Hang on to your face masks, top scientist advises

Do not ditch the face masks just yet, the Government's chief scientific adviser has warned, on the day the country woke to news that the very first dose of the Pfizer vaccine had been administered.

Margaret Keenan, 90, was the first person to receive the jab outside of clinical trials at University Hospital in Coventry at 6.30am on Tuesday.

Despite the good news, Sir Patrick Vallance said the UK is unlikely to get back to a semblance of normality before spring, and that we might still need our face masks next winter.

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First Britons get Covid vaccine on 'V-day'
COVENTRY, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 08: Margaret Keenan, 90, is applauded by staff as she returns to her ward after becoming the first person in the United Kingdom to receive the Pfizer/BioNtech covid-19 vaccine at University Hospital at the start of the largest ever immunisation programme in the UK's history on December 8, 2020 in Coventry, United Kingdom. More than 50 hospitals across England were designated as covid-19 vaccine hubs, the first stage of what will be a lengthy vaccination campaign. NHS staff, over-80s, and care home residents will be among the first to receive the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, which recently received emergency approval from the country's health authorities. (Photo by Jacob King - Pool / Getty Images)
COVENTRY, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 08: Margaret Keenan, 90, is applauded by staff as she returns to her ward after becoming the first person in the United Kingdom to receive the Pfizer/BioNtech covid-19 vaccine at University Hospital at the start of the largest ever immunisation programme in the UK's history on December 8, 2020 in Coventry, United Kingdom. More than 50 hospitals across England were designated as covid-19 vaccine hubs, the first stage of what will be a lengthy vaccination campaign. NHS staff, over-80s, and care home residents will be among the first to receive the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, which recently received emergency approval from the country's health authorities. (Photo by Jacob King - Pool / Getty Images)
Margaret Keenan, 90, speaks to the media at University Hospital in Coventry, central England, on December 8, 2020 after becoming the first person to receive the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine in the country's biggest ever immunisation programme. - Britain on December 8 hailed a turning point in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic, as it begins the biggest vaccination programme in the country's history with a new Covid-19 jab. (Photo by Jacob King / POOL / AFP) / The erroneous mention[s] appearing in the metadata of this photo by Jacob King has been modified in AFP systems in the following manner: Pictures were taken on [December 8, 2020] instead of [December 9, 2020]. Please immediately remove the erroneous mention[s] from all your online services and delete it (them) from your servers. If you have been authorized by AFP to distribute it (them) to third parties, please ensure that the same actions are carried out by them. Failure to promptly comply with these instructions will entail liability on your part for any continued or post notification usage. Therefore we thank you very much for all your attention and prompt action. We are sorry for the inconvenience this notification may cause and remain at your disposal for any further information you may require. (Photo by JACOB KING/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
Margaret Keenan, 90, speaks to the media at University Hospital in Coventry, central England, on December 8, 2020 after becoming the first person to receive the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine in the country's biggest ever immunisation programme. - Britain on December 8 hailed a turning point in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic, as it begins the biggest vaccination programme in the country's history with a new Covid-19 jab. (Photo by Jacob King / POOL / AFP) / The erroneous mention[s] appearing in the metadata of this photo by Jacob King has been modified in AFP systems in the following manner: Pictures were taken on [December 8, 2020] instead of [December 9, 2020]. Please immediately remove the erroneous mention[s] from all your online services and delete it (them) from your servers. If you have been authorized by AFP to distribute it (them) to third parties, please ensure that the same actions are carried out by them. Failure to promptly comply with these instructions will entail liability on your part for any continued or post notification usage. Therefore we thank you very much for all your attention and prompt action. We are sorry for the inconvenience this notification may cause and remain at your disposal for any further information you may require. (Photo by JACOB KING/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
Nurse May Parsons (R) administers the Pfizer/BioNtech Covid-19 vaccine to Margaret Keenan (L), 90, at University Hospital in Coventry, central England, on December 8, 2020 making Keenan the first person to receive the vaccine in the country's biggest ever immunisation programme. - Britain on December 8 hailed a turning point in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic, as it begins the biggest vaccination programme in the country's history with a new Covid-19 jab. (Photo by Jacob King / POOL / AFP) / The erroneous mention[s] appearing in the metadata of this photo by Jacob King has been modified in AFP systems in the following manner: Pictures were taken on [December 8, 2020] instead of [December 9, 2020]. Please immediately remove the erroneous mention[s] from all your online services and delete it (them) from your servers. If you have been authorized by AFP to distribute it (them) to third parties, please ensure that the same actions are carried out by them. Failure to promptly comply with these instructions will entail liability on your part for any continued or post notification usage. Therefore we thank you very much for all your attention and prompt action. We are sorry for the inconvenience this notification may cause and remain at your disposal for any further information you may require. (Photo by JACOB KING/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
