Great Britain

Brits could be wearing masks to stop Covid spread ‘for years’ after WHO warns wear them to the office

BRITS could be wearing masks for "many years" to stop coronavirus spreading, Britain's Deputy Chief Medical Officer warned last night.

Jonathan Van-Tam's warning came after the World Health Organisation (WHO) issued new Covid guidance saying people in offices and schools in areas of high infection should wear masks indoors.

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In its beefed-up guidance, WHO also recommended wearing masks if a visitor outside your household came to your home.

But Prof Van Tam appeared to clash with Boris Johnson by making his claim on mask wearing at Wednesday's Downing Street press conference.

Prof Van-Tam said: "Do I think there will come a big moment where we have a massive party and throw our masks and hand sanitiser and say, 'That's it, it's behind us', like the end of the war? No, I don't.

"I think those kind of habits that we have learned from... will perhaps persist for many years, and that may be a good thing if they do."

WHO'S MASK CALL

Mr Johnson responded: "And maybe... on the other hand, we may want to get back to life as pretty much as close to normal."

It its new guidance, the WHO said "in areas where the virus is circulating, masks should be worn when you are in a crowded setting".

Masks should also be worn outside "if you cannot maintain physical distance from others".

Examples given were at "busy markets, crowded streets and bus stops".

They should also be worn in rooms where you can't stay more than one metre from people.

'SEASONAL PROBLEM'

Asked by The Sun at yesterday's press conference when Covid measures could end, Prof Van Tamsaid the bug is likely to "be with human kind forever" and will become a "seasonal problem."

His remarks came after Britain became the first country in the world to give a Covid jab the green light.

Experts deem the Belgium-made Pfizer and BioNTech vaccine safe, meaning a rollout to millions of people can now begin.

About 800,000 older people, care home workers and vulnerable people will be able to get access to the vaccine from next week, and millions across December.

'WITH HUMAN KIND FOREVER'

After he was challenged by the PM on masks, Prof Van-Tam replied: "I do like to be challenged when I have, perhaps, not made myself clear, and the Prime Minister has picked me up on this occasion, and it's quite alright because it gives me a chance to clarify what I mean here.

"I do not think the Government will continue to have to recommend social distancing, masks, and hand sanitiser forever and a day.

"I hope we will get back to a much more normal world.

"But, the point I was trying to make was - do I think, possibly, some of those personal habits for some people will persist longer, and, perhaps, become enduring for some people, yes, I think that's possible."

Covid Vaccine: Who, When and How?

Simon Stevens, Chief Executive of the NHS, today said the following about the new Covid vaccine:

Who? "The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation have clearly recommended the NHS should make sure those first offered are those at highest risk. In practice, that means starting with the over 80s, as well as people in care homes as well as staff looking after them.

When? "In the new year, we will be extending that to many more people across the country. Although we are the first health service in the world to get vaccinating supplies from the manufacturer are phased.

"The bulk of this vaccination program will take place in the period January through to March or April for the at risk members of the population. Since you need two jabs… typically 21 days apart… that means we’ve got to reserve the second dose for those getting the first dose in December."

How? The NHS chief said the vaccine "is logistically complicated".

He said: "We have to move it around the country in a carefully controlled way. It also comes in packs of 975 people’s doses. You can't at this point just distribute it to every individual GP or pharmacy. Next week 50 hospital hubs across England will start offering the vaccine to over 80s, carehome staff and those identified by GVI.

"The hospital will get in touch with you, you don’t need to do anything yourself."

He added that the NHS intends for vaccination centres to rollout the jab as more become available in the months to come. 

Mr Johnson replied: "As in the Far East. Well, who knows?"

Appearing alongside the Prime Minister and NHS England chief executive Simon Stevens during tonight's coronavirus briefing, Prof Van-Tam said: "I don't think we're going to eradicate coronavirus ever.

"I think it's going to be with humankind forever.

"I think we may get to a point where coronavirus becomes a seasonal problem - I don't want to join too many parallels with flu - but possibly that is the kind of way we would learn to live it."

The medical chief also stressed the problem will not go away if people do not take the vaccine when it is offered to them.

If you want that dream to come true as quickly as it can come true then you have to take that vaccine when it is offered to you. Low uptake almost certainly mean restrictions will last longer.

Professor Jonathan Van-TamDeputy Chief Medical Officer

He said: "This vaccine isn't going to help you if you don't take it. You will need two doses of this vaccine to have full protection.

"Watching others take it and hoping it will protect you too doesn't work necessarily. We don't know if it prevents transmission."

Dashing hopes of a speedy rollout for the whole nation, the top professor also said it will take "months not weeks" and warned that low uptake of the jab will "almost certainly make restrictions last longer".

Giving the blistering wake-up call, he said: "Everyone wants social distancing to come to an end, we are fed up with it.

"But if you want that dream to come true as quickly as it can come true then you have to take that vaccine when it is offered to you. Low uptake almost certainly mean restrictions will last longer."

HERE TO STAY

Meanwhile the Prime Minister said: "We are no longer resting on the mere hope we can return to normal but rather the sure and certain knowledge that we will succeed and reclaim our lives and all the things about our lives that we love."

But had added "we have to fight on" and continue with the tougher Tier rules - which came in today after the lockdown lifted - until the vaccine can get to those who need it.

Boris stressed that "for the time being, we've got to take it that tiering is going to be a very, very important part of our campaign against Covid."

And he dodged questions on whether it would roll on past February and towards Easter - as some critics fear.

NHS boss Simon Stevens said they were gearing up for the biggest vaccination programme in the history of the health service and they were "raring to go".

He said that the bulk of jabs for people who need it will be done by April.

First phase of Covid vaccine rollout to highest risk ‘will eliminate 99% of coronavirus-related deaths’

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