“There’s increasing pressure to reopen the economy and get people back to work and out of isolation,” said Professor William Sutherland of the University of Cambridge’s Department of Zoology, who led the study.

“But if we return to operating as we did before the pandemic, there will be a second wave of the virus. All activities will need to be considered individually and phased back in carefully, depending on the risk they pose to spreading the virus.”

Strict lockdown measures are putting a major strain on the population’s mental and physical health and on the economy, the researchers warn, with a mass vaccination not likely before the second half of 2021.

They say moving out of lockdown is essential, but that it is also crucial to keep the infection rate low.

Other suggestions include discouraging kissing and hugging outside family members or a “bubble” of close friends. Permits, self-declaration forms or letters of authority could be required to leave the home, as in France, and a 6pm curfew could be imposed.

Minimum spends could be brought in at shops to discourage short, frequent visits, and shopping trips could be allocated based on the first letter of people’s surnames, the study says. People could bring their own tools, such as tongs, to pick up shopping, and use probes to press PIN numbers or use a finger joint, rather than fingertip, to touch objects.

Showering could be encouraged upon returning home, while pet cats could be kept indoors during outbreaks to prevent the spreading of the virus to neighbouring households.

“It’s basically about how to stop people hanging around together, and phasing in activities starting with the ones that are the safest. Making this happen will be up to the people responsible for every element of society,” added Prof Sutherland.

Meanwhile, experts have warned that coronavirus will have a profound social, psychological and biological impact on Britons long after the lockdown ends, and have called for urgent research into the mental health effects of the pandemic.

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