The PM is expected to postpone the June 21 easing of Covid restrictions, with a formal announcement on Monday (Image: Simon Dawson / No10 Downing Street)

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Ministers fear Covid restrictions could be in place until spring, according to reports, as Boris Johnson looks set to delay a full return to normality for at least another month.

The PM has said he wants to give vaccinations “extra legs” in “the race between the vaccines and the lockdowns” amid a surge in cases of the more transmissible India variant.

He is expected to postpone the June 21 easing, and lockdown lifting could be put back to July 19.

Now, Government sources have told The Telegraph they fear the delay will mean restrictions have to stay in place until next year.

They say if the lifting is postponed, it could be too late to ease the remaining measures this summer.

There are concerns about a rise in cases in the autumn – and a full reopening may have to wait until spring, when transmission occurs less easily and winter strains on the NHS have lightened.

Vaccines have been delivered at an impressive rate in the UK but there are many still unprotected
(Image: Daily Mirror/Andy Stenning)

One unnamed senior minister told the newspaper there was now only a “very short window to open up”.

Several Tory MPs are pushing the PM to lift measures sooner.

Steve Baker, deputy chairman of the Covid Recovery Group (CRG) of Conservative MPs, told The Telegraph: “It is increasingly clear that the modellers are our masters now.

"Boris Johnson will need to be extremely careful he doesn’t allow them to lead us into a lockdown that lasts all winter.”

But experts are concerned about the spread of the India coronavirus variant. Scientists now estimate it accounts for 96% of all new infections, with cases doubling every nine days.

A poll by Opinium found significant public support for a postponement, with 54% in favour and 37% against
(Image: AFP via Getty Images)

The PM is expected to confirm a delay to easing restrictions on Monday
(Image: Julian Hamilton/Daily Mirror)

There are warnings that the UK faces 100,000 Covid cases every 24 hours by July thanks to the spread of the India variant, also known as Delta.

Independent SAGE’s Professor Anthony Costello, 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 said: “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.”

A poll by Opinium found significant public support for a postponement, with 54% in favour and 37% against.

Infections and hospital admissions are both on the rise
(Image: Getty Images)

The PM has warned: “We are seeing some worrying stuff in the data, clearly. We are seeing the Delta variant causing an increase in cases, we are seeing an increase in hospitalisations.”

He added: “The whole point of having an irreversible roadmap is just that, to make it irreversible, and to do that sometimes, as I’ve said repeatedly, you have to be cautious. And where it’s necessary to be cautious, we will be.”

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The Prime Minister is expected to agree to put the final easing of controls on hold for up to four weeks when he meets senior ministers and officials on his return on Sunday from the G7 summit in Cornwall.

The move is expected to be confirmed in a formal announcement on Monday.

It will be a bitter blow for many businesses, particularly in the hospitality sector, which had been pinning their hopes on a full summer reopening.

People attended a nightclub as part of a national research programme assessing the risk of Covid transmission in Liverpool earlier this year
(Image: REUTERS)

But studies have shown that people who have received only one dose of the vaccine have significantly less protection against the Delta variant – first identified in India – than those who have had two jabs.

Public health officials believe a delay would also give more opportunity to control the spread using surge-testing techniques which proved successful in Bolton, the first Delta variant hotspot.

Speaking in Cornwall on Saturday, a downbeat Mr Johnson acknowledged that the rise of the variant was a matter of "serious, serious concern".

Daily confirmed cases of Covid-19 in the UK

Latest R number by NHS Region England Friday 11th June 2021

With infections and hospital admissions both rising, he said that it was not yet clear to what extent that would feed through into more deaths.

But he said he wanted to make sure the final lockdown lifting was "irreversible" – and give vaccines the best possible chance to fight the spread.

Figures from Public Health England (PHE) show there have been 42,323 cases of the Delta variant confirmed in the UK, up by 29,892 from the previous week.

It estimates the strain is 60% more transmissible compared with the previously dominant Alpha, or Kent, variant, and that in some parts of England, cases are doubling every four-and-a-half days.