Nurse May Parsons (R) prepares Margaret Keenan (L), 90, to be the first person to recieve the Pfizer/BioNtech Covid-19 vaccine at University Hospital in Coventry, central England, on December 8, 2020 as Britain starts its biggest ever immunisation programme. - Britain on December 8 hailed a turning point in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic, as it begins the biggest vaccination programme in the country's history with a new Covid-19 jab. (Photo by Jacob King / POOL / AFP) / The erroneous mention[s] appearing in the metadata of this photo by Jacob King has been modified in AFP systems in the following manner: Pictures were taken on [December 8, 2020] instead of [December 9, 2020]. Please immediately remove the erroneous mention[s] from all your online services and delete it (them) from your servers. If you have been authorized by AFP to distribute it (them) to third parties, please ensure that the same actions are carried out by them. Failure to promptly comply with these instructions will entail liability on your part for any continued or post notification usage. Therefore we thank you very much for all your attention and prompt action. We are sorry for the inconvenience this notification may cause and remain at your disposal for any further information you may require. (Photo by JACOB KING/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
Nurse May Parsons (L) walks with Margaret Keenan (C), 90, at University Hospital in Coventry, central England, on December 8, 2020 as Keenan is prepared to revieve an injection and become the first person to get the Pfizer/BioNtech Covid-19 vaccine as Britain starts its biggest ever immunisation programme. - Britain on December 8 hailed a turning point in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic, as it begins the biggest vaccination programme in the country's history with a new Covid-19 jab. (Photo by Jacob King / POOL / AFP) / The erroneous mention[s] appearing in the metadata of this photo by Jacob King has been modified in AFP systems in the following manner: Pictures were taken on [December 8, 2020] instead of [December 9, 2020]. Please immediately remove the erroneous mention[s] from all your online services and delete it (them) from your servers. If you have been authorized by AFP to distribute it (them) to third parties, please ensure that the same actions are carried out by them. Failure to promptly comply with these instructions will entail liability on your part for any continued or post notification usage. Therefore we thank you very much for all your attention and prompt action. We are sorry for the inconvenience this notification may cause and remain at your disposal for any further information you may require. (Photo by JACOB KING/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
COVENTRY, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 08: Margaret Keenan, 90, speaks to the media after becoming the first patient in the United Kingdom to receive the Pfizer/BioNtech covid-19 vaccine at University Hospital, Coventry, administered by nurse May Parsons, at the start of the largest ever immunisation programme in the UK's history on December 8, 2020 in Coventry, United Kingdom. More than 50 hospitals across England were designated as covid-19 vaccine hubs, the first stage of what will be a lengthy vaccination campaign. NHS staff, over-80s, and care home residents will be among the first to receive the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, which recently received emergency approval from the country's health authorities. (Photo by Jacob King - Pool / Getty Images)
COVENTRY, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 08: Nurse May Parsons carries the first Pfizer/BioNTech covid-19 vaccine at University Hospital Coventry, to be administered to Margaret Keenan, 90, at the start of the largest ever immunisation programme in the UK's history on December 8, 2020 in Coventry, United Kingdom. More than 50 hospitals across England were designated as covid-19 vaccine hubs, the first stage of what will be a lengthy vaccination campaign. NHS staff, over-80s, and care home residents will be among the first to receive the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, which recently received emergency approval from the country's health authorities. (Photo by Jacob King - Pool / Getty Images)
COVENTRY, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 08: Margaret Keenan, 90, speaks to the media after becoming the first patient in the United Kingdom to receive the Pfizer/BioNtech covid-19 vaccine at University Hospital, Coventry, administered by nurse May Parsons, at the start of the largest ever immunisation programme in the UK's history on December 8, 2020 in Coventry, United Kingdom. More than 50 hospitals across England were designated as covid-19 vaccine hubs, the first stage of what will be a lengthy vaccination campaign. NHS staff, over-80s, and care home residents will be among the first to receive the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, which recently received emergency approval from the country's health authorities. (Photo by Jacob King - Pool / Getty Images)
Margaret Keenan, 90, is applauded back onto her ward by nurses, after receiving the first Pfizer covid-19 vaccine at University Hospital Coventry. (Photo by Jacob King/PA Images via Getty Images)
COVENTRY, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 08: Margaret Keenan, 90, is applauded by staff as she returns to her ward after becoming the first person in the United Kingdom to receive the Pfizer/BioNtech covid-19 vaccine at University Hospital at the start of the largest ever immunisation programme in the UK's history on December 8, 2020 in Coventry, United Kingdom. More than 50 hospitals across England were designated as covid-19 vaccine hubs, the first stage of what will be a lengthy vaccination campaign. NHS staff, over-80s, and care home residents will be among the first to receive the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, which recently received emergency approval from the country's health authorities. (Photo by Jacob King - Pool / Getty Images)
COVENTRY, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 08: Margaret Keenan, 90, is applauded by staff as she returns to her ward after becoming the first person in the United Kingdom to receive the Pfizer/BioNtech covid-19 vaccine at University Hospital at the start of the largest ever immunisation programme in the UK's history on December 8, 2020 in Coventry, United Kingdom. More than 50 hospitals across England were designated as covid-19 vaccine hubs, the first stage of what will be a lengthy vaccination campaign. NHS staff, over-80s, and care home residents will be among the first to receive the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, which recently received emergency approval from the country's health authorities. (Photo by Jacob King - Pool / Getty Images)
