“The majority of scientific opinion in this country is still firmly of the view that there will be another wave of Covid at some stage this year and so we must as far as possible learn to live with this disease,” he told a news briefing on Tuesday.

The PM added that with record infection levels around the world, “we cannot delude ourselves that Covid has gone away.”

He also said he saw nothing in the data to suggest the UK would have to deviate from its “cautious but irreversible” roadmap out of lockdown.

Johnson also announced the creation of a new antivirals taskforce to help with the search for new medicines and support their development in clinical trials in order to make them available by the autumn.

He said the treatments could include a tablet that would stop people with Covid-19 becoming severely ill, or a pill to prevent someone contracting the virus from close contacts who are infected.

The PM did not say if such treatments were currently being trialled.

The UK was the first country to repurpose dexamethasone to treat Covid-19, Johnson said. The drug is usually used to treat severe allergies, skin conditions and inflammation.