Physical distancing measures may need to be in place intermittently until 2022, scientists have warned in an analysis that suggests there could be resurgences of Covid-19 for years to come.
The paper, published in the journal Science, concludes that a one-time lockdown will not be sufficient to bring the pandemic under control and that secondary peaks could be larger than the current one without continued restrictions.
One scenario predicted a resurgence could occur as far in the future as 2025 in the absence of a vaccine or effective treatment.
Marc Lipsitch, a professor of epidemiology at Harvard and co-author of the study, said: “Infections spread when there are two things: infected people and susceptible people. Unless there is some enormously larger amount of herd immunity than we’re aware of … the majority of the population is still susceptible.
“Predicting the end of the pandemic in the summer [of 2020] is not consistent with what we know about the spread of infections.”
In its daily briefings, the UK government has not outlined plans beyond the current restrictions, but the latest paper adds to a building scientific consensus that physical distancing may be required for considerably longer in order to keep case numbers within hospitals’ critical care capacity.
Papers released by the government’s scientific advisory group for emergencies (Sage) in March suggested that the UK would need to alternate between periods of more and less strict physical distancing measures for a year to have a plausible chance of keeping the number of critical care cases within capacity.
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