Here's how long restrictions are expected to last as UK tightens measures against Covid-19

Tuesday, 17th March 2020, 3:32 pm
Updated Tuesday, 17th March 2020, 3:33 pm

The coronavirus has brought with it mass lockdowns, quarantines and uncertainty for many.

It's not an easy time to be living in, full of anxiety and worry, so just when can we expect the pandemic to come to an end?

Here's everything you need to know:

When will coronavirus end?

At the time of writing, nobody has any real idea of when the coronavirus pandemic will come to an end.

Some estimates predict the worst of it to be over in a couple of months, with lockdown and quarantine measures lifted by then also.

But other models suggest we could see draconian attempts at controlling the virus for another 18 months or so, until a proven vaccine is developed and distributed across the world.

There so much left to learn about this most new of viruses, but even once scientists have a better understanding of its mechanics, the unprecedented nature of the outbreak means there will still be many uncertainties.

We could be in this for the long haul.

How will coronavirus end?

Coronavirus will be downgraded from a pandemic once it no longer matches the specifications put in place by the World Health Organisation.

Currently, a pandemic is described as having increased and sustained transmission throughout the general populous, across one or more continents.

Once new instances of coronavirus start to decrease, and the number of affected of areas begins to lower, it will likely see this downgrade.

It could still be some time after that until the disease is brought completely under control worldwide though, and areas with less developed health systems could still struggle with the virus for years to come.

What will make it stop?

How the disease is eventually brought under control is also not set in stone.

One possibility is that cases of the disease will start decreasing when enough people develop immunity, either through infection or vaccination.

A much more alarming scenario suggests that Covid-19 will eventually just become a commonplace respiratory disease, and will never really leave us.

You can take some solace in the fact that if that were to be the case, medical research into treatment of the disease would likely have accelerated to the point where the coronavirus is treatable for a large demographic of people.

But how long any of this will take is essentially anybody's guess at this point.

Based on fresh information from other countries grappling with serious outbreaks including Italy, a Imperial College Covid-19 Response Team study found that coronavirus could lead to as many as 250,000 UK deaths and a health system put into chaos, with “surge limits” for general ward and intensive care beds exceeded by at least eight-fold.

Professor Neil Ferguson, a lead author of the Imperial College study and a member of the government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage), said it had become “increasingly clear” that the worst case scenario was becoming the “most likely” unless the government changed tack, he told Radio 4’s Today programme.

This suppression measure - urging the entire population to undergo social distancing and avoid pubs, restaurants and theatres, and work from home - is certainly drastic and will affect the way everyone lives their lives for months.

The paper warns that, in order to work comprehensively, suppression would ideally need to continue until a vaccine is developed, which could be for 18 months.

Coronavirus: the facts

What is coronavirus?

COVID-19 is a respiratory illness that can affect lungs and airways. It is caused by a virus called coronavirus.

What caused coronavirus?

The outbreak started in Wuhan in China in December 2019 and it is thought that the virus, like others of its kind, has come from animals.

How is it spread?

As this is such a new illness, experts still aren’t sure how it is spread.

But similar viruses are spread in cough droplets. Therefore covering your nose and mouth when sneezing and coughing, and disposing of used tissues straight away is advised. Viruses like coronavirus cannot live outside the body for very long.

What are the symptoms?

The NHS states that the symptoms are: a dry cough, high temperature and shortness of breath - but these symptoms do not necessarily mean you have the illness.

Look out for flu-like symptoms, such as aches and pains, nasal congestion, runny nose and a sore throat.

It’s important to remember that some people may become infected but won’t develop any symptoms or feel unwell.

What precautions can be taken?

Washing your hands with soap and water thoroughly.

The NHS also advises to cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve (not your hands) when you cough or sneeze; put used tissues in the bin immediately and try to avoid close contact with people who are unwell.

Also avoiding touching eyes, nose and mouth unless your hands are clean.

Government advice

As of the 12 March the Government has moved into the "delay" phase of its plan to tackle coronavirus.

Advice is that anyone with a continuous cough or high temperature should self-isolate for seven days.

People over 70 have been advised not to go on cruises and schools advised to cancel trips abroad, though schools remain open.

Should I avoid public places?

Most people who feel well can continue to go to work, school and public places and should only stay at home and self isolate if advised by a medical professional or the coronavirus service.

What should I do if I feel unwell?

Don’t go to your GP but instead call NHS 111 or look online at the coronavirus service that can tell you if you need medical help and what to do next.

When to call NHS 111

NHS 111 should be used if you feel unwell with coronavirus symptoms, have been in a country with a high risk of coronavirus in the last 14 days or if you have been in close contact with someone with the virus.

Sources: World Health Organisation and NHS