Boris Johnson said rising hospitalisations were “a matter of serious, serious concern” (Image: Getty)
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Boris Johnson today signalled he might delay Freedom Day as scientists warned daily cases could surge to 100,000 next month.
Although the Prime Minister would not be drawn on Monday's roadmap announcement, he said rising hospitalisations were “a matter of serious, serious concern”.
And he admitted he was less optimistic about lifting all restrictions on June 21 than he was in May.
This could mean pushing back plans to unlock fully into July.
The latest polling from market researcher Opinium showed 54% of the public would be in favour of delay, with 37% against.
Around 90% of new infections are now the Delta variant, with cases doubling every nine days. And more infections means a higher risk of mutations turning into jab-resistant variants, said UCL virologist Professor Deenan Pillay.
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Dan Walsh,18, receives the first dose of the Pfizer/BioNTech at the Crucible Theatre in Sheffield as they host a drop in clinic for over 18s this weekend
Independent SAGE’s Professor Anthony Costello, also of University College London, said the real number of new infections was likely to be twice the 8,000 new daily cases revealed by tests.
He added: “In a month you’ll be up to 100,000 new cases a day. If the Government takes a gamble and lets rip like Tory backbenchers want, the NHS will be overloaded. Let’s wait. Let’s stay as we are.”
Shadow Home Secretary Nick Thomas-Symonds said: “Any delay would be a huge blow for many families and businesses. The fault lies squarely with ministers.
UK coronavirus cases rise by nearly 8,000 in biggest Saturday increase since February
Boris Johnson brands Covid surge 'serious, serious concern' ahead of lockdown D-Day
“They continued with a reckless border policy that let the Delta variant reach here and spread.”
If infections continue to rise, hospitalisations could hit 2,000 a day – twice the usual number during a bad winter before Covid.
British Medical Association boss Dr Chaand Nagpaul added: “It’s not just about… hospitalisations, but also the risk to large numbers of younger people, who can suffer long-term symptoms.”
More areas are now having to surge test after an outbreak of Delta cases
Independent SAGE scientists warned schools must reintroduce masks as 136,000 children are now absent, either because they have Covid or are isolating after contact with someone who has it.
Fewer patients are ending up in hospital thanks to jabs – and those that do get out faster. But more are being admitted than released and 55% of the country are not fully vaccinated.
The Delta strain from India is 60% more transmissible and one injection of the Pfizer or AstraZeneca vaccines gives only 33% protection against it.
Dr Chaand Nagpaul said we need to worry about long covid as well as hospitalisations
The PM said: “We don’t know exactly to what extent that will feed through into extra mortality, but clearly it’s a matter of serious, serious concern.
“We want to make sure the roadmap is irreversible, but you can’t have an irreversible roadmap unless you’re prepared to be cautious. The scientists are agreed about one thing – they do not think there is any case for going into reverse.”
The plan from June 21 was that limits on social contact and numbers allowed into homes would be scraped.
Shadow Home Secretary Nick Thomas-Symonds said a delay would be a 'huge blow' to businesses
Capacity limits would have ended in pubs, clubs, theatres and cinemas.
Sports events could take place in full stadiums, nightclubs could reopen and weddings with unlimited guests could go ahead.
Around 50,000 couples have booked weddings in the month after June 21. Now the best they can hope for is alignment with funeral restrictions, allowing venues to let in as many guests as can safely be social-distanced.
Professor Anthony Costello said we'll be up to 100,000 cases a month by July
Wimbledon can still go ahead on June 28, though with only 50% of its usual audience.
The Cabinet’s Covid Operations committee will tomorrow make final decisions, which will be rubber-stamped by full Cabinet in the morning.
Meanwhile, Greater Manchester night time economy adviser Sacha Lord said the hospitality sector needed “immediate clarity on financial support to be offered during the delay”.
The industry is £6billion in debt.
Mark Littlewood, of the Institute of Economic Affairs, said: “The economic cost of postponing Freedom Day could amount to £1billon a week."