‘Two years of mask-wearing’ warns expert who calls fighting Covid ‘a marathon’

The world has been warned to brace itself for two years of mask wearing according to a top expert.

Spanish virologist Dr Margarita del Val thinks fighting coronavirus is "going to be a marathon" and social distancing and wearing a mask are going to become the norm for quite some time.

Dr del Val, the head of the Spanish National Research Council, said: "We will get over this in some years, but we don't have to expect this is going to be a hundred-metre run.

"It's going to be a marathon."

Spain is now the hardest-hit country in Europe and has now implemented new lockdown restrictions to try and get on top of its rising Covid-19 infection rate.

Masks are now a requirement outside the homes and gatherings are limited to six people, including seating-groups at bars and restaurants, where occupancy is capped.

Spain first locked down on March 14 but Dr del Val fears pandemic fatigue set in and people started relaxing too quickly, causing the infection and death rates to go up.

On Thursday there were 10,981 new cases reported, with 196 new deaths.

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Dr del Val said: "I think when people were eating and drinking outside, which was taking one measure, open air, which is good, they were forgetting a second measure…either distance or masks.

She noted that while stay-at-home orders were lifted, the streets, restaurants, bars and public transport began to look at closely packed as they had done before the pandemic struck.

But being in close proximity to other people will continue to be a problem as long as the virus is circulating in the world, up until and even afterwards a coronavirus vaccine is available.

Big pharmaceutical company Johnson & Johnson has struck a deal with the European Union, including Spain, for enough of its single-dose vaccine to inoculate 200 million people, with the option for the EU to acquire another 200 million doses further down the line.

Its vaccine lags behind the other US-based top competitors. Johnson & Johnson does not expect to have its vaccine ready until January 2021.

Spain, the rest of the EU and the US will all face at least two months without the protection the pharmaceutical giant's shot might provide.

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