Face coverings and social distancing may last for years to come, says expert

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Face Coverings And Social Distancing May Last For Years To Come, Says Expert
Mask-wearing and social distancing will continue for a 'long period of time'. Photo: PA
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By Luke Powell, PA

Social distancing measures and face coverings may be required for years to come, an immunisation expert has said.

Dr Mary Ramsay, the head of immunisation at England's public health agency, said “lower-level” restrictions could be in place for a “few years” until the rest of the world is better vaccinated against Covid-19.

Dr Ramsay said any return of mass events will be monitored “very carefully” with clear instructions about what is and is not allowed.

Asked if she expected mask-wearing and social distancing to continue in the “new normal”, she told BBC1’s The Andrew Marr Show: “I think we are talking about quite a long period of time.

“We may eventually get back to a much more normal situation but I think people have got used to those lower-level restrictions now and I think people can live with them and the economy can still go on with those restrictions, with those less severe restrictions in place.

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“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’s when we may be able to go very gradually back to a more normal situation.”

In Ireland, ministers are split on easing the 5km travel restriction next month as concerns mount over the country’s progress in the battle against Covid-19.

Public health chiefs on Thursday night indicated advice against non-essential overseas travel and working from home will remain until the end of June, according to an Irish Times report.

Several senior sources expressed pessimism on recent progress on key metrics: hospitalisations, vaccinations and cases.

Meanwhile, restrictions are due to be eased on March 29th in England as part of their road map out of lockdown.

From that date, groups of up to six people or two households will be able to meet outdoors.

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A “stay at home” order will end, with messaging moving to “stay local”, but people will be asked to continue to work from home where possible, and overseas travel will stay banned.

Shops, hairdressers, nail salons, libraries, outdoor attractions and outdoor hospitality venues such as beer gardens are due to reopen from April 12th in England, depending on infection rates.

Measures will be relaxed further from May 17th, when two households, or groups of up to six people, will be allowed to mix indoors and limited crowds will be allowed back to sporting events.

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