HERD immunity is the key to brining an official end to the Covid-19 pandemic, according to a top medical officer.

At a Hampshire County Council meeting in Winchester today, the pathway to the end of the pandemic was laid out in front of councillors.

Dr Derek Sandeman, chief medical officer for Hampshire and Isle of Wight Integrated Care System, outlined the criteria that must be met – and when we might finally say goodbye to Covid for good.

Dr Sandeman said: "It will end when we have herd immunity – that’s the only way out of the pandemic.

"Covid-19 will still be around, but in smaller numbers. There comes a point where it stops spreading, and the evidence suggests that occurs when around 80 per cent of people are immune.

"By June we could see the pandemic disappear. The only thing that could change that would be further mutations."

At the meeting, health professionals urged everyone to get their booster jabs once they are eligible.

Vulnerable people remain the key targets, with 70 per cent of care home residents already receiving their booster jab.

Following the November 11 deadline for mandatory vaccination of care home staff, the county council is now in the process of terminating 22 employee contracts.

"While we see Europe falling over itself, it is our high level of vaccinations that is protecting us," Dr Sandeman said.

"The NHS is busy but is safe, and the vaccine is the safest way through."

The chief medical officer added that the NHS will be in for a difficult winter, with the UK ‘robbed’ of natural resilience and a backlog of patients awaiting treatment.

Simon Bryant, the county council’s director of public health, said he has been encouraged by the effectiveness of the vaccine.

He said: "It’s all community spread at the moment and there are no issues we need to be particularly concerned about.

"he roll-out of the vaccine in schools is also going very well in Hampshire.

"I would urge everyone to take up the vaccine, whether that’s the booster or those who haven’t taken up the vaccine previously – especially pregnant women."