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Face masks and regular hand washing must stay after lockdown, scientists warn

Face masks and washing hands are likely to still be needed after lockdown ends, experts have claimed.

Scientists warned wearing masks in public, regular hand washing and one-way systems could still be required when restrictions ease to minimise Covid-19 cases.

The Scientific Pandemic Influenza Group on Modelling (SPI-M), a SAGE subgroup, said "maintaining baseline measures" would still be necessary after June 21.

An SPI-M spokesperson said: "Maintaining baseline measures to reduce transmission once restrictions are lifted is almost certain to save many lives and minimise the threat to hospital capacity.

"These could include voluntary measures as well as effective Test, Trace and Isolate."

Prime Minister Boris Johnson unveiled his roadmap to easing England out of lockdown yesterday, but the Government stressed that some protective measures would remain.

It states: "Some measures may be required even after all adults have been offered a vaccine because neither coverage nor effectiveness of the vaccine will be 100 per cent.

"As a result, a significant proportion of the population will remain vulnerable to infection, some of whom will also be vulnerable to severe disease and death."

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Addressing Parliament, Johnson admitted current vaccines were unable to completely wipe out the virus.

Scientific fear there could be a further 30,000 Covid deaths in the UK by June next year, regardless of whether all adults have been immunised.

Scientists at Imperial College London said it was "vital to emphasise the importance of normalising and ensuring adherence to all measures even after 'full lifting' is achieved."

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Under current rules, anyone over the age of 11 must wear face coverings in indoor public places, unless they have a medical exemption.

Professor Angela McClean, deputy chief scientific advisor, said: "It's the fact there remain people who are either not vaccinated or even though these vaccines are absolutely fantastic they are not perfect.

"So there are people who have been vaccinated who are never the less not protected, even from very severe disease.

"And if we let a big epidemic happen amongst younger people, some of those older vulnerable people, or people who are vulnerable for another reason, will get infected and will be very ill."

Sir Patrick Vallance said that, despite the surge in people getting the vaccine, a "large number of people in the population remain unprotected".

Professor McClean added: "Let's say 80% of people are adults, so 20% of people are not being vaccinated. Even if you got to all of the adults, and you get roughly an 80% vaccine efficacy, and that gives roughly 80% protection – you've got roughly 50% across the whole population.

"That tells you that even at quite high levels of coverage and protection, you've still got a large number of people who are unprotected."

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