Some of the restrictions that have curtailed individual liberty in favour of limiting the spread of coronavirus may have to remain in place until the entire adult population is vaccinated, Public Health England’s (PHE) leading Covid-19 strategist has said.
PHE’s strategic response director Dr Susan Hopkins warned that some measures may be kept for even longer – with more needed to be known about the way the virus spreads before the nation can return to “life as it was”.
The government plans to have immunised everyone over 50 by the start of May, with health secretary Matt Hancock suggesting everyone in the country will have been offered a jab by autumn.
The nation has lived under measures designed to mitigate the the impact of Covid-19 since mid-March last year, when the first national lockdown was called.
“I think that we will need to watch very carefully as we ease up in these national restrictions, taking time to watch and monitor at each phase,” Dr Hopkins told Sky News.
“I think that once we get to a very low level of community [spread], we will need to have ongoing measures in place until the adult population are vaccinated.
“What those measures are, we will have to watch and see, but I think it is really important that we keep the rates as low as possible for as long as possible this year.”
She added: “I think we are going to have to have some measures in place until the whole population are vaccinated, at least all of the adult population.
“And even then I think we will need to know more about transmission before we can release everything and get back to life as it was.”
Her comments came as The Times reported the government’s strategies for emerging from lockdown have been based on 1m distancing and mask-wearing being the norm for months to come.
“The thinking is that social distancing will need to be in place for a long time to come,” a Whitehall source told the publication.
“It has repercussions for the scale of any reopening. Restaurants, pubs and offices will all need to be Covid-secure.”