Face masks and social distancing will remain in place until next YEAR despite Covid lockdown roadmap, Sage warns

FACE masks and social distancing measures could remain in place until next YEAR despite lockdown beginning to lift, scientists warned today.

Experts fear that while Covid jabs will stop the vast majority of people being struck down, they're "not good enough" to see all rules lifted without risking a surge in cases.

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Vaccines Minister Nadhim Zahawi said he does not rule out masks, social distancing and vaccine passports being here for another year.

He told BBC Radio 4's Today: "It’s only right and responsible to look at all options available to us."

Restrictions began to ease on March 29 with outdoor gatherings allowed in groups of up to six.

And last night the PM confirmed pubs, shops, and hairdressers will all reopen on April 12 as the UK takes its first major step out of lockdown.

He said the vaccine rollout is to thank for getting Covid under control and Britain back on the road to recovery.

All pandemic limits on social contact were due to be abolished by June 21 as part of the final stage of the four-step route out of the health crisis. 

It was hoped that music festivals, sports events and nightspots would then reopen and that families and friends could also get together in large numbers.

However, scientific advisors have claimed that "baseline measures" – including some social distancing and masks – would need to stay in place until 2022.

They added they are "reasonably confident" that Covid will be under control by then, reports the MailOnline.

Papers released by SAGE show it is confident Boris's measures will not pile huge pressure on the NHS because of the success of the vaccine programme.

However, it is less optimistic about future stages of the PM's roadmap, stating it is "highly likely that there will be a further resurgence in hospitalisations and deaths".

And they warned the reopening ofindoor hospitality on May 17 could be pushed back if vaccine uptake in the under-50s drops below 85 per cent.

Modelling by Warwick University, Imperial College London and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical medicine (LSHTM) forecasts a summer surge of cases in the wake of the easing of lockdown restrictions.

They warn this could see a spike in infections which could even rival January's levels when hospitals across the country were swamped with new cases.

UK chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance said he expected regular hand washing and the recommendation for people to stay home from work if they feel ill to become "baselines" of social distancing in the future.

"On social distancing, I think one has to understand what that might mean longer term," he told the Downing Street press conference on Monday.

"And it probably means things like hand hygiene and the fact people will take time off if they get ill and stay at home rather than going into work, testing to know if you've got it or not.

"Those sorts of things are likely to be important baseline measures going forward."

England's chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty, when asked about when hugging and other interactions could resume, said current coronavirus rates were still too high.



"The number of people who actually have the virus at the moment is about one in 370 so we really want to get those rates down further before we start to feel that society as a whole has a low level of Covid," he said.  

However, the PM praised Brits for the way they have got behind the drive to combat Covid.

He said: "The net result of your efforts and the vaccine rollout is I can today confirm that from Monday, 12 April we will move to step two of our roadmap reopening shops, gyms, zoos, holiday camp sites, hairdressers and beer gardens, and outdoor hospitality of all kinds.

"And on Monday 12, I will be going to the pub myself and cautiously but irreversibly raising a pint of beer to my lips."

The PM also insisted he's confident further steps of his roadmap out of lockdown will be able to go ahead as planned.

He said: "We see nothing in the present data that makes us think we will have to deviate from that roadmap.

"But it’s by being cautious, by monitoring the data at every stage, and by following the rules that we hope together to make this roadmap to freedom irreversible."

Pubs and restaurants in England will be able to serve customers outside, while still respecting rules on social distancing and mask wearing, from Monday.

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