Prince William has admitted the possibility of indefinite social distancing without a coronavirus vaccine is ''quite frightening''.

The 38-year-old royal toured the laboratory at the Oxford Vaccine Group's facility at the Churchill Hospital in Oxford on Wednesday (24.06.20), and praised the scientists working ''non-stop'' to defeat Covid-19.

Speaking to Professor Sarah Gilbert, who is leading the clinical trial of a potential vaccine, and Professor Andrew Pollard, director of the vaccine group, William asked why they were ''so far ahead'' with their research.

He added: ''I was speaking to an expert the other day who said there were 1.5 million potential viruses that could hop from animals into humans. Hopefully this will be a wake up call to people.''

Professor Pollard explained the vaccine was ''pretty straightforward'' compared with other diseases, but admitted that without immunisation, preventing the virus from spreading would mean ''there is nothing we could do apart from social distancing forever''.

The prince replied: ''Quite frightening.''

William - who wore a mask and goggles during the visit - told the team he expected people would breathe ''a huge sigh of relief'' if they were able to ''crack it'' with their ''incredibly exciting and fascinating'' work.

He added ''When it is announced that you have cracked it people will breathe a huge sigh of relief. People want there to be some sort of finality to it.''

Professor Gilbert told the royal visitor it was ''very unlikely'' that their research won't be successful.

She said: ''I think it's very unlikely that we will not see anything. It may be we don't see the level of vaccine we would really like to see, so the question then would be how we improve on that.

''We really would expect to see something. The only question is how good it is and how long it will last.''

Ahead of his visit, the prince took part in a video call with those working in partnership between the University of Oxford and pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca and praised their ''good work'' in trying to ''end everyone's problems''.

He said: ''If we can amplify and exemplify what is going on here to the rest of the world... that's going to be the quickest and best way to end everyone's problems really, so please keep up the good work and just a huge well done.''