This One COVID Restriction Could Last for Years, Experts Say

Life may continue to look different even after the pandemic settles down.

Coronavirus vaccinations are well underway, case numbers are declining, and more and more hospital beds are freeing up. It seems as though pandemic is headed in the right direction, meaning there may be an end in sight. But as much as we want things to return to normal, post-COVID life will not look exactly like pre-COVID life for quite some time. Experts have cautioned against lifting restrictions despite positive data, as they fear that could backfire and reverse the positive trends. Certain mitigation measures may be here for the foreseeable future—even after the pandemic dies down. In fact, experts say that restrictions on large gatherings could continue for the next few years. Read on to find out which regulations are likely to stick, and for more on the future of the pandemic, Dr. Fauci Just Said We'll Never Be Able to Do This Again.

Experts say restrictions on large gatherings without regulations could last for years.

Crowd at a music festival with hands raised in the air.

Tim Spector, PhD, a professor of genetic epidemiology at King's College London and founder of the Zoe COVID Symptom Study app, told Times Radio that restrictions on large gatherings are likely going to stay in place for awhile—directly referencing Cheltenham Festival, a major racing event held in the U.K. "I can't see us suddenly having another Cheltenham Festival with no regulations again, I can't see us having massive weddings with people coming from all over the world," Spector said. "I think for the next few years, those days are gone."

He further clarified in a series of tweets that he is not saying there won't be large gatherings within the next few years, but instead, that we will likely still be restricted from having large gatherings "with no regulations."

Javeed Siddiqui, MD, the chief medical officer at TeleMed2U, agreed with Spector's assessment on how large gatherings will look over the next few years. "I think we need to stop thinking of the SAR-CoV-2 global pandemic as having an end date," Siddiqui said. "I think we need to change our thinking to how can we do things in the safest manner." And for more on what's next, COVID Researchers Just Issued Their Bleakest 2021 Prediction Yet.

These regulations will likely include precautions we're already familiar with.

A group of young people wearing face masks dance and celebrate outdoors near sunset.

Siddiqui said that "in order to conduct a mass gathering event, we will need to continue to evaluate the viability of holding the event" with current guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). To make a large gathering safe, certain factors need to be addressed, including the density of people compared to the size of the venue, air circulation within the venue, and the current COVID prevalence in the community where the event is being held. Officials will also likely need to require that participants wear masks when attending the gathering, and consider testing attendees beforehand, Siddiqui said.

"Based on our current knowledge, I see us living in world with SARS-CoV-2 that is best managed with periodic vaccinations, wearing masks, and hopefully having oral antivirals treatments," he continued. "Outdoor venues with people wearing masks and being socially distant is currently the best option, but not a perfect solution." And for more ways to stay healthy, Dr. Fauci Just Said This Is the Only Safe Way to Eat at a Restaurant.

Large gatherings increase someone's risk of getting COVID.

Close up of a young woman having a nasal swab test done by his doctor

According to Leann Poston, MD, a licensed physician and health expert for Invigor Medical, large gatherings increase the risk that someone will get infected with COVID. As she explains, "the more people in one location, the higher the likelihood that one of them is infected and that they are in close enough proximity to someone who is not immune to allow the disease to spread." And for more on your infection risk, You're More Likely to Get COVID From Someone Doing This Than From Coughing.

And these gatherings have been the source of superspreader events in the past.

Side view of smiling spectators clapping hands in opera house. Men and women are watching theatrical performance. They are in elegant wear.

A May 2020 report from the CDC said that large gatherings "played a notable role in the early U.S. spread of COVID-19." The report specifically referenced early superspreader events, such as 2020 Mardi Gras celebrations in Louisiana, an international professional conference held in Massachusetts, and a funeral with more than 100 attendees in Georgia.

"When we discuss the concern for spreading SAR-CoV-2 and mass gatherings, this is a serious issue and should not be taken lightly. We have seen mass gatherings become super spreader events in the last year and cannot continue to make these same mistakes over and over again," Siddiqui warned. And for more up-to-date information, sign up for our daily newsletter.

Vaccinating a certain number of people is also essential in life returning to normal.


Spector said that events with regulations should hopefully return this summer, "once we get enough people vaccinated and cases down to very low level." In December, White House COVID adviser Anthony Fauci, MD, said that at least 75 percent of Americans need to be vaccinated in order to achieve herd immunity in the country.

But for large, worldwide events to come back in full, Nitin Desai, MD, chief medical officer of COVID PreCheck, says that at least 75 percent of the world population needs to be vaccinated. This may take some time, as the "supply chain, logistics of vaccinating large populations, and a widespread acceptance of vaccines remain questionable for most countries," Desai said. According to vaccination tracking data from Bloomberg, it will take an estimated 10 months to vaccine 75 percent of those in the U.S. And at the latest global vaccination rate, they estimate that it will take more than six years to vaccinate 75 percent of the population worldwide. And for more vaccine news, If This Happens After Your Vaccine, the FDA Says You Should Call 911.

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