IT may be more than six months before the country can get back to normal life as the coronavirus pandemic subsides, a UK medical chief has warned.

Dr Jenny Harries, deputy chief medical officer for England and Wales, said three to six months ideally, with “and lots of uncertainty in that” could be needed to “see at which point we can actually get back to normal”. 

But she warned: “It is plausible it could go further than that.”

That raises the prospect of potential school closures going beyond the summer holidays.

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It comes as the number of deaths of people with Covid-19 reached 1,228 across the UK and 41 in Scotland.

Among those who have died with the virus is Amged El-Hawrani, a 55-year-old doctor and ear, nose and throat trainer at Queen’s Hospital Burton. His death was confirmed shortly before the press briefing. An organ transplant consultant died last week.

Dr Harries said: “To make it clear, if we are successful and have squashed the top of the [coronavirus cases] curve, we must not then revert to our normal way of living. That would be quite dangerous.

“If we stop then, all of our efforts will be wasted and we could potentially see a second peak.  

“Over time, probably over the next six months, we will have a three-week review and see where we are going.

“We need to keep that lid on, and gradually we will hopefully be able to adjust the social distancing measures and gradually get back to normal. So three weeks for review, two or three months to see if we have really squashed it and about three to six months ideally, and lots of uncertainty in that, to see at which point we can get back to normal. And it is plausible it could go further than that.”

Scotland’s Chief Medical Officer, Dr Catherine Calderwood, said that movement restrictions to halt the spread of coronavirus would be needed “for at least 13 weeks” following from the point of last week’s lockdown to see if they had effectively slowed down the rate of cases. She said anything shorter risked the virus coming back adding that the experience of other countries showed that strict measures were needed. Both medical officers agreed that the complication which gives rise to extreme caution in dealing with Covid-19 surrounds the fact that it has an incubation period of up to two weeks and then, when people become sick, they are ill for between two and three weeks.

Both also say the timescale depends on how far the general public complies with the rules of the lockdown and social distancing.

“The initial discussion from Boris Johnson about a review after the Easter weekend, was scientifically based to allow three weeks from the very stringent measures, to have the data to see if they were having the desired effect,” she said.

“If they are not having the effect, I’m afraid more stringent measures would need to be put in place.  

“But whatever we are doing to combat the virus with that incumbation and recovery [period], we have to have some sort of measures in place for at least 13 weeks.”

Meanwhile, medical chiefs in Scotland believe the nation has enough life-saving ventilators to cope with the peak of the coronavirus outbreak.

On Friday, Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who is in isolation after testing positive for Covid-19,  made a plea to US President Donald Trump for ventilators to treat patients with coronavirus on Friday after failing to take part in an EU scheme.

But Dr Calderwood said Scotland had already doubled capacity and that, before the current outbreak, there were plans to quadruple ventilator capacity in the country. She said: “Depending on how well these suppression measures work, we think we are coming close to having enough ventilators for the peak of the virus outbreak.

“We have orders coming from countries across the world, I understand some from Germany cleared customs in Folkestone on Friday and are making their way to Scotland and we now have a group of all four UK nations talking about where the ventilators coming into the country should go and they will be distributed on clinical need across the four countries.”

Professor Jason Leitch, Scotland’s national clinical director, said: “We are as confident as we can be as the world seeks those ventilators that we will get them.”

Meanwhile, Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove admitted there was “communication confusion” after the Government missed the deadline to join a  European Union scheme to get extra ventilators amid the coronavirus outbreak.

It comes after the official spokesman for the Prime Minister said the UK had decided against joining the EU’s procurement scheme – since it is no longer a member of the bloc – earlier this week.

The Government was further accused of missing out of up to 25,000 ventilators by failing to respond to an offer from a British firm.

Direct Access, a company based in Nantwich, Cheshire, and a supplier to the NHS, contacted the health department early last week after acquiring an initial 5,000 ventilators. 

It followed up two days later with an additional offer of 50 million coronavirus testing kits.

But its email went unanswered, despite further appeals, and the ventilators were snapped up by 

other countries.

In a separate development, Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick said the UK was on “emergency footing” in a way “unprecedented” in peacetime.

He also told a Downing Street briefing yesterday on Sunday that masses of personal protective equipment (PPE) were being delivered to NHS staff, including 170 million masks.

The announcement follows concerns raised by medical professionals about a lack of protective equipment in NHS hospitals amid global shortages.

Mr Jenrick said: “We simply cannot and should not ask people to be on the frontline without the right protective equipment.

“We have a clear plan to ensure that those serving this country as this time have the right equipment.”

The Communities Secretary said the Government had established a “national supply distribution response team” – supported by the Armed Forces and other emergency services – to deliver PPE to those in need.

Among the items are some 42.8m gloves, 13.7m aprons, 182,000 gowns, almost 10m items of cleaning equipment and 2.3m pairs of eye protectors.

“All delivered to 58,000 NHS trusts and healthcare settings, including GP surgeries, pharmacies and community providers,” Mr Jenrick said.

“Every single GP practice, dental practice and community pharmacy has had a PPE delivery. All care homes, hospices, and home care providers have, or will shortly, receive a delivery.”

But the British Dental Association, which represents dentists in the UK, disputed the claim all dental practices had received fresh supplies of PPE.

Its chairman, Mick Armstrong, said: “We can do without Cabinet ministers talking about non-existent deliveries of masks to practices that have ceased all non-urgent care.

“The reality is dentists are busy fielding calls from patients in pain, 

but with nowhere to send them.“Weeks have been lost that should have been spent setting up properly equipped emergency dental service.”

In a direct appeal to frontline workers, Mr Jenrick said the Government “will not stop” until healthcare settings are provided with the equipment they need.

“To NHS and social care workers, all those who rely on this equipment, and to their families and loved ones watching this afternoon, we understand and we will not stop until we have got you the equipment that you need.” he said.

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Business Secretary Alok Sharma has relaxed rules so companies can fast-track the manufacture of PPE, providing it meets safety requirements.

Meanwhile, the Prime Minister also revealed yesterday that  20,000 former NHS staff had returned to the service to help in the fight against the coronavirus outbreak. “Thank you to everybody who’s now coming back into the NHS in such huge numbers,” said Mr Johnson.

His comment came as new field hospital called the Nightingale Hospital, with a capacity of 4,000, is also being prepared at the ExCel Centre in London. It will initially contain 500 beds.