Take vaccine or restrictions will 'almost certainly' last longer, warns Jonathan Van-Tam

2 December 2020, 18:29 | Updated: 3 December 2020, 11:20

By Megan White

The public should get vaccinated against coronavirus or face lockdown restrictions lasting longer, deputy chief medical officer Professor Jonathan Van-Tam has warned.

Speaking at a Downing Street press conference, Prof Van-Tam said it is "going to take months, not weeks" for the country to be vaccinated and said other measures, such as social distancing, must remain in place in the meantime.

He also said he "doesn't think we are going to eradicate coronavirus ever," adding that it could become seasonal in the same way as flu.

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His comments came as Boris Johnson praised scientists for performing "biological jiu jitsu" to turn the virus on itself and create the vaccine.

Prof Van-Tam said: "Everyone wants social distancing to come to an end - we are fed-up with it.

"Nobody wants lockdowns and to see the damage they do. But if you want that dream to come true as quickly as it can come true, then you have to take the vaccine when it is offered to you.

"Low uptake will almost certainly make restrictions last longer."

He added: "We have to be realistic about how long this is going to take. It is going to take months, not weeks.

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"And, for now, the other measures, the tier measures, the social distancing have to stay in place.

"If we relax too soon, if we just, kind of, go 'oh, the vaccine's here, let's abandon caution', all you are going to do is create a tidal wave of infections.

"And this vaccine has then got to work in a head wind to get back ahead of the game. And that will make it harder."

Prof Jonathan Van-Tam also told the Downing Street Press Conference he felt some habits, such as wearing masks and sanitising hands, could "persist for many years."

He said: "Do I think there will come a big moment where we have a massive party and throw our masks and hand sanitiser and say 'that's it, it's behind us', like the end of the war? No, I don't.

"I think those kind of habits that we have learned from... will, perhaps persist for many years, and that may be a good thing if they do."

Mr Johnson responded, saying: "And, maybe... on the other hand, we may want to get back to life as pretty much as close to normal."