Social distancing could be needed forever to beat Covid, expert says

To view this video please enable JavaScript, and consider upgrading to a web
browser that
supports HTML5

Social distancing should stay ‘forever’ to beat Covid, a Sage scientist has said.

Long-term action is needed to reduce the threat of coronavirus and other similar diseases, according to Professor Susan Michie, of University College London.

Good ventilation, face masks and hand washing is also pandemic-beating behaviour that should remain in place, she said on Friday.

Her remarks come as Boris Johnson considers a four-week delay to ‘freedom day’ on June 21, as cases of the Delta, formerly Indian, variant jump.

Speaking to Channel 5, Professor Michie said: ‘Vaccines are a really important part of pandemic control, but it’s only one part.

‘Test, trace and isolate systems and border controls are really essential, and the third thing is people’s behaviour.

‘The behaviour of social distancing, of when you’re indoors making sure there’s good ventilation, or if there’s not wearing face masks, and hand and surface hygiene.

‘We’ll need to keep these going in the long-term and that will be good not only for Covid, but also to reduce other [diseases].’

Shoppers and pedestrians walk past a sign advising social distancing on Oxford Street (Picture: AFP via Getty Images)

When questioned on how long exactly people should follow these measures, she responded: ‘I think forever, to some extent.’

Later in the show Professor Michie was asked whether she thought the lockdown-weary public would realistically live with continued restrictions to their everyday lives.

She replied: ‘I think there’s lots of different behaviours we’ve changed in our lives. 

‘We now routinely wear seat belts, we didn’t use to. We now routinely pick up dog poo in the park, we didn’t use to.

‘When people see that there is a threat and there is something they can do to reduce that… themselves, their loved ones and their communities, what we see now over this last year is people do that. And I think we can just begin to adopt routines.

‘When we go out of the house we check we’ve got our phone, we’ve got our keys, we’ve got tissues, we’ve got a face mask in case we need to use it.’

Get in touch with our news team by emailing us at

For more stories like this, check our news page.