ritain will not return to normal until next spring at the earliest as the NHS faces a “difficult winter”, the country’s chief medical officer has warned.

There will be further waves of coronavirus and the health service is gearing up to face a “surge” in cases, Chris Whitty told a conference of local government officers.

It comes as Prime Minister Boris Johnson moved to confirm the lifting of most lockdown measures still in place for July 19.

Prof Whitty also said that ending lockdown restrictions, including social distancing and wearing a face covering, risked a sharp rise in the number of people suffering from long Covid.

Health secretary Sajid Javid has already confirmed government modelling showed new cases of the virus could reach 100,000 a day over the summer.

Prof Whitty said: “I think there’ll almost certainly be a Covid surge and that will be on top of a return to a more normal respiratory surge.

“It’s going to take quite a long time I think to get back to a normality and I certainly would be surprised if we got back to what most of us see as a kind of status quo before the next spring.”

“I think that people who get the Delta variant and are unvaccinated are likely to have long Covid at roughly the same rates as people of the same age and gender as would have happened in any previous wave,” he said.

“Since there’s a lot of Covid at the moment and the rates are going up, I regret to say I think that we will get a significant amount more long Covid, particularly in the younger ages where the vaccination rates are currently much lower.

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