Professor Chris Whitty

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Professor Chris Whitty has told ministers Covid curbs can be lifted on July 19 in what could be the strongest sign yet that Freedom Day remains on course.

According to the Times, the Chief Medical Officer told a meeting of Boris Johnson's top team the recent surge in cases was not driving up hospital admissions and summer was the right time to end restrictions.

It comes after the Prime Minister said yesterday he was "increasingly confident" that social-distancing measures could end as planned next month.

Prof Whitty reportedly told ministers to monitor hospitalisations, however, and signalled caution ahead of winter months, when people would spend more time indoors.

Sources told the newspaper the CMO had been "cautiously optimistic".

One Whitehall source said: “The view among the scientists was that we should get as much open this summer as possible before winter, which will be much more difficult.

"It was very encouraging.”

Prime Minister Boris Johnson arrives for a press conference with Chief Medical Officer for England Chris Whitty
(Image: PA)

But Professor Stephen Reicher, from the University of St Andrews and a member of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) subcommittee on behavioural science, said the country was in danger of repeating last summer’s mistakes.

He told Times Radio: “My fear is that we’re on line to repeat the mistakes of last summer – if you remember, the Prime Minister told us it was our patriotic duty to go to the pub, that people should go to work or they might lose their jobs, we had eat out to help out.

“The consequence was we never got infections low enough to be able to deal with the disease and so when conditions changed in the autumn, when schools went back and people went back to work and universities went back and the weather got worse and we went inside, so infections spiked.

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“And I think this time round, we should learn from that and we should get infections low to a point where we we’re in a much better place in the autumn, where we don’t have to reimpose restrictions.

“So I think the real question is how can we do that without inconveniencing people too much?”

Yesterday, a total of 20,479 more Covid cases were recorded in the UK – representing a 75% increase over the course of a week.

Hospital admissions in England have doubled this month but are still averaging only 204 a day, compared with a peak of more than 4,000 in January.

And by July 19, two thirds of adults will have had both doses of their vaccines.