The UK should be able to look forward to a mask-free summer as vaccines do the heavy lifting in controlling Covid-19, government advisers have said.
Step four of the government’s roadmap out of lockdown for England currently states that all legal limits on social contact will be removed by 21 June at the earliest, when restrictions on large events such as festivals are also expected to ease.
Scientists advising the government say there is nothing currently in the data to suggest people will not be able to enjoy a relatively normal summer, though coronavirus cases may well rise as the autumn approaches.
Asked about mask-wearing in the coming months, one source said vaccines are working so well, and there is such good vaccine uptake among members of the public, that things will return closer to normal life over the summer months, when cases should drop very low, particularly in May.
However, masks and possibly other measures may be needed next autumn and winter if cases surge, they said.
The general view among scientific advisers is that the spike in cases in winter will be lower than in the past due to high levels of immunity and vaccination.
The source said what happens next will depend on people’s behaviours as well as measures such as increased ventilation indoors, good hand hygiene and whether people isolate when they display symptoms – which is seen as critical to controlling spread.
They said the UK needs to abandon its culture of “presenteeism” and going into work when feeling unwell, instead choosing to stay at home if they fall sick.
The source said there should be a relaxation of measures across all age groups soon, including for those who have had two doses of a vaccine, enabling them to meet up more freely.
On the issue of border controls to keep out variants of concern, the source said that even with extremely draconian border measures, all that happens is that there is a delay to importing cases.
Nevertheless, delay is still seen as a valuable tool as it allows experts to work out how to deal with variants and get more information.
But the source said there are currently no variants that completely evade vaccine effectiveness, and people's immune responses to the vaccines are probably enough to have quite a significant effect on most variants.
Additional reporting by PA
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