Social distancing measures and face coverings may be required for years to come, Public Health England’s head of immunisation has said.
Dr Mary Ramsay said “lower-level” restrictions could be in place for a “few years” until the rest of the world is better vaccinated against Covid-19.
The Government’s road map for easing lockdown restrictions in England aims to remove all legal limits on social contact no earlier than June 21 this year.
But Dr Ramsay said the return of mass events will be monitored “very carefully” with clear instructions about what is and is not allowed.
Asked if she expected mask-wearing and social distancing to continue in the “new normal”, she told BBC1’s The Andrew Marr Show: “I think we are talking about quite a long period of time.
“We may eventually get back to a much more normal situation but I think people have got used to those lower-level restrictions now and I think people can live with them and the economy can still go on with those restrictions, with those less severe restrictions in place.
“So I think certainly for a few years, at least until other parts of the world are as well vaccinated as we are and the numbers have come down everywhere, that’s when we may be able to go very gradually back to a more normal situation.”
Restrictions are due to be eased further on March 29 in England as part of the Government’s road map out of lockdown.
From that date, groups of up to six people or two households will be able to meet outdoors.
The Government’s “stay at home” order will end, with messaging moving to “stay local”, but people will be asked to continue to work from home where possible, and overseas travel will stay banned.
Shops, hairdressers, nail salons, libraries, outdoor attractions and outdoor hospitality venues such as beer gardens are due to reopen from April 12, depending on infection rates.
Measures will be relaxed further from May 17, when two households, or groups of up to six people, will be allowed to mix indoors and limited crowds will be allowed back to sporting events.