Francois Balloux, professor of computational systems biology and director of the University College London (UCL) Genetics Institute, said the current lockdown of around 16 million people in Italy will slow the spread of Covid-19 but "comes at a great cost to individuals, communities and the economy".
He added: "It is also not sustainable in the long term."
Italy has the highest number of confirmed cases outside of China at 7,375, and its death toll stands at 366.
Prof Balloux said "importing" cases into the UK through foreign travel may only play a small part in how the virus spreads in the UK.
But he added: "The trajectory of the epidemic in the UK is so far roughly comparable to the one in northern Italy, but with the epidemic in northern Italy two to three weeks ahead of the situation in the UK.
"It is possible that a lockdown strategy similar to the one imposed in northern Italy may be adopted by the UK and other countries at some point in the future.
"The Covid-19 epidemic cannot be contained anymore."