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People may choose to wear masks and keep distance ‘even after rules scrapped’

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Rules around social distancing and masks are likely to be scrapped this year but people may choose to keep them up, a leading scientific adviser has said.

Professor Neil Ferguson said people’s future behaviour may change – such as the desire to wear a mask and not to infect anyone if ill.

At present, the UK’s road map says “all legal limits on social contact” will be lifted no earlier than June 21.

People have got used to being very cautious around each other

Prof Ferguson’s comments came after Mary Ramsay, head of immunisation at Public Health England suggested at the weekend that people may need to wear face coverings and continue social distancing for several years until life gets back to normal.

Asked about the prospect, Prof Ferguson told BBC Breakfast: “I suspect, later this year, the mandates, the legal requirements to do some of those things will have gone.

“I think there’s an interesting question as to whether people’s behaviour changes as quickly.

“People have got used to being very cautious around each other, used to wearing masks.

“I can’t predict how quickly that will change or whether we’ve actually seen a permanent change in society, to some degree.

“I think it’s quite possible that this pandemic, which has been an immensely traumatic event for this country and for the world, will cause significant long-term cultural changes, behavioural changes in the population.”

He said, for example, it is routine in Southeast Asia for people to wear masks if they have a cold or any sort of respiratory disease.

“I can’t say whether that kind of cultural norm will cross to Europe to the UK, but it’s quite possible that it will,” he said.

“We have got used to being careful, particularly if we’re slightly ill ourselves, about not wanting to infect other people, and so those sort of things may well happen here.”

HEALTH Coronavirus / PA Graphics

Prof Ferguson, who works at Imperial College London, said he believes the UK’s reopening road map is still on track despite concerns over a third wave of Covid-19 in Europe.

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