How long will social distancing last in the UK?

24 April 2020, 14:27

The UK government has said that social distancing could continue until at least the end of 2020.

The UK is currently in lockdown to help slow the spread of coronavirus, with Brits being told to only leave the house for food, medical reasons, once-daily exercise and essential work.

We have also been told to practice social distancing with other people when outside the house, ensuring to stay at least two metres apart from people who are not from our household where possible.

Read more: Can you drive to exercise? Coronavirus lockdown rules for daily runs and workouts

The UK has been in lockdown since March 23rd
The UK has been in lockdown since March 23rd. Picture: PA

The government has warned that social distancing could be in place until the of the year, with Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty saying that some measures would need to be around "really quite a long period of time".

He said: "We have to be very realistic.

"If people are hoping it’s suddenly going to move from where we are in lockdown to where suddenly into everything is gone, that is a wholly unrealistic expectation.

"We are going to have to do a lot of things for really quite a long period of time, the question is what is the best package and this is what we’re trying to work out.

"If you release more on one area, you have to keep on board more of another area so there’s a proper trade-off and this is what ministers are having to consider."

And speaking about the exit from lockdown, he added: "In the long run, the exit from this is going to be one of two things, ideally.

"A vaccine, and there are a variety of ways they can be deployed ... or, and/or, highly effective drugs so that people stop dying of this disease even if they catch it, or which can prevent this disease in vulnerable people.

"Until we have those – and the probability of having those any time in the next calendar year are incredibly small, and I think we should be realistic about that – we’re going to have to rely on other social measures, which of course are very socially disruptive as everyone is finding at the moment.

"But until that point, that is what we will have to do but it will be the best combination that maximises the outlooks but it’s going to take a long time and I think we need to be aware of that."

Social distancing might be in place until the end of the year
Social distancing might be in place until the end of the year. Picture: PA

How long has the lockdown been extended for?

The lockdown was extended for another three weeks on 16 April, and it is up for review on 7 May.

Speaking at the daily press conference, Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said: "If we rush to relax the measures that we have in place we would risk wasting all the sacrifices and all the progress that has been made.

Read more: When did the UK lockdown start and how long will it last?

"That would risk a quick return to another lockdown with all the threat to life that a second peak to the virus would bring and all the economic damage that a second lockdown would carry."

He said that the following five conditions must be met before lockdown restrictions can be lifted:

1) That the NHS can cope

2) That there is a 'sustained and consistent' decrease in daily deaths

3) There needs to be reliable data from SAGE that the rate of infection is decreasing to 'manageable levels'

4) The supply of tests and PPE can meet future demand

5) To be confident that any changes will not risk a second peak in the virus

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