'Life will return to normal', says Chris Whitty (but not for a long time)

Watch: The next few weeks will be the worst for the NHS, says Chris Whitty

Life will return to normal once coronavirus vaccines are protecting enough of the population, Professor Chris Whitty has said.

The chief medical officer for England said he is “confident” normality will come back but added that society is “quite a long way” from it at present.

He stressed however that rollout of COVID-19 vaccines will take months, not years, and urged anyone who is offered the jab to get one.

“I am confident we will go back to life as it was before at some point, that’s not in doubt,” he told BBC Breakfast.

“That’s the life we all want to lead.

“And what will happen, once the vaccination has rolled out across a wide enough part of the population, so that the most vulnerable are protected but also so that enough people are protected, to actually reduce the risk for the whole society – that’s going to take a rather long period of time, but months, not years.”

Whitty said restrictions will be lifted “stage by stage” and not in one go, which will allow life to get to “basically” how it was before the pandemic.

Britain's Chief Medical Officer Professor Chris Whitty attends a news conference at 10 Downing Street, amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in London, Britain December 10, 2020. REUTERS/Simon Dawson/Pool
Chris Whitty has said normal life will resume. (Reuters/Simon Dawson/Pool)

He has previously warned that restrictions might need to be reintroduced next winter.

With reports emerging that the government is trying to toughen the current lockdown, he stressed: “We really would like people to concentrate on the period now, fully accepting that we all want life to get back to normal and life will get back to normal, but it will actually get back to normal more quickly if we can get on top of this early now.

“If you get invited for a vaccination, please take up that offer.”

Around 1.96 million people have received at least one dose of the coronavirus vaccine, according to NHS England, with the government aiming to give 14 million vulnerable people a jab by the middle of February.

Nadhim Zahawi, the vaccines minister, said authorities are learning from Israel’s experience at vaccinating quicker.

Israel’s health ministry says 20% of its population have had a jab, according to Reuters.

Zahawi told ITV’s Good Morning Britain: “One of the things we have learned is the speed at which they can actually vaccinate people through the mass vaccination centres.

“We want to make sure that we get to similar speeds of being able to vaccinate through mass vaccination.”

Watch: Why does Israel have the fastest vaccine rollout?