Dr Phillip Gould of Coventry University has warned those hoping for a full return to a coronavirus-free life may be disappointed.
The virologist told the Mirror: ‘I think social distancing will remain for a long time. Our way of life will change long-term.
‘Wearing a face mask in shops and on buses will remain for a long time, even after places and businesses have opened up.
‘The economy can get going in summer – but it won’t look like a normal summer.
‘We need long-term immunity and vaccination.’
He suggested wearing masks on public transport and washing hands may become the norm in a similar way to how it has in Asian countries which have previously experienced pandemics.
‘People’s perceptions have changed dramatically. People go, “Where are my keys, where is my phone, and where is my mask?”‘ Dr Gould added.
He also suggested big social events are also unlikely to return for a while – in particular sporting events and nightclubs.
‘Not piling into places will remain the same for this year, definitely, long term,’ Dr Gould said.
‘We will have changed our culture dramatically, like not going to work if you’re feeling a bit ill – something many of us used to do.
‘Are high-risk places like nightclubs going to insist you have a test or vaccine before you go in?
‘Will we ever get the big football crowds back again? Long-term it’s possible.’
He said ‘herd immunity’ from the vaccination programme needs to be increased before these things can happen – warning the ‘biggest worry’ is new Covid-19 mutations could be a threat to the effectiveness of vaccines.
The expert, who is Coventry University’s Associate Head of School for Health and Life Sciences, said the variant first discovered in Kent has ‘out-competed the previous version, slowly taking over’.
But he added a note of optimism, saying ‘amazing’ new technology allows scientists to ‘adapt the vaccine, like we do every year with the flu vaccine’.
He believes new vaccines can be made ‘quickly’ and added the country has been ‘very lucky’ in managing to inject so many people already.
It comes as health secretary Matt Hancock recently announced an order of another 40 million doses of a vaccine from pharmaceutical company Valneva, which should become available later in the year and into 2022.
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