Scientists call for end of social distancing and face masks by June

Mandatory social distancing and face masks should be scrapped for good from June this year, 22 leading scientists have said in an open letter.

The experts instruct the Government to allow people to take back control of their lives, as well as stating that ‘a good society cannot be created by obsessive focus on a single cause of ill-health’.

It calls for all restrictions in England to be lifted by June 21, the last day of Boris Johnson’s roadmap out of lockdown. It suggests face masks should also be ditched in schools from May 17, when up to six people or two households will be allowed to meet indoors.

The Government is also urged to move away from vaccine passports and mass community testing, and told to instead encourage hand-washing and surface cleaning as a means of protecting against the virus.

The scientists behind the letter include Prof Robert Dingwall from Nottingham Trent University, who sits on the New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group (Nervtag). 

Prof Carl Heneghan, who is the director of the Centre for Evidence Based Medicine at Oxford University, and Prof Anthony Brookes, a geneticist and health data scientist at the University of Leicester, are also among the signatories.

The letter reads: ‘We are being told simultaneously that we have successful vaccines and that major restrictions on everyday life must continue indefinitely. Both propositions cannot be true.

‘We need to give more weight to the data on the actual success of the vaccines and less to theoretical risks of vaccine escape and/or surge in a largely vaccinated population.’

It continues: ‘Covid-19 no longer requires exceptional measures of control in everyday life, especially where there have been no evaluations and little credible evidence of benefit.

‘Measures to reduce or discourage social interaction are extremely damaging to the mental health of citizens; to the education of children and young people; to people with disabilities; to new entrants to the workforce; and to the spontaneous personal connections from which innovation and enterprise emerge.’

The scientists describe Covid as now a ‘mild endemic’ for those who are low-risk or have received their vaccine. They admit the virus will reoccur in seasonal waves, but said this should not significantly stress the NHS.

They add: ‘Having endured the ravages of 2020, things are very different as we enter the spring of 2021. It is more than time for citizens to take back control of their own lives.’

Social distancing rules are due to end in England from June 21, when the Government hopes to ease all Covid restrictions. The reaching of this milestone will depend on the success of the country’s vaccine rollout, infection rates and the risk of other Covid variants.

People will still be advised to comply with Covid-secure measures after restrictions end, such as trying to meet up outdoors where possible and taking extra care to wash their hands thoroughly.

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