Polling shows the majority (54%) of the public back delaying easing (Image: AFP via Getty Images)
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Lifting lockdown restrictions would "fan the flames" of a third wave of coronavirus, a top scientific has warned.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson is to announce whether June 21's 'Freedom Day' will go ahead as planned tomorrow evening but is expected to delay any changes for four weeks to allow for more vaccinations to take place.
Polling shows the majority (54%) of the public back delaying easing, with just 37% against the idea, but some backbench Tory MPs feel a delay is unacceptable.
Johnson has already said spiralling cases of the Covid-19 variant first detected in India, now codenamed Delta, were a "serious, serious concern".
Professor Andrew Hayward, a member of Nervtag which advises ministers on new respiratory diseases, said it was clear the country was facing a "substantial" third wave but that "we still don't know how bad it could be".
Member of Nervtag Professor Andrew Hayward
Speaking to the BBC's Andrew Marr Show he said the key issue would be how many people became seriously ill.
The variant now equates to 96% of new cases and is 60% more transmissible than the 'Kent' variant, now known as Alpha.
"That is the thing that will drive the speed with which the next wave comes along," he said.
"I think if we were to open up more that would really fan the flames and lead to this increasing even faster."
Boris Johnson refuses to rule out delaying end of lockdown rules by more than a month
Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said it was crucial over 50s received a second dose of the vaccine as soon as possible as two jabs prove far more effective against Delta than one.
"We know that we have made great progress in weakening the link between transmission and hospitalisation. The question is whether we have severed and broken it," he told politics show.
He said that if the unlocking was to be "irreversible", they needed to proceed "carefully and cautiously".
"We don't want to yo-yo back in and out of measures," he added.
He later refused to rule out the extension of some measures beyond July
The key test will be seeing how many new cases result in hospitalisation
But not everyone was behind a delay of easing, with Sir Graham Brady, the influential chairman of the backbench Tory 1922 Committee, insisting it must be the final time in a column in the Mail on Sunday.
"On any reasonable assessment we should be still on target for lifting restrictions on June 21," he wrote.
"There is no excuse for this further catastrophic delay. It is unacceptable to restrict people's most fundamental rights. And it must never ever happen again."