With increasing hopes that a range of COVID vaccines will bring an end to the pandemic, one expert has warned that restrictions will still have to remain for now.
The government has bought up 40 million doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, that has shown to be 95% effective against coronavirus, while US biotech firm Moderna released data suggesting its vaccine is almost 95% effective.
Jabs could potentially start to roll out in the UK from early December but professor John Edmunds, a member of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage), said that the vaccine will not mean an immediate end to social distancing restrictions.
Speaking on ITV’s Peston show, Edmunds said: "If we don't lift restrictions when we start vaccinating, we'll lift them when we end vaccinating.”
When asked if that meant restrictions of some kind until summer 2021, Edmunds replied: “I think so.
“I hope not but I think it will be some sort of restrictions for quite some time unfortunately, yes.
“And they'll gradually be lifted as and when we can get away with it.”
Despite Edmunds’ pessimism about easing restrictions, there is still ongoing hopes on the success of vaccines.
The UK could produce a successful coronavirus vaccine after data from the University of Oxford showed its jab provokes a strong immune response in older people.
The ChAdOx1 nCov-2019 vaccine, developed with pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca, has been shown to trigger a robust immune response in healthy adults aged 56-69 and people over 70.
Watch: How will a COVID vaccine be administered?
Phase two data, published in The Lancet, suggests one of the groups most vulnerable to serious illness and death from COVID-19 could build immunity, researchers say.
Health secretary Matt Hancock tweeted: “There is still much work to be done, but this is a really encouraging set of findings from the @UniofOxford and @AstraZeneca vaccine.”
A possible vaccine rollout coincides with the second lockdown in England ending on 2 December.
The government has signalled that it may temporarily relax restrictions for up to five days around the Christmas period so that families can see each other.
But Edmunds cautioned against the plans, saying that normal socialising activity around the festive period “all unfortunately carries a risk” and people should probably prepare for a “slightly disappointing Christmas”.
He added: “I think that it would be prudent not to go wild at Christmas quite honestly, so I think that we will have to moderate and have a slightly disappointing Christmas, unfortunately.”
Defence secretary Ben Wallace said this morning that the government would set out plans for Christmas once lockdown ends.
Watch: 8 exceptions to the second lockdown