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In England, epidemiologist predicts masks and social distancing ‘could last years’

Posted: Thursday, March 25, 2021. 5:40 pm CST.

By Aaron Humes: The BBC quotes Mary Ramsay, the head of immunization at Public Health England, as saying basic measures to protect against COVID-19 could be in place there until other countries successfully roll out jabs, meaning people may need to wear face coverings and socially distance for several years until we return to normality.

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

Dr. Ramsay further 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”, despite nearly 900 thousand Britons being vaccinated.

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.

Professor Chris Whitty, the UK government’s chief medical adviser, told Members of Parliament 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”.

The government’s roadmap for easing lockdown in England states all legal limits on social contact will be removed no earlier than 21 June.

In the second release of restrictions on Monday 29 March, people will be able to mix outdoors with up to five others in a return to the so-called “rule of six”.

Outdoor sport and leisure facilities can also reopen, organized outdoor sports are allowed once more, and outdoor parent and child groups with up to 15 parents can meet.

In Scotland, communal worship resumes on 26 March. In Wales, supermarkets can sell non-essential items from Monday, and garden centers can open. And in Northern Ireland, six people from two households can meet in private gardens from 1 April.

The government established a review of measures to control coronavirus from the summer onwards last month.


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