The next few weeks of the COVID-19 pandemic in the UK will be the worst as the new highly infectious variants of the virus rampage across the country, the British government's chief medical adviser for England says.
"The next few weeks are going to be the worst weeks of this pandemic in terms of numbers into the NHS (National Health Service)," Chris Whitty told BBC TV on Monday.
"What we need to do before the vaccines have had their effect, because it will take several weeks before that happens, we need to really double down."
Normal life will return after the pandemic but it is some way away and will depend on people sticking to lockdown rules and the mass rollout of the vaccines, Whitty said.
He said the death toll of 81,431 was "absolutely appalling".
Asked if life would ever return to normal, Whitty said: "I am confident we will go back to life as it was before at some point, that's not in doubt, that's the life we all want to lead."
Once vaccines are rolled out, he said, "people will be able to have the restrictions lifted. It won't happen in one go, and at a certain point, hopefully you'll get back to a life that is basically exactly the same as it was before."
"However, we're quite a long way away from that at the moment," Whitty said.