Some of the links on this website will earn an affiliate commission – at no extra cost to you. Without these affiliate commissions, I could not have kept this website running - I want to thank everyone that has supported me! Full details can be found at the Terms & Conditions Page

How long will social distancing last? Will it be permanent?

The coronavirus pandemic of 2020 has wreaked havoc across the world. Its effects read like a disaster movie. Hundreds of thousands are dead. Hundreds of millions are unemployed. Everybody’s life has been impacted by social distancing and lockdowns.

At this point, we have no idea how to treat covid-19. The only solution we have is social distancing – i.e. stay far away from each other and prevent the virus spreading. This has had a devastating effect on people lives:

  • People have to stay at home and aren’t allowed to travel for work
  • Shops, bars, restaurants, gyms and cafes have been ordered to close
  • Large gatherings have been banned worldwide
  • Nearly all sports have been banned
  • Schools have closed
  • Borders have been shut. Airlines have been grounded

This leads to the question, how long will social distancing last? When will life get back to normal? When will we get to travel again?

In this article, I look over the facts and give my view. I explain why I think covid-19 may be with us for a long time. I’ve written a separate article on how I think that covid-19 will change travel, so you may want to check that out too.

Make sure you follow me on Twitter and Instagram, and sign up to my email list. You’ll get notified of all my new content.

All of the photos in this article can clicked to pop out into a slideshow.

What is covid-19? What has happened in the pandemic?

The coronavirus is a family of viruses. This family of viruses includes the common cold, SARS and MERS. In December 2019, a pneumonia outbreak was reported in Wuhan, China. The outbreak was linked to covid-19, which is a new type of coronavirus. Since then, the virus has spread worldwide – hundreds of thousands are dead and hundreds of millions have lost their jobs.

Because covid-19 is a new virus, not that much is known. At this point, the situation is as follows:

  • It’s highly contagious and is transmitted via droplets of saliva
  • The virus has spread to every corner of the world
  • There’s no cure. Infected people need to hope that their immune system can fight it off
  • Scientists are hurriedly working on a vaccine
  • The only solution that we have is social distancing

When we listen to politicians, they talk about the pandemic being done with in a few months. People often talk about “When life returns to normal.” This isn’t surprising as social distancing really sucks. Staying at home is no fun for anyone. Travel and holidays have been completely stopped. Even worse, hundreds of millions have lost their jobs.

The key point is that we really don’t how the pandemic will end. We don’t know when a vaccine will come and how effective it will be. We have no idea how long social distancing will be with us. The longer the pandemic goes on, the more it looks like social distancing will be with us for a long time.

Will a vaccine cure all problems?

Right now, billions and billions of dollars are being spent to find a vaccine. In theory, it should be the perfect solution. If we find a vaccine to covid-19, then we’ll be protected from it’s consequences and people will stop dying. Then we can all get back to normal right?

Unfortunately, a vaccine may not be an end all solution. In particular, there are 2 main issues:

  • Vaccines take a long time to develop. The quickest vaccine was developed in 4 years, and many viruses have no vaccine
  • Covid-19 is mutating, and a vaccine may not be effective against all forms

Let’s deal with each point in turn. The 1st issue is that vaccines aren’t easy or quick to create. The quickest vaccine to produce was for mumps, which took 4 years. Dengue fever virus was identified in 1943, and the vaccine was approved in 2019. The HIV virus was identified in the 1980’s, and there’s still no vaccine.

The 2nd issue is that Covid-19 is mutating. When a virus (any virus) infects a human host, it will create many copies of itself and some of these copies will not be exactly the same. The different copies are called mutations. This is similar to what happens with the flu virus. The flu virus mutates so fast, that we need to get a different flu shot each year. With covid-19, if we do get a vaccine, then it may not be effective against all forms of the disease.

Right now, there is unprecedented work going into a covid-19 vaccine. However it looks unlikely that we'll get a vaccine quickly, or that it will protect against all forms of the virus. So how long will social distancing last? It may last for some time.

Will Herd immunity cure all problems?

Another solution suggested is Herd immunity. As individuals get covid-19 and survive, we’ll have immunity against the virus. So next time the virus enters our body, we can easily fight it off, and it spreads no further. Herd immunity is where 70% or more of the population have survived the virus and can easily fight it off. This will make it a lot harder for the virus to spread, as the majority of the population will just kill it off and not spread it.

So is herd immunity the solution? Well there are two issues:

  • At this point, we don’t know if individuals that have recovered from Covid-19 are indeed immune from it
  • If 70% of the world’s population get covid-19, then many millions will be dead

In time, we’ll learn more about the immunity that covid-19 survivors have. However herd immunity will not cure all issues, as many millions would need to die.

Will we have to live with the virus forever?

At this point, it looks like covid-19 will be with us for a long time.

Does this mean that we’ll be stuck inside our homes forever and not be allowed to travel again?

In my view, social distancing will be with us for many years, but that society will adapt. Society will find ways to do things safely. Lockdowns cannot and will not be a permanent solution. How society will adapt is up for speculation, but some things do look clear:

  • Many more people will work from home in the future
  • Airplanes will fly with empty middle seats
  • Hand shaking will be a thing of the past
  • Buffets will a thing of the past
  • Large crowds at sporting events won’t be possible

Will travel be affected forever?

If we have to live with covid-19, does that mean that travel and tourism will be a thing of the past? Does this mean we won’t be able to fly or stay at hotels any more? In my view, I very much doubt that. There are too many people employed in tourism for this to be the case.

In the future, we will travel and go on holiday, but we’ll need to adapt. For a start, the breakfast buffet will become a thing of the past! Clearly, if we have many people holding the same tongs, then the virus will spread.


Covid-19 is a seismic event that has changed the world in an instant. Hundreds of thousands are dead and hundreds of millions are unemployed. We’re all affected by social distancing. So how long will social distancing last? It looks like it will be with us for a long time.

However, my view is that life won’t stop. Society will adapt, and we’ll have to find ways to live safely with the virus.

Post Comments