'Long covid' refers to the picture of symptoms that remain after recovery from Covid-19 infection, which includes fatigue, breathlessness, chest pain and cognitive disturbances such as lack of memory and concentration.

Chris Whitty said that while he expected the number of deaths to be "much lower" proportionally compared to previous waves, the "long covid remains a concern".

"Given that the contagion numbers are going up, that means that in the future we will have a significant amount of long covid, especially at younger ages where vaccination rates are currently much lower," the doctor said at the Local Government Association's virtual conference, quoted by Bloomberg news agency.

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced on Monday, 5 July, that he intends to end social distancing from 19 July, with a final decision to be made next week.

On this fear, England's director-general of health has argued that the UK must do all it can to reduce coronavirus rates and ensure everyone is vaccinated to avoid a large increase in "long covid".

The medical officer warned that people should not expect a quick return to normal after the restrictions are lifted, adding that he would be "surprised" if Britain returned to pre-covid status as early as next spring.