While cases and deaths continue to increase in the UK – and are expected to continue increasing for a week to 10 days – the end of the lockdown is still a while away.
Professor Neil Ferguson of Imperial College, who reports to the government, said he could not predict exactly when the lock would be lifted.
“The end of the lockdown will depend on what happens with this epidemic – how quickly the number of cases decreases,” he said.
“It is no use, after going through this effort, to release a lock at a point where the number of cases is still high and will reappear more quickly than we have seen before.
“We want the number of cases to reach a low point where we can begin to substitute other measures for the most intrusive and economical aspects of the current lockdown.
“It is almost certain that these additional measures will involve intensive testing, amounting to trying to identify case contacts and stop the chains of transmission.
“It can only be done when we have a lot of cases a day that we currently have.”
Asked about the potential final outcome, Professor Ferguson said: “It is very difficult to make predictions at the moment.
“What we have is an exponential growth curve in infections that we stopped at some point. We cannot say in terms of infections precisely where we are on this curve, we currently do not have the possibility to measure the number of people infected.
“It will come with antibody tests, so we are doing statistical estimates and we think that (the death toll) could be anywhere between 7,000 and around to just over 20,000.”
The UK Deputy Medical Director said that certain lock-in rules could remain in place for six months.
– What is the UK exit strategy?
No specific exit strategy has yet been developed, although Professor Neil Ferguson of Imperial College, who advises the government, said experts are examining it in detail this week.
The end of the lockdown will depend on a substantial slowdown in the Covid-19 epidemic – the so-called “flattening of the curve” – and a downward trend, which has not yet occurred in the United Kingdom. United.
The number of deaths is also continuing to rise as the UK nears the peak of its epidemic, which is expected to happen within 10 to 10 days.
– Will the virus return?
The virus is still there. Simply letting people go back to normal life all at once will no doubt lead to a second wave of coronavirus cases and the reintroduction of severe restrictions.
So the goal is to gradually lift the control cover while watching what happens with the spread of Covid-19 in the community.
If cases can be kept lower – and the NHS can cope – then restrictions can slowly be lifted.
This could include a series of “short broadcasts”, such as lifting controls by region or asking vulnerable people and those most at risk to stay at home.
This could imply the reopening of schools or certain companies authorized to open their doors.
A Covid-19 test center behind the wheel of the Belfast SSE Arena parking lot (Niall Carson / PA)
– And the tests?
Experts agree that further testing is needed to break the UK out of the lockdown.
At present, the UK has little control over the number of people currently infected and the proportion who can already be immunized against the disease.
The great hope is that an antibody test will soon prove reliable enough to be sold on the street so that people who have had the virus can resume their normal lives.
But these tests have so far given poor results, and none have been deemed good enough to be widely used by Public Health England (PHE).
Once the virus is circulating at a low level, experts also hope to resume contact tracing in the hopes of controlling future epidemics.
This involves isolating the infected, finding the contacts of everyone they have been in contact with, and stopping the chain of transmission.
– Are we close to receiving a vaccine?
At best, most scientists believe it will take 12 months for a vaccine to protect against the coronavirus.
Many agree that people cannot stay indoors for that long.
So the hope is that, until a vaccine is available, some existing drugs could be reused to help reduce the severity of the disease.
Another option is to seek collective immunity – where so many people have already been infected with Covid-19 that the virus is struggling to spread.
Although the government insists that this is not a political goal, it may, over time, become a reality.