Another surge in coronavirus cases is inevitable, Professor Chris Whitty warned, as the country marked a year since the first lockdown began.
England’s chief medical officer said there would be “bumps and twists on the road”, possibly including the emergence of new variants and shortages in vaccine supplies.
His comments came as people across the UK have taken part in a minute’s silence to remember Covid-19 victims after a terrible 12 months.
MPs and peers in both Houses of Parliament and ministers in the devolved nations marked the anniversary at midday, while NHS and social care workers also joined the pause for reflection.
Cathedrals in Blackburn, Winchester, Gloucester and York also fell silent in honour of those who have died during the pandemic.
The Queen reflected on the “grief and loss felt by so many” as she paid tribute to the service of health and care workers in a message to St Bartholomew’s Hospital, where the Duke of Edinburgh had heart surgery.
Speaking at a public health conference organised by the Local Government Association and Association of Directors of Public Health, Prof Whitty said: “This is a sad day, really.
Today, the anniversary of the first lockdown, is an opportunity to reflect on the past year – one of the most difficult in our country’s history. pic.twitter.com/Y7yt8OoRMW
— Boris Johnson (@BorisJohnson) March 23, 2021
“The path from here on in does look better than the last year but there are going to be lots of bumps and twists on the road from here on in.
“There will definitely be another surge at some point, whether it’s before winter or in the next winter, we don’t know.
“Variants are going to cause problems, there will be stock-outs of vaccines and no doubt there will be multiple problems at a national level but also at a local level – school outbreaks, prison outbreaks, all the things that people are dealing with on a daily basis.”
Later on Tuesday the London Eye, Tate Britain, Blackpool Tower, the Scottish Parliament, Belfast City Hall and other buildings will be lit in yellow to mark the day.
The public are also being urged to stand on their doorsteps at 8pm with a candle or light.
The Prime Minister, who has offered his “sincere condolences to those who have lost loved ones”, observed the minute’s silence privately and will lead a No 10 press conference later.
It came on the day new figures from the Office for National Statistics showed a total of 149,117 people have had Covid-19 recorded on their death certificate since the pandemic began.
Earlier, Downing Street said Mr Johnson had reflected with Cabinet ministers on Tuesday on what had been “a very dark and difficult year” for the nation.
A No 10 spokesman said: “The PM said that we mourn all those we have lost and send our deepest sympathies to their families, friends and loved ones.
“The PM said the last year had also shown the great strengths of the British public, which had demonstrated such resilience and fortitude and had shown such willingness to work together for a common good.”
Earlier, Health Secretary Matt Hancock said there are currently no plans to put all of Europe on the travel “red list” after the prospect was raised on Monday by health minister Lord Bethell.
The red list currently forces British nationals and people who are normally resident in the UK to quarantine in a Government-approved hotel for 10 days.
Mr Hancock, who spoke to his Spanish counterpart on Monday about whether travel could resume safely, told LBC: “We don’t have any plans to do that.
“We do have this red list and the amber list, and at the moment that is working well, so we don’t have plans to do that.”
He told BBC Breakfast that current border measures were protecting the UK from new variants, some of which have been shown to evade a degree of immunity offered by vaccines.
He added: “The question is whether we’ll be able to release any of these measures over the summer.
“I entirely understand people’s yearning to get away and have a summer holiday, and we’re looking at that question right now as part of the global travel taskforce, which will report in the middle of next month.
“The earliest that will take any steps will be May 17 but, obviously, we’re taking a cautious approach because we want any openings that we make to be irreversible.”
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer was among those who joined the minute’s silence to remember those who have lost their lives.
Earlier, he tweeted: “As we mark one year since our country entered the first lockdown, my thoughts are with all those who have lost loved ones since the pandemic began.”
Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said her thoughts were with “everyone who continues to make heartbreaking sacrifices as we continue to navigate our way through this terrible ordeal, together”.
Elsewhere, Professor Calum Semple, a member of the Government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage), said he thought a third wave of coronavirus could potentially hit in the summer.
“The concern at present is that in countries where there’s less vaccination and a very strong third wave, that’s the perfect breeding ground for further variants of concern,” he said.
“So, at this point, Britain has got its act together, the concern is as this third wave is going on elsewhere, that will generate new variations.
“Even within Britain there is a likelihood of a third wave in potentially July and August time, when we do unlock society.”