GOVERNMENT advisers said stricter social distancing policies may have to be rolled out next month if the death toll continued to rise.

The measures would be introduced in three weeks as the outbreak reached its peak to further reduce "person-to-person interaction".

This week France announced that individuals could only exercise alone – unless with children – for a maximum of an hour and within 1,000 yards of their homes.

Spain and Italy have banned exercise altogether, and there are concerns that Britons are deliberately misinterpreting the guidance by travelling to beauty spots miles from their homes.

A senior government adviser suggested the figures would continue to rise for at least the next three weeks, meaning the peak is likely to hit at Easter.

The adviser said hospitals "should be OK", but admitted "we can't guarantee it" and stressed some intensive care units may struggle to cope.

And should the number of deaths rise significantly, "greater enforcement" of social distancing policies would have to be introduced.

This would include "anything that can be done to push it (down) further" and prevent people catching the disease.

The adviser told the MailOnline: "I expect death numbers to increase over two, three or four weeks, and then to gradually decrease."

Officials were generally "very happy" with the levels of compliance with social distancing guidance, despite some Britons travelling some distance to beauty spots in the Peak District and Yorkshire Dales to exercise.

The advice says the public should leave their house only to shop for groceries, provide or receive medical care, travel to work or exercise, which is limited to once a day.

The total number of confirmed cases in the UK now stands at 14,543, up from 11,658.

But this is a huge underestimate of the true figure as most patients with the virus are not being tested.