Most of the coronavirus rules are expected to be removed on Monday – but Mr Hunt said the situation the NHS is facing is ‘very serious’ with a rapidly increasing number of hospital admissions.
“The warning light on the NHS dashboard is not flashing orange, it is flashing red,” he told the BBC.
It came as a scientist advising the government said the country could face an “extended period” of increasing cases until the fall.
Professor John Edmunds, of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and a member of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage), said new infections could reach 100,000 a day in a matter of weeks.
And Professor Chris Whitty, the chief medical officer has warned that hospitalizations are doubling every three weeks and could reach “frightening numbers” in the future.
Boris Johnson has repeatedly said he wants the lockdown lifted on so-called ‘Freedom Day’ to be ‘irreversible’, but in recent days ministers have started to be more cautious.
As England’s social distancing rules end, government guidelines advise wearing face masks in confined spaces such as shops and public transport, while pubs and bars should only be served table.
Mr Hunt, chairman of the Commons health and social services committee, said how people behave at the end of checks will be crucial in determining the trajectory of the pandemic over the coming months.
He cited the examples of Israel and the Netherlands, which were forced to reintroduce controls despite high levels of vaccination as in the UK.
“Covid hospital patients are doubling every two weeks. This means that we are heading towards 10,000 Covid hospital patients by the end of August, which is about 20 times higher than at the same time last year, ”he said.
“I think that in September we are almost certainly going to see infections reach a new daily high exceeding the daily level of 68,000, which was the previous daily high for January.
“If they continue to increase as the schools return, I think we will have to reconsider some very difficult decisions. Our behavior over the next few weeks will make a big difference. “
Professor Edmunds said without the social distancing measures that brought the first two waves of the pandemic under control, the virus would continue to spread.
“I think this wave of the epidemic will be quite long and prolonged,” he told the Today show.
“My hunch is that we are looking at a high incidence level for an extended period throughout the summer and probably much of the fall.
“We started to relax the restrictions before everyone was vaccinated. This will lead to infections in unvaccinated people – mainly, in this case, younger people.
“We’re at about 50,000 (infections) a day now. The epidemic has doubled about every two weeks, and so if we leave it as it is for a few more weeks, you can expect it to reach 100,000 cases per day. “
Mark Woolhouse, professor of infectious disease epidemiology at the University of Edinburgh, who advises the UK and Scottish governments, said there could be a “very big wave” of new infections.
He said England should have followed Scotland’s lead and kept some infection control measures in place.
“What I’ve been concerned about for many months now is that if unlocking is really a big release… then there is indeed potential for a really big wave,” he told Times Radio.
“This idea that this would be a last ‘day of freedom’ was, I must say, somewhat naive. The public health expectation was that we would need additional measures to keep the rate of increase in cases under control. “
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Mr Hunt said the government needs to make urgent changes to the NHS Covid app amid evidence people are removing it due to the high number of ‘pings’ and the order to self-isolate.
“The risk with this app is that it starts to lose social consent so we should either make it less sensitive or move to a system where you have to take a test when you’re pinged,” he said.
“The risk is that if people delete the app, you can’t even ping them to ask them to take a test. “
Speaking at an event at the British Science Museum on Thursday, Professor Whitty stressed that epidemics are “doubling or halving”, adding: “And currently this epidemic is doubling. It doubles the number of cases. It also doubles the number of people going to hospital, and the number of deaths doubles. “
He said: “We still have over 2,000 people in the hospital, and that number is increasing.
“If we double from 2000 to 4000, 4000 to 8000, to 8000 and so on, it doesn’t take long to double until you really are very large. “
Professor Whitty added that doctors could soon be faced with “scary numbers again”, adding: “I don’t think we should underestimate the fact that we could be in trouble again, surprisingly quickly. “