England’s chief medical officer has warned the country may need to keep social distancing for a long time despite the prime minister saying we could possibly relax such rules in November.
Professor Chris Whitty said eliminating coronavirus is highly unlikely so we could be forced to maintain precautions for the considerable future.
He told the Lords Science and Technology Committee on Friday that, while certain hygiene measures will be around for the foreseeable future.
Keeping a safe distance from others will also need to be maintained.
The comments come after Prime Minister Boris Johson told a Downing Street press conference it ‘may conceivably be possible’ to depart from social distancing measures ‘by November at the earliest’.
Prof Whitty said: ‘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.
‘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,
How it’s interpreted in different governments has evolved.
‘But it has not gone away.
So, all of those need to continue for a long period of time.’
Prof Whitty added eliminating Covid-19 in a ‘highly connected’ country like the UK would be very difficult. He explained:
‘Elimination means zero cases onward transmitted and for this disease this is going to be very difficult.’
He added: ‘We’ve tried to eliminate or eradicate a very large number of diseases over the years.
‘We have so far in humans eradicated one, smallpox, and we’ve tried on a lot of other occasions; this is not an easy thing to do.’
The committee also heard that it would be ‘incredibly important’ to keep Covid-19 cases low in the winter.
Prof Whitty added a coronavirus contact tracing app could be an ‘important’ tool during the winter; or if there is a surge of cases.