The UK has “no clear strategy” to alleviate pressure on hospitals battling coronavirus beyond “reactive lockdowns”, a public health expert has said.

The country has seen some form of restrictions placed on the population for almost a year, said Professor Devi Sridhar, adding that it is “unrealistic” to expect people to adhere to rules for months on end.

The chairwoman of public health at Edinburgh University told Times Radio: “I think the larger issue here is the UK has no clear strategy beyond reactive lockdowns whenever hospitals are under pressure.

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“People have been in lockdown for almost a year and I think it is unrealistic for people to continue to distance and avoid mixing for months and months when it’s part of what makes us human.”

She added: “I see this slightly differently. We need a plan to stop these lockdowns, and to learn from other countries – those in east Asia and the Pacific – which are largely back to normal.”

Professor Devi Sridhar added that the UK could be forced back into lockdown if there is not a greater plan to combat Covid-19.

She warned the four nations will see cases rise again in the summer months if test and trace systems, mass testing and support packages for people self-isolating are not put in place.

On the matter, she said: “We are not at the mercy of this virus where whatever it does we have to react.

“We can dictate how this evolves but we need a bit more agency in being more proactive and ahead of it instead of always behind it.”

It comes as Health Secretary Matt Hancock said the NHS needed people to “stay at home” adding  “the pressure on the NHS is very, very bad”.

He told Sky News’ Sophy Ridge on Sunday programme: “It is a very, very serious situation in the NHS, especially in some parts of the country.

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“But actually we’ve got challenges throughout the whole of the UK and the NHS needs you now more than it’s needed anyone at any point and what it needs people to do is to stay at home.”

He added: “The single biggest thing that anybody can do is to follow the stay at home guidance.

HeraldScotland:

“There are limited exemptions. Only if you can’t work from home and if you need to go out and get shopping or take some exercise.

“But these are highly-limited for a good reason and that’s because the pressure on the NHS is very, very bad and we need to bring the case rate right down.

“So it’s on all of us really, it always has been a big team effort.”

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The warning comes as the total number of lab-confirmed cases of coronavirus in the UK yesterday exceeded three million since the outbreak began, according to the Government’s dashboard.

The Government also reported a further 1,035 people had died within 28 days of testing positive for Covid-19 as of Saturday.

It brings the UK total to 80,868.

Separate figures published by the UK’s statistics agencies for deaths where Covid-19 has been mentioned on the death certificate, together with additional data on deaths that have occurred in recent days, show there have now been 95,000 deaths involving Covid-19 in the UK.