Face masks and social distancing could still be needed ‘for a few years’ - according to an immunisation expert

Monday, 22nd March 2021, 10:19 am
Updated Monday, 22nd March 2021, 10:20 am
Face masks and social distancing could still be needed ‘for a few years’ - according to an immunisation expert (Photo: Shutterstock)
Face masks and social distancing could still be needed ‘for a few years’ - according to an immunisation expert (Photo: Shutterstock)

The wearing of face masks and social distancing could remain a routine part of daily life for several years, according to a leading PHE scientist.

Dr Mary Ramsay, head of immunisation at Public Health England, recommended caution, despite celebrations following the news that 27 million people in the UK have received a first dose of a Covid-19 vaccination, after delivering a record 844,285 doses in a single day.

‘Very important we do not relax too quickly’

Speaking to the BBC about the prospects of a return to normality, Dr Ramsay said: “I think certainly for a few years, at least until other parts of the world are as well vaccinated as we are, and the numbers have come down everywhere, that is when we may be able to go very gradually back to a more normal situation.”

She added that it is “very important that we do not relax too quickly”, suggesting the UK will “have to look very carefully before any of these restrictions are lifted.”

Asked about whether people should make plans about travelling across the continent this summer, Dr Ramsay said: “I think just everyone has to wait and see, the situation changes so quickly. Numbers are going up at the moment in continental Europe, and that is very concerning.

“Hopefully they will get their vaccine programmes on track a bit more and that will bring those down.”

Cases are surging in several countries in Europe, including France and Germany, which is believed to have been caused by the variant first discovered in the UK. France saw new Covid-19 cases rise above 25,000 this week, as Paris entered a new lockdown on Friday (19 March).

Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) adviser Andrew Hayward urged caution to the UK public about the possibility of another wave hitting the country, but said the impact could be less, due to the UK’s efforts at tackling the virus so far.

Speaking to Times Radio he said: “I think another wave is possible - likely, even.

"I guess the difference is that another wave will cause substantially fewer deaths and hospitalisations because of high levels of vaccination across the sorts of people who would have ended up in hospital or unfortunately dying if they haven't been vaccinated.

"So the consequences of another wave are less. I think the challenge is of course we don't know exactly how much less.”