COVID restrictions will continue for at least a year even if a working vaccine is found, leading scientists warn.
Experts estimate it will take between six to 12 months to treat the entire nation once an effective jab is found.
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A vaccine that protects against Covid is seen as the main way of ending social distancing rules, But a report by the Royal Society warns it will not be a quick fix.
Professor Nilay Shah, from Imperial College London, said even if a jab is rolled out in spring restrictions would remain in place for many months.
He said: “There's no question of suddenly life returning to normal in March, even if…we having a following wind.
“It will take a long time to work through the different priority groups initially, and then the wider population later on.
“To get through that vaccination process, it (will take) many months, maybe more than a year." Prof Shah warned up to 30,000 professionals would need to deliver jabs daily for the programme to succeed.
There are more than 200 vaccines being developed around the world, with more than 40 already in clinical trials.
Ministers have secured access to six leading candidates in development, with options to buy more than 340 million doses.
Oxford University are one of the frontrunners, with results of their trial expected later this year.
Priority groups such as the elderly, frontline health and care home workers will be first in line for a jab once it is approved.
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Professor Charles Bangham, report co-author and chairman of immunology at Imperial College London, said vaccination would lead to a "gradual relaxing" of social distancing.
He said: “Even if it’s effective, it’s very unlikely that we will be able to get back completely to normal.
“There is going to be a sliding scale, even after the introduction of a vaccine we know is effective. We will have to gradually relax some of the other interventions.”
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