Some government ministers are worried lockdown restrictions could end up staying in place until 2022, reports say.
Boris Johnson is set to announce whether the so-called ‘freedom day’ on June 21 can go ahead tomorrow.
It’s widely expected the date will be delayed by as much as four weeks as dire warnings about the spread of the Delta variant – first detected in India – pile up.
Almost 48,000 people have tested positive in the last seven days, up by more than 50%, and experts warn the variant could be fuelling an exponential explosion in cases.
A chorus of scientists and health experts have called for a delay in recent days, but some ministers are reportedly pushing back.
Unnamed senior politicians have told the Telegraph they fear the summer provides a short window in which to open up – and if it’s missed, we could be facing a semi-lockdown until spring next year.
One said: ‘I am very worried the people who want to keep us shut down now want us to keep us shut down permanently and are aiming for “zero Covid”.’
They added a delay until spring would be tantamount to making restrictions ‘semi-permanent’.
The paper reports senior Tories – including ‘several ministers’ – believe there will be further calls in four weeks to keep restrictions in place from some scientists.
A senior Tory told the Telegraph: ‘I just don’t buy that in four weeks time it will somehow look completely different and the scientists will say, “it’s fine, you crack on”.’
There are concerns a third wave of infections will accompany the easing of restrictions regardless of timing – and one expert thinks it’s preferable to make sure this happens over the summer.
James Ward, a mathematician at the London School of Economics, said there is a ‘sweet spot’ for opening up because a wave of infections is easier to manage over the summer.
He said he supports a delay to June 21 but not for long, as a peak of infections at a time of the year when the NHS is already under pressure would be the worst outcome.
He said: ‘If you delay reopening further than that – to September, say – you start putting power into an exit wave that occurs in October and November when seasonality may make it worse.’
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