The nationwide coronavirus lockdown could last until June, according to one of the government’s leading scientific advisors.
Professor Neil Ferguson, from Imperial College London, told The Sunday Times that the entire population could need to stay at home for nearly three 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.
According to Professor Ferguson, even after the lockdown comes to an end, it is likely the government will still implement a number of social distancing measures.
He believes schools and universities will not reopen until the autumn, while people could also be asked to work from home until late this year.
It comes as Boris Johnson is warning every household he could impose even stricter lockdown measures to tackle the coronavirus outbreak as it inevitably worsens.
The Prime Minister, who is self-isolating with Covid-19, is writing to every address telling people the closer they adhere to the rules “the sooner life can return to normal”.
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Stressing the “national emergency”, the letters will land on doorsteps after the number of people to have died in UK hospitals surged past 1,000, increasing by 260 in 24 hours.
NHS England’s national medical director warned that now was not the time for complacency after a study suggested social distancing could deliver a lower death toll than previously feared.
In letters to 30 million households, Mr Johnson writes: “We will not hesitate to go further if that is what the scientific and medical advice tells us we must do.
“We know things will get worse before they get better.
“But we are making the right preparations, and the more we all follow the rules, the fewer lives will be lost and the sooner life can return to normal.”
The nation learned that the number of coronavirus-related deaths in the UK had hit 1,019, as of 5pm on Friday.
NHS England’s national medical director Professor Stephen Powis appeared at the daily press conference as Mr Johnson worked behind closed doors in his Downing Street flat.
Prof Powis warned the public not to rest on their laurels after an Imperial College London study suggested the UK could be on course for 5,700 deaths if it follows the same trajectory as China.
He said it would be a “good result” if the toll in the UK was less than 20,000, and stressed compliance with the strict rules, and not luck, would get the number down.