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Covid-19: Normal life will not resume for six months, says UK government doctor

Dr Jenny Harries aid the nation will not be in “complete lockdown” for half a year but social distancing measures will be lifted gradually.

Updated Mar 29th 2020, 6:44 PM

coronavirus UK Deputy Chief Medical Officer Dr Jenny Harries. Source: PA Images

NORMAL LIFE WILL not resume for at least six months, a key UK government doctor has said, as she warned of the “worrying” first confirmed death of a frontline NHS worker with coronavirus.

Dr Jenny Harries, deputy chief medical officer for England, said the nation will not be in “complete lockdown” for half a year but social distancing measures will be lifted gradually.

Her warning at today’s coronavirus press conference came as the government placed all parts of the UK on an “emergency footing” in an “unprecedented step in peace time”.

Harries said the three-week reviews on the measures to slow the disease’s spread will likely continue for six months and that their success would be judged on slowing its rate.

“But we must not then suddenly revert to our normal way of living, that would be quite dangerous,” she said.”

A sudden lifting could see the nation’s sacrifices “wasted” with another spike in deaths, which have reached 1,228.

“We need to keep that lid on and then gradually we will be able to hopefully adjust some of the social distancing measures and gradually get us all back to normal,” she said.

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Harries’ comments followed similar statements by Cabinet minister Michael Gove who said the country’s lockdown will be in place for a “significant period” and could last longer if people do not stick to the rules

Gove acknowledged the scale of the “sacrifice” the public is taking but said he could not make “an accurate prediction” on how long it must be endured.

“There are different projections as to how long the lockdown might last,” Gove told Sky’s Sophy Ridge on Sunday. 

He declined to be drawn on one key scientist’s estimate of June being the earliest like month that they could be eased, but warned the lockdown will last longer if the rules are not obeyed.

“But it’s not the case that the length of the lockdown is something that is absolutely fixed, it depends on all of our behaviour, we can if we follow the guidelines, we can deal more effectively with the spread of the disease.”

Gove said the positive message he delivered was that the public appear to be heeding the advice.

“At the moment, all the evidence is that people are observing the rules, if you look at the number of people on public transport that has fallen, if you look at footfall in supermarkets and other stores, that has fallen as well,” he said.

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Gove has also declined to say what tougher rules could look like, with the public already confined to their homes for all but essential travel and for once-daily exercise.

“Everyone is making a sacrifice and I appreciate the scale of that sacrifice,” he told the Andrew Marr Show on BBC1.

But the reason all of us are making these sacrifices is because all of us will have people whom we love who are at risk from this virus. I can’t make an accurate prediction, but everyone does have to prepare for a significant period when these measures are still in place.

Gove’s message came ahead of the UK’s Department of Health confirming this afternoon that that a further 209 people had died, the second biggest day-on-day rise in the number of deaths since the outbreak began.

The total number of confirmed cases of coronavirus in the UK now stands at 19,522 with 1,228 having passed away. 

It was also confirmed that there have been six further deaths from Covid-19 in Northern Ireland and 86 more cases. It brings the total number of deaths to 21 and cases to 410. 

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