A number of recent articles (Dr Fauci on CNBC, Huffpost) contains interesting explanations and quotes from leading epidemiologists on the time it will take for the general population to return to a 'normal' situation without social distancing and mask requirements.
And there is no definite answer. The best guess is that vaccines will become an important factor in reducing significantly the risks of becoming seriously ill with COVID 19. But this will not mean and end to COVID 19, only a much lower risk level. And we cannot confirm that vaccines also eliminate contagion even when majority of people are vaccinated. In fact vaccines are unlikely to provide complete protection or to completely prevent contagion. So vaccines are a critical tool but will not eliminate COVID 19, only make it less dangerous, like other flu virus.
One other element is that we are also making progress in reducing the mortality rates significantly so COVID could become a seasonal virus like the flu, with a reduced mortality rate when treated early. But we are still far from being able to treat COVID 19 just like another flu virus.
Finally, completing vaccination of up to 70% of the population is going to take us well into the second half of 2021.
So we must be prepared to continue social distancing and wearing of masks in high risk situations like indoor and in crowded areas well into 2021.
And we should prepare to see wearing masks and hand hygiene as a normal behaviour for people at risk and for the general public during winter periods when flu viruses get stronger. So get comfortable with it. Choose a mask that fits you, that protects you and that you find comfortable.