Dr Doreen Brown, 85, receives the first of two Pfizer/BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine jabs, at Guy's Hospital in London, on the first day of the largest immunisation programme in the UK's history. Care home workers, NHS staff and people aged 80 and over began receiving the jab this morning.
A nurse waits to administer the Pfizer/BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine at a vaccination centre in Cardiff on the first day of the largest immunisation programme in the UK's history. Care home workers, NHS staff and people aged 80 and over began receiving the jab this morning.
CAPTION CORRECTION AMENDING SPELLING OF NAME TO RANJAN SHUKLA Ranjan Shukla, accompanied by her husband Dr Hari Shukla, receives the first of two Pfizer/BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine jabs, administered by retired nurse Suzanne Medows, at the Royal Victoria Infirmary in Newcastle, on the first day of the largest immunisation programme in the UK's history. Care home workers, NHS staff and people aged 80 and over began receiving the jab this morning.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson looks on after nurse Rebecca Cathersides administered the Pfizer/BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine to Lyn Wheeler at Guy's Hospital in London, on the first day of the largest immunisation programme in the UK's history. Care home workers, NHS staff and people aged 80 and over began receiving the jab this morning.
David Farrell, 51, from Llandow, receives the first of two Pfizer/BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine jabs at a vaccination centre in Cardiff, on the first day of the largest immunisation programme in the UK's history. Care home workers, NHS staff and people aged 80 and over began receiving the jab this morning.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaks and Lyn Wheeler (right) before she receives the Pfizer/BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine at Guy's Hospital in London, on the first day of the largest immunisation programme in the UK's history. Care home workers, NHS staff and people aged 80 and over began receiving the jab this morning.
CARDIFF, WALES - DECEMBER 08: A woman receives the first of two Pfizer/BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine jabs at a vaccination centre on the first day of the largest immunisation programme in the UK's history on December 8, 2020 in Cardiff, United Kingdom. Wales joined the other UK nations in rolling out the covid-19 vaccine on Tuesday, a rare moment of coordination after months of disjointedness in the four nations' pandemic response. Wales introduced a 17-day "firebreak" lockdown in October and November to suppress the surge in covid-19 cases, but infections have continued to rise. (Photo by Ben Birchall - Pool / Getty Images)
CARDIFF, WALES - DECEMBER 08: A Covid-19 vaccination record card at a vaccination centre on the first day of the largest immunisation programme in the UK's history on December 8, 2020 in Cardiff, United Kingdom. Wales joined the other UK nations in rolling out the covid-19 vaccine on Tuesday, a rare moment of coordination after months of disjointedness in the four nations' pandemic response. Wales introduced a 17-day "firebreak" lockdown in October and November to suppress the surge in covid-19 cases, but infections have continued to rise. (Photo by Ben Birchall - Pool / Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 08: British Prime Minister, Boris Johnson watches as nurse Rebecca Cathersides administers the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine to Lyn Wheeler at Guy's Hospital at the start of the largest ever immunisation programme in the UK's history on December 8, 2020 in London, United Kingdom. More than 50 hospitals across England were designated as covid-19 vaccine hubs, the first stage of what will be a lengthy vaccination campaign. NHS staff, over-80s, and care home residents will be among the first to receive the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, which recently received emergency approval from the country's health authorities. (Photo by Frank Augstein - Pool / Getty Images)
Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson watches as nurse Rebecca Cathersides administers the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine to Lyn Wheeler at Guy's Hospital in London, on December 8, 2020. - UK health authorities rolled out the first doses of a widely tested and independently reviewed COVID-19 vaccine, starting a global immunization program that is expected to gain momentum as more serums win approval. (Photo by Frank Augstein / POOL / AFP) (Photo by FRANK AUGSTEIN/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
COVENTRY, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 08: "Bill" William Shakespeare, 81, receives the Pfizer/BioNTech covid-19 vaccine at University Hospital at the start of the largest ever immunisation programme in the UK's history on December 8, 2020 in Coventry, United Kingdom. More than 50 hospitals across England were designated as covid-19 vaccine hubs, the first stage of what will be a lengthy vaccination campaign. NHS staff, over-80s, and care home residents will be among the first to receive the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, which recently received emergency approval from the country's health authorities. (Photo by Jacob King - Pool / Getty Images)
PORTSMOUTH, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 08: Liz Rix, Chief Nurse rolls up Michael Tibbs, 99, sleeve in preparation of administering the Pfizer/BioNtech covid-19 vaccine at Queen Alexandra Hospital. Michael Tibbs is the first person in the South West to receive the Covid-19 vaccination on December 8, 2020 in Portsmouth, United Kingdom. More than 50 hospitals across England were designated as covid-19 vaccine hubs, the first stage of what will be a lengthy vaccination campaign. NHS staff, over-80s, and care home residents will be among the first to receive the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, which recently received emergency approval from the country's health authorities. (Photo by Ewan Galvin - Pool / Getty Images)
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He explained that despite knowing that the vaccine prevents the virus taking hold in the body, it is not yet known if it prevents transmission among the vaccinated to the non-vaccinated.

