The continued spread of the Indian coronavirus variant has cast doubt on the ability to remove the restrictions, with ministers considering keeping some measures – such as the continued use of face masks and advice on working from home – in place.
Vaccine Minister Nadhim Zahawi acknowledged that “we have to be careful” due to concerns about the rate of infection.
The government will wait for the latest data on June 14 before deciding whether to lift the lockdown on England the following week.
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He said the vaccination program aimed to provide a second dose to all people over 50 by June 21, but told Times Radio: “I could do with more supply” because ” I will be able to protect more people faster ”.
When asked if the remaining restrictions could be relaxed if cases continued to rise, he told BBC1’s Andrew Marr Show: “What I’m telling you is that we have to be careful. We need to look at the data and share it with the country.
“Are we still vaccinating on a large scale? Big tic. Do vaccines work? Yes.
“But are the infection rates too high that we can’t continue because there are too many people entering the hospital? I do not know the answer.
“But we’ll find out on the 14th, hopefully a few more weeks. “
He said that as the virus becomes endemic, “we will have to live with a certain amount of transmitted Covid.”
Pressed on whether there could be a partial lifting of the restrictions, with mask wearing and working from home continuing, Mr Zahawi said: “We need to look at the data. “
Linda Bauld, professor of public health at the University of Edinburgh, said June 21 was “too early” to lift coronavirus restrictions in England.
She told Sky News: “I really think it’s too early to move forward. I would like to see data for several weeks. “
She said the planned date was “very ambitious”, adding: “June 21 is very near and I think to avoid more preventable deaths … we really have to be careful at this time. “
Dr Mike Tildesley, a member of the government advisory group on the scientific modeling of pandemic influenza (Spi-M), said there was still “a lot of uncertainty” around the June 21 date.
He told LBC: “We are of course starting to see signs of an increase in cases, but at the moment we are still obviously reporting hospitalizations and deaths at very low levels. “