September 14, 2020
Every Monday we’ll answer your questions on Covid-19 and health in a feature published online. You can submit a question here.
When Will We Be Able To Stop Wearing Face Masks?
This week, HuffPost UK reader Alison asked: “When will face masks be a thing of the past?”
Wearing a face mask in shops, hair salons or on public transport has become  second nature for many of us in recent months. But with Covid-19 cases rising in the UK, some experts believe we should be wearing them even more frequently, such as when we visit a loved one’s home. 
It begs the question: will we ever stop wearing face masks? Or should we accept they’re part of life from now on? Sadly, none of us have a crystal ball with the answer, but we asked experts for their best predictions. Submit a Coronavirus health question to HuffPost UK.Arpana Verma, a professor of public health and epidemiology at the University of Manchester, says she can imagine a time where face masks are no longer needed – but it’s hard to put a timescale on it. 
“I would hope we return to a time when circulating coronavirus levels are wiped out,” she tells HuffPost UK. “But, like with some cultures where they have repeated coronavirus outbreaks, mask-wearing for some is the norm.”
Dr Julian Tang, a consultant virologist and professor in the Department of Respiratory Sciences at University of Leicester, agrees masks won’t be here forever, but it’s likely to be a long haul.  
“Just like with the 2009 pandemic flu virus, I think SARS-CoV-2 [the term for the virus that causes Covid-19] will gradually become more human-adapted,” he explains. “So more transmissible, less lethal, which will increase our overall herd immunity slowly. This may reduce the need for masks, except in specific elderly/vulnerable groups.”READ MORE: The Rule Of Six: All Your Questions, Answered Herd immunity is a when a large percentage of the population has developed immunity to a virus, making it harder for the virus to spread. SARS-CoV-2 mutates more slowly than flu, adds Dr Tang, so the road to herd immunity is likely to be longer. 
“Of course, if an effective SARS-CoV-2 vaccine is found and widely used, this will increase overall herd immunity much more quickly to limit the spread of the virus further,” he says. 
There’s been much discussion on when a vaccine will become available and whether life will “get back to normal” by Christmas. Prof. Verma thinks the timescale for vaccines – and a possible end to face masks – will be much longer.
“I think spring 2021 will be a time of hope when we have much more evidence and effective [solutions],” she says. READ MORE: So, Is Christmas Cancelled? Coronavirus Experts Make Their Predictions But even with a vaccine, Dr Tang warns that herd immunity could take a long time to establish.  
“Looking at the increasing rate of SARS-CoV-2 spread globally through susceptible populations – some with sporadic interventions of variable effectiveness – without a vaccine, it might take five to 10 years to reach a level of naturally acquired herd immunity,” he says. 
“With an effective and widely accessible vaccine – again, depending on how quickly this can be distributed and administered within specific populations, in conjunction with the evolution of the virus to a more transmissible, less lethal form, and naturally acquired immunity – perhaps three to five years.” 
One challenge is that scientists still don’t know for certain how long immunity lasts, whether it’s acquired naturally or via a vaccine. 
“Ironically, the more effective the infection control interventions (masking, social distancing, lockdown, etc.), the longer they may have to stay in place, as they will also reduce the rate of acquisition of herd immunity,” adds Dr Tang.  READ MORE: 13 Tips For Staying Covid-Safe As We Start Socialising More Indoors So, are we doomed to wear masks for the next decade? No necessarily, Dr Tang adds. Governments may decide to implement a “masks on, masks off” approach, by reacting to local virus levels. This would at least limit the environmental waste generated by masks. 
“Some countries like New Zealand have very few cases of Covid-19 per million people, so you could argue that masks are not needed below a certain Covid-19 threshold incidence/prevalence rate,” he says. 
“But you will need a very efficient, effective, coordinated and rapid testing/reporting system to keep these incidences updated and accurate, to decide when universal masking is needed again.”
Such a programme wouldn’t be “easy or cheap to set up or maintain”, he says, and would require regular testing within the community – not just those coming to hospital.
In short: you won’t be able to ditch your mask anytime soon. Our best hope lies in an effective vaccine, boosted by an efficient track and trace system. For now, invest in a comfy, reusable mask that impacts your life – and the environment – as little as possible. Experts are still learning about Covid-19. The information in this story is what was known or available at the time of publication, but guidance could change as scientists discover more about the virus. To keep up to date with health advice and cases in your area, visit gov.uk/coronavirus and nhs.uk.Read more answers to Covid-19 related health questions: When Will Social Distancing End In The UK? Is It Safe For Grandparents To Look After Their Grandkids Right Now? Can You Catch Covid-19 In A Swimming Pool?
Related Stories
Latest News
Top news around the world
Coronavirus Disease

Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) is an infectious disease caused by a newly discovered coronavirus.

Most people infected with the COVID-19 virus will experience mild to moderate respiratory illness and recover without requiring special treatment. Older people, and those with underlying medical problems like cardiovascular disease, diabetes, chronic respiratory disease, and cancer are more likely to develop serious illness.

