Scientific research suggests that as lockdown ends and freedoms increase protective measures such as face masks and social distancing should actually become stricter.

The tightening of strategies such as hand washing could become vital in helping to keep Covid under control and the public safer in the future.

Many will be hoping that as people are freed from lockdown rules that simple measures such as masks and social distancing can be loosened – but the experts say quite the opposite.

Modelling developed by scientists at the universities of Cambridge and Liverpool have run mathematical possibilities on how Covid-19 could spread under different scenarios., writes The Mirror.

The scientists looked at "non-spatial" interventions such as masks, hand washing and social distancing, plus "spatial" controls such as lockdowns and the restriction of long-distance travel.

The paper states: "Our results show that the reduction of spatial control without a simultaneous increase of non-spatial control inevitably increases disease incidence by increasing the reproduction number.

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"Alternatively, it is possible to keep the reproduction number constant or even reduce it if non-spatial control interventions increase in strength while spatial control measures are being lifted."

The modelling, published in the Journal of the Royal Society Interface, came from wider research looking at control strategies for plant diseases.

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Study author Dr Yevhen Suprunenko, a research associate in the University of Cambridge's Department of Plant Sciences, said measure such as face coverings, used properly alongside the vaccine rollout, could help to achieve a better outcome.

Dr Suprunenko said: "More effective use of control measures like face masks and hand washing would help us to stop the pandemic faster, or to get better results in halting transmission through the vaccination programme.

Dr Stephen Cornell from the University of Liverpool and co-author of the paper said while lockdowns might have a bigger impact, face masks and social distancing are cheaper actions people can take.

"Measures such as lockdowns that limit how far potentially infected people move can have a stronger impact on controlling the spread of disease, but methods that reduce the risk of transmission whenever people mix provide an inexpensive way to supplement them," Dr Cornell said.

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