COVID Britain could be back to normal by summer – unless Christmas mixing triggers a deadly third wave, a top medic has said.
Professor Sarah Gilbert said she hopes Brits can ditch their face masks and social distancing in the next six months.
The head of the Oxford vaccine project also expects her jab to be approved within the next two weeks.
But plans to allow families to mix in bigger festive bubbles this Christmas could set Britain back months, she warned.
The nation must not repeat the fatal mistakes of America, which has been hit by rocketing death rates in the wake of the Thanksgiving holiday.
She told the BBC: “I think what we do over the next few weeks is really going to have a big impact on how long it’s going to take to get back to normal.
“Hopefully we could be more or less back to normal by the summer, but that’s not going to be possible if we’re starting from a very bad position in January.” If Brits throw caution to the wind and flout the rules this Christmas, then January could bring a deadly third wave, Prof. Gilbert said.
This would disrupt the massive life-saving effort to roll out the vaccine – the biggest programme Britain’s medics have ever launched.
She said: “In the US, after Thanksgiving when people were travelling and mixing there’s now been a big surge in infections and they’re seeing 3,000 deaths a day now.
“The highest rate that there’s ever been in any country.
“If we have that kind of thing happening over the Christmas holidays in this country, with very high transmission rates then possible in January, it’s going to take so much longer to get things back to normal.” A string of experts warned Brits to be careful this Christmas to avoid a deadly third spike.
Chris Hopson, boss of NHS Providers which represents hospital trusts, wrote to the PM warning that a festive blow out will see more Brits die.
He said: “The prevailing public perception is ‘thank goodness we can celebrate Christmas’.
“We believe it is vital for the public to understand that any extra social contact, particularly with those who are vulnerable to the effects of the virus, is risky and that they need to think very carefully before initiating such contact over the Christmas period.” Top virus researcher Dr Raghib Ali, of Oxford and Cambridge universities, volunteered to go back to the front line and treat Covid patients at the start of the pandemic.
He said: “News of the vaccine was a genuine ray of light, but it will take months to distribute and we still have a long winter to get through.
“We need to protect those at highest risk, especially as restrictions on household mixing are eased, and particularly over the Christmas break.
“Of course we all want to be with our parents and grandparents and be able to give them a hug – and everyone should make their own choices based on their circumstances.
“The vaccine is the best present we could have asked for but it’s not coming in time for Christmas, so while we rightly look forward to spending time with our parents and grandparents after many long months, we must be careful too.”
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