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A whopping 22 million people in the UK are now fully vaccinated against Covid in the UK, and a further 38 million people have had their first dose.
It takes about two to three weeks for protection to properly kick in after your second dose – even then, you can still get Covid-19, but the symptoms should be less severe. You might even get it and not know it (if you’re asymptomatic).
Many of those who have had both doses will want to crack on with getting back to normal. But it’s important to remember that while so plenty of people are now fully dosed up, millions more are only partially vaccinated and many young people haven’t even received their first dose, leaving them vulnerable.
The vaccine rollout is currently focusing on the over 30s with reports suggesting twenty-somethings could start being called up from the end of the week for their first doses. Children and young people are yet to be told when they’ll be able to have a vaccine, with trials underway to determine its safety for younger people.
A new variant of concern – B1617.2, which originated in India – is also on the rise with several hotspots around England.
Initial reports suggest the variant is more transmissible than the B117 (Kent) variant and while two doses of the jab appear to offer decent protection against this variant, we know that one dose is only 33% effective against the strain.
So it’s not quite time to chuck away the masks and ditch the hand sanitiser – even if you’ve got two doses under your belt. Here are some measures you still need to be adopting in day to day life.
1. Wear a mask
Yes, that’s right. You might’ve had two doses of the jab (lucky you!) but plenty of people remain unvaccinated and therefore at risk. Pregnant people and some asthmatics, for example, are having to wait until their age groups are called up for vaccination despite being at a higher risk than the rest of the population.
Mask-wearing is still mandatory in indoor public places like supermarkets, on public transport, and also when entering, leaving or moving around restaurants and pubs – regardless of whether you’re vaccinated.
Some workplaces and schools might also ask employers or pupils to wear masks, despite it not being mandatory to do so. The point of wearing a mask is to protect others around you. Even if you’ve had two doses of the vaccine, you can still catch Covid and potentially pass it on to others. Some people who’ve already had Covid have also been reinfected with the new variant of concern.
While catching Covid for a second time might not leave you with horrendous symptoms, it could mean you transmit to those who aren’t vaccinated, or have only had one dose.
That’s not to say wearing a mask is on the cards forever – in the US, people who are fully vaccinated have been given the green light to go about their business without the need to wear masks – but on UK soil, we’ll have to wait a bit longer before mask-wearing is no longer mandatory.
Self-isolation is important – even if you’re vaccinated. This is because you can still catch and spread the virus after two doses. The UK government and Public Health England (PHE) advise that even those who’ve been vaccinated need to have a plan in place for if they’re required to self-isolate – whether that’s because you develop symptoms, have a positive test or are notified that you are a contact of someone with Covid-19.
“If you are instructed to self-isolate you must do so because there is still a risk that you might spread infection to others, even if you have been vaccinated and feel entirely well yourself,” says PHE.
Even after June 21 – the day when England’s lockdown supposedly lifts completely – it’s looking likely this will still be the case, the Telegraph has reported.
3. Keep your distance
Social distancing is still super important – even if you’re vaxxed. It’s not so much for your safety, but for the safety of others. So if you’re out in public spaces, don’t crowd around people and try to keep two metres apart.
Rules are slowly easing and prime minister Boris Johnson has given the go ahead for families and loved ones to ‘cautiously cuddle’. But you need to be asking others before going in for a hug – especially if they’re partially vaccinated or haven’t been able to get either jab yet.
You might wonder why it’s important to protect younger people when statistics show they don’t suffer Covid as badly as older age groups. However, remember that young people and children can still catch the virus and are at risk of long Covid – where they struggle with symptoms months after becoming infected. One million people in the UK are thought to be living with long Covid, according to the Office for National Statistics.
4. Open your windows
If you’re having people over this summer and you’re not spending all your time outdoors, it’s important to ensure good ventilation in your home as we know that when ventilation is poor and people are crowded inside, that’s when the virus can quickly spread.
Again, you might be protected from the worst of Covid but one of your guests might not be – it’s worth bearing in mind that even people who are vaccinated may still be more at risk. In people who are immunocompromised or immunosuppressed, for example, it’s thought Covid vaccination provides a lower level of protection compared to the rest of the population.
5. Clean those hands
Let’s face it, keeping our hands clean should be top of the agenda all of the time – not just when there’s a pandemic. Those who are vaccinated are urged to still focus on hand-washing regularly – especially before and after handling food, and when using public transport – to reduce the spread of the virus.
This article originally appeared on HuffPost UK and has been updated.