Boris Johnson says Britain will be 'well on the way past' coronavirus 'by the middle of next year'
Boris Johnson has predicted the coronavirus pandemic will last for another year (PA)
Boris Johnson has said Britain will be "well on the way past" coronavirus "by the middle of next year".
The Prime Minister refused to give "predictions" on when social distancing measures would be ended in the UK, saying it would depend on the UK's "continued ability to drive down" the infection.
And he suggested the pandemic will remain a factor of life for another 12 months.
Speaking during a visit to a medical center in East London, Mr Johnson also warned Britain was still facing "tough times ahead" with a looming economic crisis and the continued impact of the virus.
But he said he had "no doubt" the country would "bounce back" from the crisis.
"It's been a very, very nasty thing for the human race. And I think that by the middle of next year we will be well on the way past it," he said.
"But I must be clear with people I do still think that we have tough times ahead in keeping this virus under control.
"And we have tough times ahead in coming through, economically.
"But I've absolutely no doubt that we are going to, and this country is going to, bounce back stronger than ever before."
The prediction of a mid-2021 recovery comes just a week after Mr Johnson used a Downing Street briefing to set out his amibition for the UK to have a "significant return to normality" by Christmas.
And in June, Mr Johnson insisted the UK had "turned the tide" on the illness, saying the measures taken by the Government had saved "many, many tens of thousands of lives at least".
But pressed on Friday on whether that meant new rules on the use of face masks and the current social distancing guidelines could be short lived, Mr Johnson said it would depend on how quickly local outbreaks could be "stamped on".
"I'm not going to make a prediction about when these various social distancing measures will come off. Obviously we'd be able to reduce some of them," he said.
"We no longer ask people to stay at home. We're trying to get back much closer to normal, but our ability to dispense with the social distancing measures will depend on our continued ability to drive down the virus.
"I'm not going to give you a trigger point, a trigger moment. But we need to make sure that we've really really got it under control, we're able to stamp on local outbreaks."
He added: "And we've really greatly reduced the risk of a second spike.
"So my message to people, over the next few, few months is: we've done very well in it the virus is under control, in this country to a very large extent, but it is still there.
"And if you look at what's happening in other countries, there is clearly a risk that it could come back again.
"So we do need to maintain those social distancing measures we do need to keep washing our hands.
"In shops, on public transport: in places where you're going to be close to people that you don't normally meet, face coverings are a good idea, and that will remain the case, until we've made a lot more progress."