The study, which was published on Tuesday in the medical journal Science, will surely come as a heavy blow as governments around the world have announced they are starting seeing the first effects of the measures.
The models used in the Harvard study warned that sporadic social distancing measures may be needed to prevent a coronavirus resurgence in the population.
Lifting measures all at once may potentially delay the peak of infections.
It also holds that a second surge of coronavirus may be more severe if lockdowns are simply lifted quickly.
It ultimately warns that a single period of social distancing will most likely not be enough to fight the virus.
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The study said: “We projected that recurrent wintertime outbreaks of SARS-CoV-2 will probably occur after the initial, most severe pandemic wave.
“Absent other interventions, a key metric for the success of social distancing is whether critical care capacities are exceeded.
“To avoid this, prolonged or intermittent social distancing may be necessary into 2022.
“Additional interventions, including expanded critical care capacity and an effective therapeutic, would improve the success of intermittent distancing and hasten the acquisition of herd immunity.”
It also added that surveillance on the virus “should be maintained since a resurgence in contagion could be possible as late as 2024”.
The researchers used data on seasonality from other known human coronaviruses to build a model of multi-year interactions, assuming some cross-immunity between them and COVID-19.
Their model investigates how long social distancing measures need to stay in place to maintain control of COVID-19, projecting its potential dynamics over the next five years.
Researchers say based on the simulations, the key factor in coming years is the rate at which virus immunity disappears, which scientists are yet to determine.
The researchers say that under all scenarios simulated, including one-time and intermittent social distancing, infections resurge when the social distancing measures are lifted.
In the UK, lockdown and distancing measures are set to expire on Thursday, but are likely to be extended.
Bronwen Maddox, director of the think-tank, Institute for Government said to Sky that until a vaccine is created there won’t be a “real exit plan back to normal life”.
She added: “(The UK government) will try with models to very carefully build up a picture of what happens if you release this or that, but they really don’t want to encourage people to lift it all at once.
“There is some debate about whether schools are or aren’t a big help in containing infection at the moment.
“We’re going to have to start looking at both areas of greatest economic cost and least medical risk in trying to edge our way out of this.”