UK coronavirus restrictions could last six months – deputy chief medical officer | World news

The lockdown of the UK to try to slow the spread of coronavirus could go on for six months and the country may not return to its normal way of life until the autumn, a key government doctor has said.

The deputy chief medical officer for England, Dr Jenny Harries, said at Downing Street’s daily press conference on Sunday that the effectiveness of the current restrictions would be reviewed at the end of the original three-week period.

“If we are successful we will have squashed the top of that curve, which is brilliant, but we must not then suddenly revert to our normal way of living,” she said. “That would be quite dangerous. If we stop then all of our efforts will be wasted and we could potentially see a second peak.”

The public have been asked to stop all non-essential travel, work from home if at all possible and limit exercise to one walk outside a day.

“We need to keep that lid on and then gradually we will be able to hopefully adjust some of the social distancing measures and gradually get us all back to normal,” Harries said.

“So I think three weeks for review. Two or three months to see whether we’ve really squashed it, with about three to six months ideally, and lots of uncertainty in that, but then to see at which point we can actually get back to normal. It is plausible that is could go further than that.”

The daily press conference was led by the secretary of state for housing, communities and local government, Robert Jenrick, who said the restrictions would be reviewed at Easter.

Boris Johnson is still in isolation in No 11 Downing Street after testing positive for coronavirus.

The likelihood of long-term government restrictions to try to limit the outbreak comes as Prof Neil Ferguson of Imperial College London, one of the epidemiologists advising the government, told the Sunday Times the lockdown would need to last for months.

“We’re going to have to keep these measures in place, in my view, for a significant period of time, probably until the end of May, maybe even early June. May is optimistic,” he said.

As of Sunday, 127,737 people had been tested for coronavirus in the UK, of whom 19,522 had tested positive, with 1,228 deaths.

Jenrick also updated the public on the roll-out of food parcels for the most vulnerable groups who have been asked to shield themselves at home for 12 weeks.

Around 50,000 packages will be delivered by the end of the week to those who have no support. Medication will also be dropped off at people’s homes.

“If you don’t have family, friends or neighbours nearby the NHS will deliver your medicines through the community pharmacy network,” Jenrick said. By “letting us know that you need support then we will deliver food and supplies to your doorstep”.

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