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People want ‘normal way of life’ back after Covid jabs, Oxford scientist tells MPs

Boris Johnson is going to announce a roadmap out of lockdown restrictions next week.

The public will not accept coronavirus restrictions continuing once they have been vaccinated, a leading scientist has warned.

Professor Sir John Bell, Oxford University’s regius professor of medicine, said it is “not plausible” to expect people to comply with major curbs such as a ban on attending football matches if they have received two doses of vaccine.

He told the Commons Science and Technology Committee people want to get back to a “relatively normal way of life” and steps need to be taken to allow that.

“It’s not plausible to imagine a world where we vaccinate the whole country and everybody believes they are still in a place that we were in six months ago, it’s just not reasonable,” he said.

“I think we are going to have to allow people to adapt their behaviours appropriately if they have actually had the vaccine.”

He added: “It’s better to plan for that than to assume you can hold back the water with a dam, because you won’t be able to.

“People will feel that they would like to get back to a relatively normal way of life and I suspect we are going to have to get used to that.”

Sir John warned that further mutations in the virus are likely in response to the rollout of the vaccination programme.

So far most of the variants have been due to the virus evolving to be more effective in humans, having only recently crossed species, but that will change as coronavirus comes under pressure from the vaccines.

“Most of the variants we have seen so far represent that kind of adaptation to a new species – it’s a bit like moving into a new apartment, you are shuffling the sofa around and making sure the TV is in the right place,” he said.

“What we will see between now and the end of the year is a number of variants which are driven by immunological selection, largely by the vaccines, and that will add another layer of complexity.”

He added that, while some variants have “quite profound resistance” to existing immunity, it does appear that the existing vaccines are able to prevent severe disease.

“We need to be conscious of the new variants, we need to be ready to make new vaccines if we need them, but I am pretty clear our existing vaccines are going to work to some extent,” he said.

Despite the imposition of tougher border measures, including hotel quarantine, Sir John said it “will be impossible to completely prevent” the importation of new variants.

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