Professor Danny Altmann of Imperial College London told Sky News that the final step in the roadmap, which would see all limits on social contact lifted, is “balanced on the razor’s edge”.
As the number of people with the B.1.617.2 strain approaches 7,000, he said, “I’m not very surprised – I think we all saw it coming. Frankly, it’s alarming isn’t it?
“Because what we basically did was turn our clock back… back to the kind of numbers we last saw about a month ago in terms of new cases. So I think it’s troubling. “
When asked whether the final step in England’s roadmap to ease the lockdown is expected to take place next month, Prof Altmann added: ‘I hope there will be some thoughtful enough thinking and mathematical modeling in progress.
“We’re really balanced on a razor’s edge, but from everything we’ve all seen over the past 13 or 14 months, we realize how ruthless and relentless this virus is.
“And you can’t joke with that with half measures.
“And if it looks like, for example, you have a new variant in your country that is spreading and taking off, it probably is, and you probably want to take that into account. “
On Thursday, Professor Neil Ferguson of Imperial College London warned that the full reopening of the company on June 21 “was at stake” – adding that data collected in the next two to three weeks would be “critical”.
Dr Jenny Harries, chief executive of the UK Health Security Agency, said she agreed with her assessment during a press briefing in Downing Street later in the day.
Warning that the most recent data is worrying, she added: “The roadmap works on four principles to move forward, so it’s on cases, hospitalizations, the effectiveness of the vaccine program and then new variants.
“So in a lot of ways we’re looking at part one and part last. “
Although COVID infection rates have increased in most age groups and regions, Public Health England said: “It is encouraging that the number of hospitals across the country remains low. “
The hospitalization rate for COVID-19 was 0.79 per 100,000 people in the week to May 23, up from 0.75 per 100,000 the week before.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock also said there were “warning signs” that coronavirus rates in Bolton, one of the hot spots for the Indian variant, were starting to “level off.”
Sky News political correspondent Joe Pike said the concerns “will be of concern to those in the arts, sports and hospitality industries before June 21”.
In announcing his roadmap out of the lockout, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he would follow “data, not dates”.
Data suggests that up to three-quarters of new cases are now from the Indian mutation, prompting the PM to warn that the final step in easing the lockdown in England may have to wait.
However, Sky science correspondent Thomas Moore said not all the data PHE provided was bad.
He explained, “First, two doses of the vaccine are really effective.
“Analysis of 5,600 cases of the Indian variant shows that 60% were not vaccinated. Only 3% of them were fully vaccinated.
“Of the 43 people who had to be hospitalized, 67% were not vaccinated, only 2% had received both doses.
And finally, eight of the 12 people who died were not vaccinated. All the more reason to get the jab. ”