SOCIAL distancing measures will be in place until at least the winter, according to a North Yorkshire health chief.

Speaking at the North Yorkshire Coronavirus update forum, Dr Lincoln Sargeant, Director of Public Health for North Yorkshire, said people in public health are “concerned and interested” how the virus will increase over the winter months.

He added: “ It would be a mistake to think that it is all over and we will be back to normal soon.

"We have to ask ourselves what decisions we are making and whether this will increase the rate of infection.

“My best guess - we will probably need to get to the winter. Most of us in public health and healthcare are concerned about how this virus behaves over winter. It will be really interesting because it comes from a family of viruses which surge in winter.

“Working through into winter will be our key milestone. I want to see two winters until I can breathe a sigh of relief. Our plan is to see what the virus does in the long-term. “

Dr Sargeant added that face coverings could be a real help for smaller independent shops where social distancing is not possible to reduce the transmission from person to person.

This follows calls from the York Central MP Rachael Maskell to make masks mandatory.

But he added that this would have to be face coverings rather than face masks so there is not a fall in supply for NHS staff.

He added that young people are the biggest spreaders of the virus, adding: “It’s a situation when you are out, meeting with lots of mates that you can quickly have a situation where one infection multiples into tens and hundreds fairly quickly.

“The concern I have is that you unknowingly, unwittingly, pass it on and then yourself or a friend could lose a nan or grandmother because of this.”

Assistant Chief Constable Mike Walker, of North Yorkshire Police, said that the force is keeping an eye on the 'R rate' and whether it will increase again as a result of recent protests.

York and North Yorkshire has recorded a plateau and slight fall in the number of coronavirus cases for a number of weeks.

“It may not be decreasing as fast as other parts of the country but it is decreasing nonetheless, but what I would ask from the public is that they are still conscious of the restrictions in place.

“We anticipate the restrictions on overnight stays at campsites and hotels may be eased over the coming weeks but the work will need to be done by the local authorities.”