Covid variants mean UK 'won't be back to normal this time next year' with masks & social distancing, warns Prof Lockdown

BRITS may still need to wear masks and social distance in 2022 due to new Covid variants, Professor Lockdown has warned.

Prof Neil Ferguson said some restrictions could be in place "for much of this year" as the UK's vaccine program will not "allow us to go completely back to normal".

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The epidemiologist, whose modelling led to the first Covid lockdown, said the current vaccine rollout will have a "very major effect on deaths" but another will be needed in the autumn to "deal with new variants".

Speaking of the nation's jab progress, he told Sky News on Tuesday: “It’s not going to allow us to go completely back to normal – certainly not until the autumn."

Prof Ferguson added: "There will be new things we can’t predict precisely, like the waning of immunity, like new variants coming up, which means there will be some residual need to maintain some social distancing, mask wearing, probably for much of this year."

But the top scientist, who stepped down from his government role last year after breaking Covid rules, hopes things will "look a lot more normal" this time next year.

“Maybe there will still be mask wearing for mass gatherings and things like that but I very much doubt we will be anything like where we are now,” he said.

It comes just days after Tim Spector, a professor of genetic epidemiology at King's College London said social distancing measures and masks may be kept far beyond current lockdown measures despite the vaccine rollout.

I can't see us having massive weddings with people coming from all over the world, I think for the next few years those days are gone.

Professor Spector told Times Radio that he "can't see us suddenly having another Cheltenham Festival with no regulations again".

He added: "I can't see us having massive weddings with people coming from all over the world, I think for the next few years those days are gone."

Under the current rules, wedding ceremonies are limited to six people and audiences are banned from attending sporting events.

Prof Spector said of social distancing and other measures: "I think we need to get used to that and that will allow us to do the things we really want to do more easily and more readily."

The rule of six outside should be "definitely encouraged" when restrictions are lifted on people able to meet others outside too, he stressed.

Ministers are starting to put together plans to ease the lockdown from March 8.

Boris Johnson is due to look at the data next week, and will address Brits on the roadmap out of lockdown on February 22.

MPs have said that once Britain's top nine most vulnerable groups have been vaccinated – which is expected by May – all Covid restrictions should be lifted.

But the PM has stressed he is taking a "cautious approach" and nothing will be lifted before March 8.

A senior government source said: "We will proceed cautiously and carefully to open up based on the best available scientific evidence and data and to avoid a resurgence in the virus.

"The Prime Minister has been clear that our first step must be to reopen schools."

Professor Ferguson became known as "Professor Lockdown" last year after telling the Government in mid-March that more than 500,000 could die in a "catastrophic epidemic" of coronavirus.

The top scientist later resigned from his Government position after he was caught breaking social distancing rules to visit his married lover, Antonia Staats – despite telling the public to adhere to the restrictions due to warnings of a higher mortality rate.

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