Normal life will not resume for at least six months, a key Government doctor has said, as the Government placed all parts of the UK on an ’emergency footing’.
Dr Jenny Harries, deputy chief medical officer for England, said the nation will not be in ‘complete lockdown’ for half a year but said social distancing measures will be lifted gradually.
Her warning at Sunday’s coronavirus press conference came as the NHS announced the first confirmed death of a frontline hospital worker with Covid-19.
Cabinet minister Robert Jenrick said ‘we simply cannot’ ask health workers to go on to the frontline without adequate protective equipment, as he announced the emergency footing was an ‘unprecedented step in peace time’.
Dr 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.
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“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.
“Three weeks for review, two or three months to see if we’ve really squashed it, but three to six months, ideally, but lots of uncertainty in that but then to see at which point we can actually get back to normal and it is plausible it could go further than that.
“This is not to say we would be in complete lockdown for six months, but as a nation we have to be really, really responsible and keep doing what we’re all doing until we’re sure we can gradually start lifting various interventions which are likely to be spaced – based on the science and our data – until we gradually come back to a normal way of living.”
Moments before, the NHS announced the death of 55-year-old consultant Amged El-Hawrani amid concerns staff do not have sufficient personal protective equipment (PPE).
The dedicated ear, nose and throat surgeon at Queen’s Hospital Burton died on Saturday and it was understood he had not been in contact with patients in recent weeks.
Dr Harries said: “It clearly is a worrying event, it is worrying for the nation because it is another death in our statistics, it is another loss to a family.
“And it will be a loss to an NHS family as well.”
Mr Jenrick said all NHS trusts and healthcare settings had received PPE deliveries and all social care sites will have received packages shortly.
“We simply cannot and should not ask people to be on the frontline without the right protective equipment,” he said.
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