Masks and social distancing may be needed for several years: UK epidemiologist

People may need to wear face masks and observe social distancing for several years until we return to normality, a leading epidemiologist has said.

Public Health England’s head of immunisation, Mary Ramsay on Sunday 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”.

Warning the government must “look very carefully before any restrictions are lifted”, Dr Ramsay also said a return of big spectator events required careful monitoring and clear instructions about staying safe.

“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 told the BBC.

Professor Chris Whitty previously told UK MPs “simple interventions like washing hands, face masks where appropriate, test-and-trace, and above all vaccines” would hopefully keep the virus controlled beyond the roadmap out of lockdown.

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.