THE North-East may have to deal with social distancing measures for the rest of 2021, it has been suggested this morning.

International Development Secretary Liz Truss declined to rule out that some social distancing measures will have to be in place for the rest of the year.

She told Sky’s Sophy Ridge on Sunday: “I don’t want to make predictions about the situation in the autumn, I think it’s far too far away.

“Long-term predictions in what is a very, very unpredictable situation are not wise.”

Ms Truss has suggested more in the most vulnerable group of citizens could die if teachers are moved up the vaccination priority list.

There have been calls for teachers to be vaccinated before schools return, but after those in the four most vulnerable groups have received jabs, which is anticipated by mid-February.

Asked if teachers should be moved up the priority list, she said: “The issue is that for every person you vaccinate who isn’t in the most vulnerable group, that’s somebody in the most vulnerable group who isn’t getting their vaccine and who is more likely to die in the next few weeks and months.

“I just don’t think that’s right. That’s the decision made by the independent committee that we are going to vaccinate first the over-70s and those in the most vulnerable group, and then the over 50s.”

She also insisted the Government has been “very tough” on borders during the coronavirus crisis but insisted “you cannot hermetically seal” the UK.

“We have been very tough on the borders.”

The Cabinet minister cited travel corridors, travel bans and the pre-travel testing regime recently introduced as measures that have been taken.

“In every case we are facing a choice of how do we deal with a virus that is changing and we need to protect lives and protect livelihoods, and recognise the UK is an open economy,” she said.

“We need to make sure we are protecting our borders but at the same time we do need to make sure that the economy can continue to run and fresh supplies can be delivered to the UK.

“There’s always a balance to be struck and you cannot hermetically seal the UK borders, that is not practical.”

Public Health England’s Dr Susan Hopkins warned that relaxing lockdown measures would have to be done “very slowly, very cautiously” to avoid a surge in infections.

“We have learnt, as we did on the first occasion, we have to relax things really quite slowly, so that if cases start to increase we can clamp down quite fast,” she told BBC One’s Andrew Marr Show.

“The NHS is going to be under pressure until the end of March, as normal in winter, but even more so with the amount of inpatients they still have with Covid-19.

“Any releases that we have will have to happen very slowly, very cautiously, watching and waiting as we go, with a two-week period to watch and see the impact of that relaxation because it takes that to see what’s happening in the population.”