People everywhere are fatigued by the restrictions to stop the spread of Covid-19 and yearn to get on with their lives. Governments want to get economies moving again. With the number of infections continuing to fall, Hong Kong will take another small step in that direction on Friday with restaurants allowed to serve sit-down meals an hour longer to 10pm and fitness centres, gyms and massage parlours able to reopen. But a full return to normal cannot happen until a safe and effective vaccine is widely available and the approaching annual flu season adds further risk. While several of the dozens of potential vaccines being worked on are already in the final stage of testing, there is no certainty they will meet approval requirements and provide widespread protection. Months more of curbs is not what people want to hear about. Protests against measures like mask-wearing and lockdowns are increasingly prevalent overseas; tens of thousands turned out in Berlin last weekend and hundreds were arrested after mobs smashed through police cordons around parliament. German Chancellor Angela Merkel condemned the actions as “shameful” and there can be no disputing how dangerous mass gatherings can be in the midst of a pandemic. But as World Health Organisation director general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus pointed out, some people have legitimate concerns and officials “need to engage in an honest dialogue”. Reopening economies and getting people back to work in the midst of a health crisis has to be done creatively. Surveillance systems have to be as sturdy as possible so that localised outbreaks can be quickly detected and those exposed promptly traced and isolated. But an American study by Kansas State University researchers showing the virus can survive longer in lower temperatures and humidity gives pause for thought with the onset of cooler weather and the flu season; health resources could be further stretched and patients risk multiple, complicating, infections. They wrote in a non-peer reviewed paper posted on the preprint website bioRXiv.org that at a temperature of 13 degrees Celsius and 66 per cent relative humidity, the virus could remain on objects left outdoors for as long as a week and be infectious throughout that time, compared to one to three days at 25 degrees and 70 per cent humidity. Hong Kong businesses say relaxation of social distancing rules too cautious Even if a successful vaccine is announced before the end of the year, the logistics of manufacturing and distributing billions of doses and putting in place immunisation programmes is a mammoth task that takes many months. As frustrating as it may be, until then, we will have to continue wearing masks, restrict public gatherings and contacts, wash hands frequently and sanitise surfaces. The coming flu season brings added reason for caution.