Social distancing could remain in force all year

Social distancing guidelines have become a regular sight in and around Norwich city centre since sho

There are fears social distancing rules could remain in force for the rest of the year if vaccination does not halt the spread of Covid - Credit: Sarah Lucy Brown

A Norfolk MP and minister today refused to rule out social distancing measures remaining in place all year.

South West Norfolk MP and international trade secretary Liz Truss was speaking on Sky's Sophy Ridge on Sunday, after reports the vaccine which has already been given to almost 8.5m people may not be able to completely halt the corona virus in its tracks.

The Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine is administered. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Scientists warn the vaccine will need to be proven to be effective in 85p of cases to halt the spread of infections - Credit: Copyright: Archant 2021

The warning comes from scientists on the government's Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) , who warn of a third wave of deaths, unless the jab proves at least 85pc effective in combating infections. 

Prime Minister Boris Johnson is hoping falling Covid cases will allow  gradual lifting of lockdown, with pupils allowed to return to school from March 8, followed by non-essential retailers opening in April, the hospitality sector in May and life returning to normal by the autumn.

Secretary of State for International Trade and South West Norfolk MP Liz Truss Picture: Chris Bisho

South West Norfolk MP and trade secretary Liz Truss, who declined to rule out social distancing remaining in place for the rest of the year - Credit: Chris Bishop

But when asked about the timescale by Sky's Sophy Ridge, Ms Truss told said: "I don't want to make predictions about the situation in the autumn, I think it's far too far away. Long-term predictions in what is a very, very unpredictable situation are not wise."

Public Health England's Dr Susan Hopkins warned that relaxing lockdown measures would have to be done "very slowly, very cautiously" to avoid a surge in infections.

Cromer police, Pc Joey Mazzetti, left, and PC Cameron Askew, chat to security as they patrol Morriso

Police have been carrying out extra patrols to ensure lockdown and social distancing rules are being observed - Credit: Denise Bradley

"We have learnt, as we did on the first occasion, we have to relax things really quite slowly, so that if cases start to increase we can clamp down quite fast," she told BBC One's Andrew Marr Show.

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"The NHS is going to be under pressure until the end of March, as normal in winter, but even more so with the amount of inpatients they still have with Covid-19.

A sign reminds drivers they should only make essential journeys during the coronavirus lockdown Pic

Drivers have been fined for making unnecessary journeys during the current lockdown - Credit: Chris Bishop

"Any releases that we have will have to happen very slowly, very cautiously, watching and waiting as we go, with a two-week period to watch and see the impact of that relaxation because it takes that to see what's happening in the population."

Asked if there was evidence the vaccination programme was beginning to reduce infections, she added: "We are seeing declines in all age groups at the moment.

"We're starting to see declines in the over-70s and over-80s. It's a bit early to say whether those declines are directly related to the vaccine."