Speaking to Sky News he said: "It's going to take quite a long time to make sure everybody in the at-risk groups and all of the groups that are difficult to reach get vaccinated as appropriate."

He said it was at least a month or more before you see full immunity with the vaccine, adding: "It is important we all stick to the rules in the meantime – the rules are what's keeping the virus down."

Sir Patrick said: "It may be that next winter even with vaccination we need measures like masks in place – we don't know yet how good all the vaccines are going to be at preventing the transmission of the virus."

At the start of the pandemic, shortages of medical-grade personal protective equipment (PPE) led to millions of people around the world waring fabric masks to curb the spread of the virus.

Coronavirus
A Chinese study published in late May, found that wearing a mask even helps prevent infection within households (Adam Davy/PA)

The virus is spread through tiny airborne aerosol particles from coughing, sneezing, breathing or even talking, and these particles can also gather on surfaces and be transmitted through touch.

While medical-grade masks filter out 95% of airborne particles which measure 0.3 micrometres or larger, there is a growing body of evidence showing that even a simple cloth barrier helps dramatically slow transmission rates.

A Chinese study published in late May found that mask-wearing even helps prevent infection within households.

The study of families in Beijing found the practice was 79% effective at stopping transmission before symptoms emerged in the first person infected.

Last week there was an awkward moment when deputy chief medical officer for England Professor Jonathan Van-Tam said he expected coronavirus would never disappear, to the apparent annoyance of Boris Johnson.

He said at a Downing Street press briefing: "I think it's going to be with humankind forever.

Deputy chief medical officer for England Jonathan Van-Tam
Deputy chief medical officer for England Jonathan Van-Tam irked the PM when he warned Covid-19 hygiene measures were here to stay (John Sibley/PA)

"I think we may get to a point where coronavirus becomes a seasonal problem.

"I don't want to draw too many parallels with flu but, possibly, that is the kind of way we would learn to live with it."

He added: "Do I think there will come a moment when we can have a big party and throw our masks and hand sanitiser and say 'that's it, it's behind us' like the end of the war? No I don't."

Professor Van-Tam said that the measures we have adopted to protect ourselves "may persist for many years and that may be a good thing".

The Prime Minister interjected: "That may be a good thing but on the other hand we may want to get back to life pretty much as close to normal."

Prof Van-Tam later clarified: "I do not think the Government will continue to have to recommend social distancing, masks and hand sanitiser forever and a day.

"I hope we will get back to a much more normal world."

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