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Coronavirus: It could take six months or more to get back to normal, medical officer says

PUBLISHED: 17:16 29 March 2020 | UPDATED: 12:01 30 March 2020

Deputy chief medical officer Jenny Harries. Pic: Pippa Fowles/Crown Copyright/10 Downing Street/PA Wire

Deputy chief medical officer Jenny Harries. Pic: Pippa Fowles/Crown Copyright/10 Downing Street/PA Wire

It could be six months or longer before the country gets back to normal after the coronavirus pandemic, the England’s deputy chief medical officer has said.

Dr Jenny Harries told a Downing Street press conference that the government would review lockdown measures in three weeks time.

She said people had taken “quite some time to get used to this new way of living”, but there was evidence the country was getting better at social distancing.

She added: “The issue of the three weeks is for us to review where we are and see if we’ve had an impact jointly on the slope of that curve.

“But I think to make it clear to the public if we are successful we will have squashed the top of that curve, which is brilliant, but we must not then suddenly 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.”

Prime minister Boris Johnson has written to every home urging people to stay indoors, apart from exceptions such as getting essential food, assisting the vulnerable and to go to work, for those who are unable to work at home.

When asked whether the country would be on lockdown for the next six months, Dr Harries said: “We actually anticipate our numbers will get worse over the next week, possibly two, and then we are looking to see whether we have managed to push that curve down and we start to see a decline.”

She added: “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.”

The number of deaths of people who had tested positive for coronavirus in Norfolk has now risen to 10, after the death of a man at the James Paget University Hospital in Great Yarmouth. It was the first such death at the hospital.

Five people have died at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital and four at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in King’s Lynn.

NHS England confirmed that a further 190 people have died, taking the total number to 1,125. They were aged between 39 and 105, and all but four – aged between 57 and 87 – had underlying health conditions.

When asked whether the reporting of deaths was accurate, deputy chief medical officer Dr Jenny Harries said: “Every death that we have is a really sad event it involves a family and a lot of sadness.

“We have to make sure that when we’re reporting the family is content and knows and all our data is absolutely accurate.”

She added: “There is always a time lag for us to check and evaluate that the data across the system is linked. We do not want to be misreporting data and then having to correct it.

“The public would not have confidence if we were doing that. As we have sadly had to register more deaths, that time period takes longer. “

Communities secretary Robert Jenrick told the Downing Street briefing that all parts of the country are now on an “emergency footing”.

Speaking at the government’s daily press briefing he said: “This is an unprecedented step in peace time, we haven’t done anything like this since the Second World War.

“This means that we are establishing strategic coordination centres across the whole country.”

He said that millions of items of personal protective equipment (PPE) were being delivered to NHS staff.

“We simply cannot and should not ask people to be on the frontline without the right protective equipment,” he said.

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

Some 170 million masks and almost 10 million items of cleaning equipment are among the items being delivered to NHS trusts and healthcare settings, he said.

“All delivered to 58,000 NHS trusts and healthcare settings, including GP surgeries, pharmacies and community providers,” he told the briefing.

“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.”

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,” he told the briefing.

“We understand and we will not stop until we have got you the equipment you need.”

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