. As we navigate this unprecedented period, we must be on the front foot of the latest medical advancements, while always ensuring patient safety remains a top priority.

“The latest expert scientific advice is at the heart of every decision we make, and we will continue to monitor remdesivir’s success in clinical trials across the country to ensure the best results for UK patients.”

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