UK may not 'return to normal' for at least six months, government doctor warns

30 March 2020, 07:37

Dr Jenny Harries was speaking alongside Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick
Dr Jenny Harries was speaking alongside Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick. Picture: PA

By Nick Hardinges

It could be six months or longer before the UK "returns to normal" following the coronavirus pandemic, according to the Deputy Chief Medical Officer for England.

Dr Jenny Harries was speaking alongside Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick at the government's daily coronavirus press conference at Downing Street.

She said it is too early to assess the lockdown situation, therefore there will be reviews of the measures every three weeks.

Dr Harries said the nation will not be in "complete lockdown" for the whole half-year but social distancing measures will be lifted gradually.

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It comes as all parts of the UK have now been put on an "emergency footing", the Housing Secretary also announced.

He described the move as "unprecedented in peacetime" and said the government had established "strategic coordination centres across the whole country."

Mr Jenrick added that 50,000 emergency parcels will have been dispatched to vulnerable people in quarantine by the end of the coming week.

"I want you to know that you are not alone," he said.

The Housing and Communities Secretary said the virus "does not discriminate" in terms of who it affects which is why the whole country, including local councils and military planners, have been put on an "emergency footing".

On the topic of NHS PPE equipment, Mr Jenrick added: "We simply cannot and should not ask people to be on the frontline without the right protective equipment.

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"We have a clear plan to ensure this service has the right equipment."

The government has delivered 170 million masks, 42.8 million pairs of gloves, 32 million aprons, 182,000 gowns and 2.3 million pairs of eye protectors to 58,000 NHS trusts and centres, Mr Jenrick said.

Robert Jenrick said the whole of the UK had been placed on an "emergency footing"
Robert Jenrick said the whole of the UK had been placed on an "emergency footing". Picture: PA

He also thanked the 12,000 former nurses, doctors and paramedics who have returned to the NHS.

When asked if the Prime Minister's statement that the tide could turn within 12 weeks was still true, Mr Jenrick replied: "Nobody's pretending this will be over in a few weeks.

"If we all play our part if we all follow clear medical advice then we can turn the tide."

DCMO Jenny Harries added it will be two or three weeks before we know if the peak has been moved further into the year.

On social distancing, Dr Harries said: "If we are successful, we will have squashed the curve.

"But we cannot go back to our way of living, that would be quite dangerous."

There will be a review in the next three to six months to see what effect social distancing measures will have on the peak.

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