U.S. health authorities said Thursday that people who have been fully vaccinated against the novel coronavirus basically no longer need to wear a mask or physically distance.

"If you are fully vaccinated, you can start doing the things that you had stopped doing because of the pandemic. We have all longed for this moment where we can get back to some sense of normalcy," Rochelle Walensky, the head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said at a press conference.

U.S. President Joe Biden wearing a face mask is pictured at the White House in Washington on April 16, 2021. (Kyodo)

The further easing of the guidelines on activities deemed safe for inoculated people came as recent studies show the vaccines in use are not just effective in general, but also work against variants and lower the risk of transmission to others, she said.

But masks are still required when traveling on airplanes, trains, buses and other forms of public transportation in the United States. People will also have to follow other requirements and rules set by the federal and local governments.

People who are immune-compromised are advised to talk to their doctors before taking off masks.

To be fully vaccinated for COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the virus, means two weeks must have passed after receiving the second shot in a two-dose series, or two weeks after receiving a single-dose vaccine, according to the CDC.

In the United States, nearly 36 percent of the population, or more than 118 million people, were fully inoculated as of early Thursday. Use of one of the three vaccines authorized in the United States has been expanded to those as young as 12 years old, compared with the earlier minimum age of 16.

The earlier guideline for vaccinated people had said they no longer have to wear masks outdoors as long as they are away from big crowds.