Boris Johnson sounded downbeat when discussing whether restrictions will be lifted as planned on June 21 today.
After arriving in Cornwall for the G7 summit, he told reporters that ‘everybody can see very clearly’ that coronavirus cases are going up.
He said that a final decision on whether ‘Freedom Day’ could go ahead had not yet been taken, and will be announced on Monday.
Speaking to reporters in Newquay, he said: ‘The reason we’ve been doing the steps on the road map with five-week intervals is really to give us time to look at all the data as it comes in and to assess the state of the pandemic before we go forward to the next step.
‘So on Monday that four-week period will be up and we’ll have a look at where we are. I think what everybody can see very clearly is that cases are going up and in some places hospitalisations are going up.
‘And I think what we need to assess is the extent to which the vaccine rollout, which has been phenomenal, has built up enough protection in the population in order for us to go ahead to the next stage.
‘And so that’s what we’ll be looking at. And there are arguments being made one way or the other.
‘But that will be driven by the data. We’ll be looking at that. And we’ll be, as I say, we’ll be sending it out on Monday.’
The road map out of lockdown was announced in February, with a series of key dates when the country would lift rules restricting daily life.
Step one, on March 8, saw schools reopening and people allowed to meet up with someone else outdoors.
More milestones passed as planned on March 29, April 12 and May 17.
The government always said that the steps would only be taken if the data on infections and vaccine rates still supported it.
A spanner in the works appeared with the arrival of the more infectious Delta variant, first identified in India.
This is now the dominant strain of coronavirus in the UK, and cases are rising again.
Professor Neil Ferguson, from Imperial College London, warned that there was a risk of ‘a substantial third wave’ of coronavirus infections.
He told a media briefing today that data compiled by a SPI-M, which is a subgroup of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) suggests this is possible but could be mitigated by the vaccine roll-out.
‘Basically it is saying there is a risk of a substantial third wave, [but] we cannot be definitive about the scale of that – it could be substantially lower than the second wave or it could be of the same order of magnitude,’ he said.
‘That, critically, depends on how effective the vaccines still are protecting people against hospitalisation and death against the Delta variant, as well as a few other unknowns.’
The professor said that ‘in the next few weeks’ experts hope to be able to see more clearly what the ratio is between hospital admissions and cases, though it was already known that ‘vaccination has fundamentally changed that ratio’ for the better.
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