Social distancing will 'continue you for long period of time' warns Chris Whitty in blow to UK's back to normal plan

PROFESSOR Chris Whitty has said that social distancing is likely to continue "for a long period of time" in the UK.

The government's chief medical officer issued the warning today in a devastating blow to Boris Johnson's plan to see life return to normal by Christmas.

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Speaking to the Lords' Science and Technology Committee this afternoon, Professor Whitty claimed it was "optimistic" to suggest the UK could eliminate Covid-19 completely.

He said that measures introduced to curb the spread of the virus were likely to be in place for "a prolonged period of time".

Professor Whitty told the Committee: "There are some things which we started right at the beginning, which absolutely have to continue for a prolonged period of time, washing hands, isolation, household isolation.

"And then we've added to that things like contact tracing, most recently face coverings.

It has not gone away. So, all of those need to continue for a long period of time

"And these are issues of, and issues around distancing, which have been varied but the reality is distancing remains an important part of this mix and how it's interpreted in different governments has evolved."

He added: "But it has not gone away. So, all of those need to continue for a long period of time".


It comes as a devastating blow to the government's plan to see life return to normality by Christas.

In a Downing Street press conference this morning, the Prime Minister said it was possible that social distancing measures could be scrapped "by November at the earliest".

This morning, he called for the nation to return to “near-normal” from August 1 to help boost Britain’s ailing economy which has been ravaged by the pandemic.

He said: "It is my strong and sincere hope that we will be able to review the restrictions and allow a return to more normality by November, possibly in time for Christmas."

But his optimism has provoked a tense standoff with his scientific advisers over the timeline of beating the virus – with chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance earlier suggesting the grim possibility of a Winter lockdown.



Sir Patrick told the House of Lords this afternoon: "As you release measures it is inevitable as you get more contacts that you will see more cases.

"Come winter, the challenges will be very much greater and of course there is a risk that this could need national measures".

Professor Chris Whitty took a similar view, claiming that winter will be challenging as coronavirus is expected to thrive in the colder weather.

He said: "It may be that in winter this is more difficult because winter so benefits respiratory viruses – that's why we get the flus and the colds and coughs in winter.

"So we do have to accept we may be able to do things for a period; it's possible that in winter we may have to do some other things and I think we just have to be honest about that and the Prime Minister, I think, made that very clear this morning."

Experts fear that a spike in cases during the winter could be catastrophic for the NHS, which could already be under strain due to the flu.

And Linda Bauld, professor of public health at the University of Edinburgh, has also suggested that the infection rate in the community is still far too high to contemplate a return to normal by Christmas.

She said: "The only way it would be possible to get rid of the one-metre rule is if, over several months, we don't have any Covid cases around the country."

It comes as the coronavirus death toll in the UK reached 45,233 on Friday as 114 more deaths were recorded.

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