People may need to wear face coverings and social distance for several years until we return to normality, a leading epidemiologist has predicted.

Mary Ramsay, the head of immunization at Public Health England, said basic measures could be in place until other countries successfully roll out jabs.

She also said a return of big spectator events required careful monitoring and clear instructions about staying safe.

The defence secretary has not ruled out the foreign holiday ban being extended.

Ben Wallace told BBC One’s Andrew Marr Show that booking a break abroad now would be “premature” and “potentially risky”.

The UK set another record for the number of coronavirus vaccine doses given in a single day on Saturday, with 873,784 jabs.

Dr Ramsay said restrictions such as face coverings in crowded places and social distancing had become accepted by many and still allowed the economy to function.

She said “people have got used to those lower-level restrictions now, and people can live with them, and the economy can still go on with those less severe restrictions in place”.

“So 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.

Warning it was “very important that we do not relax too quickly”, Dr Ramsay said any circulating virus would inevitably pick on those who are vulnerable.

“We have to look very carefully before any of these restrictions are lifted,” she said.

Prof Chris Whitty, the UK government’s chief medical adviser, told MPs earlier this month that it was hoped “simple interventions like washing hands, face masks where appropriate, test-and-trace, and above all vaccines” would keep the virus controlled beyond the summer.
 
Sir Patrick Vallance, the chief scientific adviser, has also said face masks could be needed in certain situations if the number of infections rises in the winter, but that it was possible people will naturally behave in a way that promotes social distancing.

A group of government scientific advisers said last month that “maintaining a baseline of policies which reduce transmission” will be necessary for some time to come.

Those experts said these could include continuing test-and-trace, self-isolation, and public messaging that encourages “voluntary actions to reduce risks”.

Source: BBC

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