When will things go back to normal? When normality could return to the UK as mass vaccinations continue

The Health Secretary has said he believes the UK’s current lockdowns will be the last that are required because of the vaccines

The last few weeks have seen countries around the world approve various Covid-19 vaccines for use on their residents.

In the UK, three separate vaccines are being rolled out across the nation, increasing hopes that we may soon be on the way out of an epidemic that has gripped society for almost a year.

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But how far are we really from being back to ‘normal’?

It could be some time before the world returns to 'normal', even in the face of successful vaccines (Photo: MLADEN ANTONOV/AFP via Getty Images)
It could be some time before the world returns to 'normal', even in the face of successful vaccines (Photo: MLADEN ANTONOV/AFP via Getty Images)

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Here is everything you need to know:

How do the vaccines affect things?

Despite the mass rollout of vaccines across the UK – the largest such endeavour the country has ever seen – it will be some time before the results of many more citizens being immune to the virus will begin to be seen.

Even the usually optimistic Prime Minister has said it would be months before social distancing measures could be relaxed (Photo: Paul Ellis - WPA Pool/Getty Images)

Scientists, public health officials and experts have all warned the public not to get complacent when it comes to social distancing measures.

The Welsh Government has warned that the impact of the vaccine will not be seen nationally “for some months”, and Professor Jonathan Van-Tam has said that, even after people are vaccinated, they will not be able to return to normal life immediately.

Speaking on BBC 5 Live, the deputy chief medical officer said: “Until we are properly confident of how the vaccine works and properly confident that disease levels are dropping, even if you have had the vaccine, you are going to need to continue to follow all the rules that apply for a while longer.”

“We have got to follow the science, we have got to see the data that gives us the assurance that we can tell people that they can relax in certain ways and have a fairly high degree of confidence that it is safe to do so.

The vaccine must be stored at an ultra-low temperature of between -70c and -80c (Photo: JOEL SAGET/AFP via Getty Images)

“It is a new disease, it is a new vaccination programme. We have to take it step by step… we have to take it really carefully in the first instance.”

Health Secretary Matt Hancock told MPs that people may need to have a coronavirus vaccine every six months, saying: “I anticipate we will probably need to revaccinate because we don’t know the longevity of the protection from these vaccines.

“We don’t know how frequently it will be, but it might need to be every six months, it might need to be every year,” he told the Health and Social Care Committee.

Will we ever get back to normal?

But England’s chief medical officer has said he is “confident” that life will go back to normal, and Professor Chris Whitty has said he is “not in doubt” that life can return to the way it was before the pandemic struck.

He told BBC Breakfast: “I am confident we will go back to life as it was before at some point, that’s not in doubt. That’s the life we all want to lead."

But he suggested that measures could be needed until “some time in the spring” to stem the spread of the virus.

“We’ve got to make this sustainable because we got to be able to maintain this for several more weeks now,” he added. “We’re really going to have to do a significant action for all of us for several more weeks until probably some time in the spring for very much of what we have to do."

So things will be normal by spring?

Not so.

Prof Whitty has said in the long-term people must understand that the virus will not just “go away”, telling a Downing Street briefing: “This coronavirus is not going to go away, just as flu doesn’t go away, just as many other viruses don’t go away.”

He said while the risks should “go right down” in spring, the virus is not a problem that will disappear.

“Hopefully we’ll have spring, summer and autumn, possibly winter as well, with almost nothing in place, once the full vaccination programme is through, but we just need to be aware of the fact this is not a problem that just disappears.”

Prof Whitty said that some restrictions may have to be brought back into place next winter to control the virus. “We might have to bring in a few in next winter for example, that’s possible, because winter will benefit the virus," he said.

Has Covid-19 changed the world forever?

As we have seen throughout this pandemic, information can change on a day to day basis. That doesn’t stop now that there are vaccines in circulation.

If the virus is brought back completely under control – and even if it is totally eradicated – our way of life may have been impacted by the pandemic in such a way that we will never truly return to the ‘normal’ we knew before the outbreak.

That could mean increased hygiene measures while travelling, protective screens and social distancing measures in shops remaining, or any other number of preventative measures.

That won’t necessarily be to stop Covid of course, but the world will be wanting to be careful to contain the next pandemic that nature has waiting for us.