Lockdown Forever: Vaccine Won’t Mean End to Social Distancing, Says UK Govt Doctor

YORK, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 22: Peter Wilds is given his Pfizer BioNTech Covid-19 vaccination
Ian Forsyth/Getty Images

The deputy chief medical officer for England has warned that even for those who have been vaccinated, social distancing measures will likely remain in place for months.

In a Downing Street press conference on Wednesday, Professor Jonathan Van-Tam said that people could not “behave with wild abandon” after receiving the coronavirus vaccine until it is determined that they cannot spread the virus.

Van-Tam said according to The Times that the public would need to wait at least “two or three months” to regain their freedoms to see whether vaccinations will be effective at slowing transmission of the virus.

The top doctor said people should not think “after the second dose of your vaccine, it’s OK to behave with wild abandon and go off to the bingo halls and whatever you like”.

“Unfortunately, it is a pretty grim and depressing picture at the moment. The situation in the UK is precarious in many parts already, particularly the southeast and London,” the professor said.

“It is almost certainly true that the NHS has not yet seen the impact of the infections that will have occurred during mixing on Christmas Day. And that, unfortunately, is also rather sobering,” he added.

The government is currently studying the effect of the coronavirus vaccine to understand whether or not vaccinated people will be less likely to become asymptomatic carriers.

Van-Tam said that while it is “very likely” that vaccinations will prevent an individual from getting sick from the virus. However, he noted that it is currently unclear if they can transmit the virus, saying that the new “magic phrase” will be “transmission”.

The Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) has also warned that if vaccinated people take more liberties following their jab, then the initial gains of the vaccine rollout could be reduced.

The warnings came as the government announced that regulators had approved the AstraZeneca/Oxford University vaccine and it is set to be rolled out in early January.

Similar to the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, the Oxford jab will need two doses. However, Health Secretary Matt Hancock said that “people get protection after the first dose”.

Professor Van-Tam said that only two people during the vaccine trials fell ill with the virus, but said that they most likely caught the virus prior to being vaccinated.

On Wednesday, the Health Secretary announced that some 78 per cent of England’s population would be plunged into Tier 4 lockdown restrictions, following a surge of coronavirus cases.

Defending his decision, Hancock claimed that 53,135 new cases of coronavirus were registered on Tuesday.

Professor Van-Tam said that the majority of the new cases are from the new strain of the virus, saying: “The percentage testing positive with the new variant is increasing at a very substantial rate.”

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