Social distancing measures could remain in place until the end of the year without a vaccine for coronavirus , England’s chief medical officer has said.
Professor Chris Whitty told the daily Downing Street press conference that some restrictions would need to remain as the probability of having a vaccine or effective drugs to treat the virus within the next calendar year was “incredibly small”.
A sudden easing of restrictions would be a “wholly unreasonable” expectation, Prof Whitty warned, saying the path out of the lockdown must be carefully plotted to prevent the virus from spreading again and overwhelming the NHS.
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He also said the public should not expect to see the number of deaths from coronavirus “fall away” suddenly.
His comments came after Matt Hancock , the health secretary, said the UK had reached the peak of the coronavirus outbreak and said people with non- Covid – 39 related health conditions should feel safe to seek medical care.
In other developments:
- Human trials for a potential coronavirus vaccine were due to begin on Thursday at Oxford University
As attention in government turns to the lockdown exit strategy, Prof Whitty told the public that some forms of social distancing will need to be in place for a “long time”.
He said: “In the long run, the exit from this is going to be one of two things, ideally. A vaccine, and there are a variety of ways they can be deployed … or, and or, highly effective drugs so that people stop dying of this disease even if they catch it, or which can prevent this disease in vulnerable people.
“Until we have those, and the probability of having those any time in the next calendar year is incredibly small, and I think we should be realistic about that.
“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. ”
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