The UK health secretary, Matt Hancock, has said that everyone needs to play their part in order to meet the targets set for easing lockdown in England with the aim to move to “personal responsibility” rather than having social distancing laws “that get in the way of normal life”.
Hancock said that while England’s chief scientific adviser, Patrick Vallance, made it clear that people might still need to wear a mask this winter, the government wanted to “get rid of social distancing-type laws” that “dictate how all of us live our daily lives.”
“But, it is also clear that eradication is unfortunately not possible with this disease, so we are going to have to learn to live with it,” Hancock told Times radio.
On Monday, the government promised spring and summer would be “incomparably better” than life in lockdown as the prime minister, Boris Johnson, set out a four-stage plan for England that could pave the way for nightclubs to reopen, sports fans to fill stadiums once again and domestic tourism to return.
However, Dr Mike Tildesley, reader in mathematical modelling of infectious diseases at the University of Warwick and member of the government advisory group SPI-M, said he was concerned the virus might persist in parts of the country.
Asked on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme whether Covid-19 could remain a “disease of the deprived”, he said: “This is a real concern for me and I know a number of other scientists have raised this, that we may end up in a situation where we have the ‘vaccine rich’, as it were, who are able to access the vaccine who have taken up the vaccine and are at a much lower risk.
“And then maybe people in society who have not taken up the vaccine. Potentially these individuals could be clustered in particular parts of the country, and there is increased risk there.
“So I think it’s something that we do need to do more about to make sure that the vaccine is available to everyone to take up and so that we minimise the risk of the virus persisting in particular parts of the country, and causing much more harm to those communities.”
Hancock said it was “absolutely on all of us” to come forward to accept the vaccine when it is offered. He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “We want to see that vaccine uptake go as high as possible. But it’s absolutely on all of us to come forward and get the vaccine. It’s the right thing to do.”
Hancock also said the effectiveness of vaccines against coronavirus strains would play a major part in the international travel review.
“We do have to protect against these new variants, and that is a big challenge,” he said. “We can be much more relaxed about international travel” if vaccines worked well against strains of the virus from South Africa and Brazil.
“If the vaccine doesn’t work against them, then that will be much, much more difficult,” he said in an interview on Sky News.