Experts warn 'big weddings' and large crowds at sports events may not return for years as social distancing still needed

LARGE gatherings like Cheltenham and big weddings could be off for years, experts have warned.

And social distancing measures, masks and extra hygiene should stay in place too as they don't cost anything.

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Tim Spector, a professor of genetic epidemiology at King's College London, told Times Radio that he "can't see us suddenly having another Cheltenham Festival with no regulations again".

He said yesterday: "I can't see us having massive weddings with people coming from all over the world, I think for the next few years those days are gone.

Under the current rules, wedding ceremonies are limited to 6 people and audiences are banned from attending sporting events.

He said of social distancing and other measures: "I think we need to get used to that and that will allow us to do the things we really want to do more easily and more readily."

The rule of six outside should be "definitely encouraged" when restrictions are lifted on people able to meet others outside too, he stressed.

Professor Spector did give some hope to the hospitality industries calls for reopening, saying, "actually sometimes a beer garden is more controlled than people's homes and gardens."

Ministers are starting to put together plans to ease the lockdown from March 8.

Boris Johnson is due to look at the data next week, and will address Brits on the roadmap out of lockdown on Feb 22.

MPs have said that once Britain's top nine most vulnerable groups have been vaccinated – which is expected by May – all Covid restrictions should be lifted.

It comes as it was reported that cabinet ministers were discussing plans to accelerate the vaccine rollout by inoculating millions of Brits aged under 50 at work from spring.

Under the proposal, vaccination teams would head to places of work including schools, homeless shelters, and supermarkets, in a bid to efficiently provide key workers with protection.

But despite Brits seeing the vaccine as a light at the end of the tunnel, NHS bosses have warned that infection rates must drop by another 95 per cent before lockdown can be lifted.

Fearing a fresh wave of coronavirus cases, the chief executive of NHS Providers, Chris Hopson, urged the PM to resist lifting restrictions too soon.

Coronavirus infections must fall to just 1,000 a day – still a far cry from today's figures, which reported 15,845 new infections.

In the last seven days, 128,504 people tested positive for coronavirus.

However, the country's R rate is now at 0.7 – the first time it has dipped below 1 since July 2020.

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