Around the World

Celebrity News

> Latest News in Media

Watch It
Kourtney Kardashian & Travis Barker Are ENGAGED
October 17, 2021
PeL88fYrQ8g
Kate Middleton Stuns in Throwback Dress From 10 Years Ago
October 17, 2021
6mgB2_e-fS8
Blake Lively Trolls Ryan Reynolds After His Major Career News
October 17, 2021
MAXNG2bO0Qs
Kim Kardashian and Kanye Likely Won't Reconcile, She Now Owns Family Home | TMZ TV
October 15, 2021
attkYidh_Z8
Joe Rogan Stands Up to CNN | The TMZ Podcast
October 15, 2021
WgmPhCjlGoc
'The Masked Singer' Jester Costume Bulge Too Hot for TV | TMZ TV
October 15, 2021
0lnS7Gmu7O8
Jamie Lee Curtis talks 'Halloween Kills' and Laurie Strode's Legacy
October 14, 2021
-xyHjfTA2SY
Nicholas Braun, Jeremy Strong, Brian Cox and the cast of ‘Succession’ on the Red Carpet
October 14, 2021
O19yMBvhR48
Dave Chappelle Ignites Controversy, 'Halloween Kills' Hits Theaters | The Take
October 14, 2021
xOIUz0WuFS8
Disick ‘going crazy’ over Kourtney Kardashian, Travis Barker engagement | Page Six Celebrity News
October 18, 2021
JWOqwRAFNhI
Vicki Gunvalson accuses ex Steve Lodge of cheating, lying and using her | Page Six Celebrity News
October 15, 2021
3RB_p9_FZ-Y
Katey Sagal hit by car while crossing the street, taken to hospital | Page Six Celebrity News
October 15, 2021
5kT2IIVMy0o
TV Schedule
Late Night Show
Watch the latest shows of U.S. top comedians

Sports

Latest sport results, news, videos, interviews and comments
Latest Events
19
Nov
ASIAN CHAMPIONS LEAGUE: Group H
Sydney FC - Shanghai SIPG
17
Nov
UEFA NATIONS LEAGUE A: Group Stage
Spain - Germany
14
Nov
UEFA NATIONS LEAGUE A: Group Stage
Germany - Ukraine
08
Nov
ENGLAND: Premier League
Manchester City - Liverpool
08
Nov
ENGLAND: Premier League
Arsenal - Aston Villa
08
Nov
SPAIN: La Liga
Valencia - Real Madrid
08
Nov
ITALY: Serie A
AC Milan - Verona
08
Nov
ENGLAND: Premier League
West Bromwich Albion - Tottenham Hotspur
08
Nov
ITALY: Serie A
Bologna - Napoli
08
Nov
ITALY: Serie A
Genoa - Roma
08
Nov
ITALY: Serie A
Atalanta - Inter Milan
08
Nov
ITALY: Serie A
Lazio - Juventus
08
Nov
GERMANY: Bundesliga
Bayer Leverkusen - Borussia Monchengladbach
08
Nov
ENGLAND: Premier League
Leicester City - Wolves
08
Nov
GERMANY: Bundesliga
Wolfsburg - Hoffenheim
08
Nov
SPAIN: La Liga
Real Valladolid - Athletic Bilbao
08
Nov
SPAIN: La Liga
Levante - Alaves
08
Nov
SPAIN: La Liga
Real Sociedad - Granada CF
08
Nov
ITALY: Serie A
Torino - Crotone
08
Nov
SPAIN: La Liga
Getafe - Villarreal
07
Nov
GERMANY: Bundesliga
Borussia Dortmund - Bayern Munich
07
Nov
ENGLAND: Premier League
Everton - Manchester United
07
Nov
ENGLAND: Premier League
Chelsea - Sheffield United
07
Nov
SPAIN: La Liga
Atletico Madrid - Cadiz
07
Nov
SPAIN: La Liga
Barcelona - Real Betis
07
Nov
GERMANY: Bundesliga
Augsburg - Hertha Berlin
07
Nov
GERMANY: Bundesliga
Stuttgart - Eintracht Frankfurt
07
Nov
GERMANY: Bundesliga
RB Leipzig - SC Freiburg
07
Nov
ENGLAND: Championship
Rotherham - Preston NE
07
Nov
ITALY: Serie A
Parma - Fiorentina
07
Nov
ENGLAND: Championship
Watford - Coventry
07
Nov
ENGLAND: Championship
Norwich City - Swansea City
07
Nov
ENGLAND: Championship
Blackburn - QPR
07
Nov
ENGLAND: Championship
Derby County - Barnsley
07
Nov
ENGLAND: Championship
Huddersfield - Luton
07
Nov
ENGLAND: Championship
Nottingham Forest - Wycombe Wanderers
07
Nov
ENGLAND: Premier League
West Ham United - Fulham
07
Nov
ENGLAND: Championship
Sheffield Wednesday - Millwall
07
Nov
ENGLAND: Championship
Brentford - Middlesbrough
07
Nov
ENGLAND: Championship
Birmingham - Bournemouth
07
Nov
SPAIN: La Liga
Sevilla - Osasuna
07
Nov
ITALY: Serie A
Benevento - Spezia
07
Nov
ENGLAND: Premier League
Crystal Palace - Leeds
04
Nov
CHAMPIONS LEAGUE: Group stage, Group G
Ferencvaros - Juventus
04
Nov
CHAMPIONS LEAGUE: Group stage, Group G
Barcelona - Dynamo K.
03
Nov
CHAMPIONS LEAGUE: Group stage, Group A
Salzburg - Bayern Munich
03
Nov
CHAMPIONS LEAGUE: Group stage, Group D
Atalanta - Liverpool
Find us on Instagram
at @feedimo to stay up to date with the latest.
Featured Video You Might Like
zWJ3MxW_HWA L1eLanNeZKg i1XRgbyUtOo -g9Qziqbif8 0vmRhiLHE2U JFCZUoa6MYE UfN5PCF5EUo 2PV55f3-UAg W3y9zuI_F64 -7qCxIccihU pQ9gcOoH9R8 g5MRDEXRk4k
Copyright © 2020 Feedimo. All Rights Reserved.