Social Distancing Measures ‘Will Last For A Year’ To Prevent Second Peak Of Coronavirus In The UK

23 April 2020, 08:46

Professor Chris Whitty has warned of another year of social distancing measures in place to avoid a second wave of coronavirus in the UK.

The UK’s current social distancing measures could remain to some level for a whole year, as there is no quick exit from the lockdown.

Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty said ministers will have to consider “trade-offs” to prevent a second peak of coronavirus infections, which is said to be looking likely.

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Explaining how restrictions might be eased in order to live with the virus, Professor Whitty said there would be two ways in which life could return to some sort of normal; “a highly effective vaccine and/or highly effective drugs so people will stop dying of this disease.”

Social distancing practices will be in place for the foreseeable future
Social distancing practices will be in place for the foreseeable future. Picture: Getty

In Wednesday’s daily briefing he told the nation: “This disease is not going to be eradicated. We have to accept we are working with a disease globally for the foreseeable future.”

In order to keep the number of cases at a level in which the NHS can cope, social distancing measures and restrictions will have to remain in place for a long time.

Ministers are now trying to work out the best way to ease restrictions.

Prof Whitty explained: “If you release one area, you have to keep on board another area, so there is actually a proper trade off.”

Social distancing measures will continue after lockdown restrictions are eased
Social distancing measures will continue after lockdown restrictions are eased. Picture: Getty
Masks may be a requirement in public when lockdown measures are eased
Masks may be a requirement in public when lockdown measures are eased. Picture: Getty

Adding that a vaccine or drugs are the most effective way out of the strict lockdown measures, Whitty added: “In the long run, the exit from is going to be one of two things, ideally.

“One of which is a highly effective vaccine, and there are a variety of ways they can be deployed... and or highly effective drugs so that people stop dying of this disease.”

Chris Whitty said “realistically” chances of a highly effective vaccine available for public use within the next calendar year are “incredibly small.”

Until then, “we’re going to have to rely on other social measures which of course are very socially disruptive as everyone is finding at the moment. But until that point that is what we will have to do and it will have to be the best combination that maximises the outlook.

“But it’s going to take a very long time and I think we need to be aware of that.”

This doesn’t mean the current strict restrictions will remain in place for an entire year, but the phases of lifting lockdown and re-opening of the economy are likely to be much more gradual.

Easing lockdown measures too soon would risk a second peak of the virus.

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