Face masks and social distancing could stay for next 5 years under Covid winter plan

Measures could also include see working from home guidance reintroduced, along with limits for indoor gatherings

Wearing face masks and social distancing could remain part of life for the next five years, under contingency plans being drawn up by the government.

Health officials have drafted a blueprint for England which includes a variety of restrictions in the event of future outbreaks of Covid-19, the Mirror reports.

Sign up to our NationalWorld Today newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

We want to hear from you: let us know what you think about this story and be part of the debate in our comments section below

Face masks and social distancing could be here to stay for the next five winters (Photo: Getty Images)
Face masks and social distancing could be here to stay for the next five winters (Photo: Getty Images)

Restrictions for the winter months

Ministers could decide which measures to put in place during the winter months based on the scale of coronavirus infections and if hospitals are under too much pressure.

Along with face masks and social distancing, measures could also include reintroducing working from home guidance and putting limits back in place on the number of people allowed to meet indoors.

It is hoped that the contingency plan will help to prevent another full lockdown in the future, which will be helped significantly by the number of people who have been fully vaccinated against Covid-19.

At the moment, 33 million Brits have received two doses of a coronavirus vaccine, meaning 49.6 per cent of the population is now fully vaccinated, while almost 78 million have received one dose.

A round of booster jabs is being planned to start in September for the most at-risk groups as part of efforts to keep infection rates down, with the over-70s, health workers and the clinically vulnerable in line to get a third dose.

The booster programme comes as scientists believe that the virus will be here to stay for many years to come and countries will have to learn to live with it.

Most restrictions will lift on 19 July

The lifting of all lockdown restrictions in England is expected to go ahead as planned on 19 July, although Boris Johnson has warned that some “extra precautions” may remain.

The Prime Minister has pledged to reveal details of what the end of coronavirus rules will look like in the coming days, saying he has increasing confidence he can go ahead with this final phase to “get back to life as close to it was before Covid”.

He said: “I know how impatient people are to get back to total normality, as indeed am I.

“I will be setting in the course of the next few days what Step 4 will look like exactly.

“But I think I’ve said it before, we’ll be wanting to go back to a world that is as close to the status quo, ante-Covid, as possible. Try to get back to life as close to it was before Covid.

“But there may be some things we have to do, extra precautions that we have to take, but I’ll be setting them out.”

Mr Johnson acknowledged that England has seen a “big” increase in positive cases in the last couple of weeks, but insisted the nation is in the “final furlong” of ending restrictions and praised the vaccines in helping to reduce deaths, despite the recent increase in infections.

He added: “It looks ever clearer… the speed of that vaccine rollout has broken that link between infection and mortality and that’s an amazing thing. That gives us the scope, we think on the 19th to go ahead, cautiously, irreversibly.”

The PM’s comments come after new Health Secretary Sajid Javid claimed earlier this week that restrictions would be lifted for good on 19 July, although he stopped short of confirming if that will mean the end of every measure.

A message from the editor:

Thank you for reading. NationalWorld is a new national news brand, produced by a team of journalists, editors, video producers and designers who live and work across the UK. Find out more about who’s who in the team, and our editorial values. We want to start a community among our readers, so please follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, and keep the conversation going.