Life won't return to normal until late summer, warns Suffolk MP Dan Poulter
- Credit: Sarah Lucy Brown
Pre-Covid "normal" life is unlikely to return until the late summer or early autumn according to Suffolk MP and hospital doctor Dan Poulter.
And the current Tier Four restrictions may not be eased until Easter - or March at the earliest - unless there is a rapid fall in infections and the number of people being admitted to hospital.
The sobering assessment from Dr Poulter - who was on the front line in a London hospital during the first wave of the pandemic - comes as infection numbers continue to rise as the new strain of Covid-19 takes hold across the country.
Dr Poulter said that the idea that people would be able to return to a more normal life once they had had both vaccine injections was probably unrealistic because it was unclear whether vaccination would stop someone being infectious.
And the scale of the vaccination project was so huge it would take many months to allow people to mingle safely.
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Dr Poulter said: "The vaccines do appear to work well and offer protection against the symptoms. That means people who have had them should not get ill, or at least if they do get ill it should not be too serious and they would not have to go to hospital.
"What we don't know - and can't know until it has been released to a large number of people - is whether the vaccination prevents someone being infectious. Most doctors think it will have some protection, but until we have figures we cannot be sure.
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"In that case it will only be safe to go back to how we are once enough people have been vaccinated - and that's going to take six to nine months."
Dr Poulter thought that if people obeyed the current lockdown restrictions and the most vulnerable were inoculated first the numbers could start to fall in early March - allowing some restrictions to be eased.
But he didn't expect a 'normal' Easter: "The government is looking at a million vaccinations a week. That is a very ambitious target. But if you look at the UK population and the number of people considered to be vulnerable, it's going to take many months to get the vaccinations rolled out."
He pointed out that most people would need two vaccinations to build up the full protection.
"The vaccination programme has huge numbers. It is always quite a job for GP surgeries to organise flu jabs for targeted members of the community every year - and that's only a tenth of what is planned here."
But on the upside, there were now several vaccines that appeared to work well against both the original Covid-19 and the new strains that were emerging. And the NHS in the UK appeared to be one of the world-leading organisations bringing that vaccine to its residents.
Dr Poulter added: "There is some good news here, but I don't want people to have too high an expectation and think everything will be back to normal in a few weeks when, with the best will in the world, that will not be able to happen."