Britain Faces Six Months of Coronavirus Restrictions

LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM - MARCH 24: Military vehicles cross Westminster Bridge after members of the 101 Logistic Brigade delivered a consignment of medical masks to St Thomas' hospital on March 24, 2020 in London, England. British Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, announced strict lockdown measures urging people to stay at home …
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Britain faces six months of disruption, as the country moves from a period of lockdown to longer-term social distancing until the coronavirus threat is abated, the Deputy Chief Medical Officer for England has said.

Dr Jenny Harries warned on Sunday during the Downing Street coronavirus briefing that even after this period of lockdown, some form of strict social distancing would need to be in place for two to three months, followed by a further three months where restrictions will still need to be in place, with clusters of outbreaks across the country still likely to occur.

“We must not suddenly revert to our normal way of living. That would be quite dangerous. If we stop [the restrictions] all of our efforts will have been wasted and we could see a second peak,” Dr Harries said in comments reported by The Times.

“So over time, probably the next six months, we will see where we are going. We need to keep that lid on and then gradually we will be able to hopefully adjust some of the social distance measures and gradually get us all back to normal.”

Harries added: “This is not to say we would be in complete lockdown for six months, but as a nation we have to be really, really responsible and keep doing what we’re all doing until we’re sure we can gradually start lifting various interventions which are likely to be spaced until we gradually come back to a normal way of living.”

The three-week lockdown, put into effect last week, is due for review, but the government’s leading epidemiology adviser Professor Neil Ferguson said that it was “optimistic” to believe that it would be over by May, suggesting that it could go on until June.

“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,” Professor Ferguson said on Sunday. “May is optimistic.”

The remarks come as Prime Minister Boris Johnson is set to write to 30 million households to warn that “we know things will get worse before they get better”.

The pandemic is expected to peak in Britain in around two weeks’ time, close to Easter, according to Dr Harries. She said last week that by then there should be a “change in [the] slope of the graph” of cases so long as people continued to follow the government’s lockdown.

“That means the peak will be pushed forward, but the height of it will be lower and we can manage all those who need hospital and health care safely through our NHS,” she said.

Professor Ferguson said on BBC Radio 4 this morning that “In the UK, we can see some early signs of slowing in some indicators. Less so in deaths because deaths are lagged by long time from when the measures come into force.”

He continued: “But we look at the numbers of new hospital admissions today, for instance, that does seem to be slowing down a little bit now. It’s not yet plateaued as the numbers are increasing each day but the rate of that increase has slowed.

“We see similar patterns in a number of European countries.”

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