Social distancing likely to remain for at least another year — expert

Tim Spector suggests life should be more ‘pleasant’ by April 

Rory Sullivan
Thursday 10 December 2020 18:53
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Mass Covid testing for some secondary schools in London, Essex and Kent

Social distancing requirements could last until at least next December, a leading epidemiologist has warned.

Tim Spector, a professor of genetic epidemiology at King’s College London (KCL), predicted that there would not be an abrupt end to the pandemic but rather a gradual “phase-out”.

However, he added that the general situation could be better in spring, with life hopefully becoming more “pleasant” by April.

His remarks come several days after the start of the UK’s mass vaccination programme, which is currently aimed at vulnerable groups and health workers.

Speaking at a Royal Society of Medicine webinar, Prof Spector, who runs the Covid Symptom Tracker app study, said: "The acute problem, I think, will be over by April.

"And then we'll be in a phase-out for at least another year of having low levels of disease, outbreaks, small infections that will come and go, and I think we're still going to be having social distancing for at least another year.”

The disease will appear and disappear over the next few years in much the same way that “bad flu breakouts” occur each year, according to Prof Spector.

Repeated injections and tests for antibodies could therefore be necessary, he added.

The KCL professor also suggested that stop-start lockdowns had caused problems, saying: "You have these periods of lockdown and then a release, and everyone goes crazy.”

"And then you advertise there's another lockdown coming up so everyone goes out, meets all their friends, goes to the pub - increasing infections, then you lock up with your family and household with your infections and it increases again,” he added.

Prof Spector’s comments about social distancing come several days after the government’s chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance said masks would probably be needed until next winter.

Additional reporting by PA

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