Boris Johnson has admitted we will only be “well on the way past” coronavirus by “the middle of next year”.
The PM gave a bleak assessment as he announced plans for a possible second wave.
He added: “I do still think that we have tough times ahead in keeping this virus under control. And we have tough times ahead in coming through economically.”
It comes days after Mr Johnson predicted “a more significant return to normality from November, at the earliest, possibly in time for Christmas”.
The PM also previously claimed we’d “turn the tide” on Covid-19 in just 12 weeks to June.
Mr Johnson’s comments today came as he launched the “biggest ever” flu vaccination programme to ease strain on the NHS this winter, with all over-50s getting a free jab.
In an interview with Sky News, the PM also suggested the virus may have come from “the love that flowers between a bat and a pangolin”.
Scientists widely believe the virus had animal origins but debate is continuing over exactly what they were.
The PM also gave a non-apology for refusing to apologise over his own mistakes in the pandemic.
He said: “Certainly I’m sorry if I don’t apologise. Put it like that.”
The Prime Minister has been warned by medical experts to use July and August, while the incidence of Covid-19 is low, to prepare for a second wave.
As of July 17 around 1 in 2,300 people were infected in the community in England. But government advisors say the virus will spread quicker in cold temperatures and when more people are huddled indoors.
Meanwhile, while initial results are promising, there is still no viable vaccine for Covid-19.
SAGE expert Sir Jeremy Farrar this week warned humanity would be living with the virus for decades.
Mr Johnson told Sky today: “Whether it came from the love that flowers between a bat and a pangolin or however it emerged, it’s been a very very nasty thing for the human race.
“And I think that by the middle of next year we will be well on the way past it.
“But I must be clear with people I do still think that we have tough times ahead in keeping this virus under control.
“And we have tough times ahead in coming through economically.
“But I have absolutely no doubt that we are going to and this country is going to bounce back stronger than ever before.”
Mr Johnson claimed the nation would “turn the tide” on coronavirus within 12 weeks on March 19.
He said: “I do think, looking at it all, that we can turn the tide within the next 12 weeks.
“And I am absolutely confident that we can send coronavirus packing in this country but only if we take the steps, we all take the steps we have outlined.”
Downing Street later suggested his comments were about getting past the peak of the virus – which happened in mid-April.