Covid-19: Social distancing could be needed ‘for at least most of a year’

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Social distancing measures will need to be in place for most of a year at least in order to control the spread of Covid-19, scientists advising the government have agreed.

The Scientific Pandemic Influenza Group on Modelling agreed on Monday that, while the severity of measures could alternate during the period, “stricter” measures would need to be enforced for at least half of the year in order to keep cases at a level the NHS can cope with.

The Government published the papers on Friday – a day after prime minister Boris Johnson said he expects the tide to be turned in the fight against Covid-19 within 12 weeks.

The report states: “It was agreed that the addition of both general social distancing and school closures to case isolation, household isolation and social distancing of vulnerable groups would be likely to control the epidemic when kept in place for a long period.

“It was agreed that a policy of alternating between periods of more and less strict social distancing measures could plausibly be effective at keeping the number of critical care cases within capacity.

“These would need to be in place for at least most of a year. Under such a policy, at least half of the year would be spent under the stricter social distancing measures.”

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The document says that the triggers for measures to be put in place or lifted could vary according to different regions.

Coronavirus cases in the UK
(PA Graphics)

There would be a two to three-week delay between measures being put into place and their impact being felt in intensive care units, it added.

It comes as chancellor Rishi Sunak plans to announce more emergency measures for workers.

He has been under pressure from Labour, unions and even senior Tory MPs to do more to help workers and the stalling economy weather the crisis.

He will reveal new measures on Friday at the daily Covid-19 press conference in Downing Street, where he is expected to be joined by Johnson.

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