Britons have been told they will have to social distance for the entire year to stop the coronavirus outbreak.
The government's emergency response scientists have issued the new warning in a stark report as the crisis continues to unfold.
The S.A.G.E – Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies – says social distancing would need to be in place for at least a year.
It says this would be needed to tackle the spread of the virus that has killed 144 people in the UK so far.
The advice states that current rules on avoiding unnecessary travel, social gatherings and pubs and restaurants, could be lifted intermittently for a short while at a time.
However, it adds that this would then allow the virus to surge again so restrictions would need to be put back in place.
If this happened, the entire period of on-off restrictions would need to be spread over at least most of a year – with at least six of the 12 months having the restrictions "on".
The report states: "It was agreed that a policy of alternating between periods of more and less strict social distancing measures could plausibly be effective at keeping the number of critical care cases within capacity.
"These would need to be in place for at least most of a year.
"Under such as policy, at least half of the year would be spent under the stricter social distancing measures."
The new findings appear to clash with Prime Minister Boris Johnson's claim last night that Britain could "turn the tide" on the Covid-19 virus within 12 weeks.
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