UK government ministers are reported to be drawing up plans to make free Vitamin D available to millions of elderly and high-risk people in England to protect them against coronavirus.

Has someone flogged Boris a sun machine?

No. It is true that we receive most of our Vitamin D indirectly from sunlight, so in that regard a sun machine would prove a most efficacious public health tool could it be placed in geostationary orbit over these sceptred isles and made safe from Russian hackers. But back in the real world it’s likely the resource in question will come in the form of pills. Much less whizz-bang than a sun machine but far easier to fit into a bottle.

Why Vitamin D?

A study undertaken at the University of Cantabria in Spain has found that 80% of coronavirus patients tested had low levels of Vitamin D, which is known to help the immune system fight off viral infections. Other studies have also pointed to there being a health benefit. When President Trump was hospitalised with coronavirus last month, Vitamin D was one of the treatments he was given.

What do doctors think?

Speaking yesterday on ITV’s This Morning, the show’s resident GP Sara Kayat said: “Vitamin D is not only brilliant for our bones and joints but it is also being claimed to help with our immune system and optimise our immune system … The government is looking into various studies which have suggested those with lower Vitamin D levels have a higher risk of dying as a result of Covid, therefore the opposite is likely to be true.”

Who exactly will be getting it?

The plan is to provide four months’ worth of Vitamin D tablets to care-home residents, anyone who is shielding and other high-risk individuals. It’s estimated this could amount to around two million people. According to newspaper reports the first packages should start landing on doorsteps by the end of this month.

This is all sounding very familiar …

It should do. It was reported last month that an NHS Scotland letter had emerged stated that – yes, you guessed it – the clinically vulnerable would be issued with four months’ worth of free Vitamin D tablets. Where Holyrood leads, Westminster still follows it seems. Up to a point anyway. Given the paucity of sunshine in our northern climes the Scottish Government has long recommended we take regular Vitamin D supplements, particularly between October and March. However it's thought the new English scheme may go futher than its Scottish counterpart.

How else do you get Vitamin D?

In the absence of a sun machine, a blister pack or a bottle of pills, there are a few foods you can turn to which contain relatively high levels of Vitamin D, though if you’re a vegan you’d be advised to look away now. They are: red meat, liver, egg yolks, oysters and oily fish, particularly salmon, sardines, herring and mackerel. You can also buy Vitamin D-enriched milk. Vegan-friendly sources include mushrooms (the only plant-based source), tofu, almond milk, soya milk and orange juice.